After weeks of struggles (even in their wins), the Chiefs finally played like a Super Bowl-caliber team en route to a 41 to 17 shellacking of the Raiders. The win put them in sole possession of first place in the AFC West, and perhaps even more importantly, it sent a message to the entire NFL that any reports of the Chiefs’ demise had been greatly exaggerated.
Truth be told, even the most diehard Chiefs fan has had to admit that the team just didn’t looked like itself through most of this season. They may not have been a defensive powerhouse during their recent Super Bowl runs, but early in the season, this defense was an absolute dumpster fire. Then as that unit started to slowly come around, the offense started shooting itself in the foot left and right.
Even the past two close wins over the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers were painful to watch when the Chiefs had the ball. Just last week I asked if the Chiefs offense could find its mojo in time to make a run this season. Well, they certainly found it in Vegas on Sunday night.
The Chiefs offense finally exploded and looked like the offense that has carried the team to back to back Super Bowl appearances. They put up over 40 points and 500 yards. Best of all, Patrick Mahomes looked like THE Patrick Mahomes again, throwing for 406 yards and five touchdowns. The rest of the AFC should be terrified.
The rest of the AFC should be terrified after watching the Chiefs beat the Raiders.
The Chiefs were a wounded animal and the rest of the AFC couldn’t find a way to put them down when they had a chance. Instead, the Buffalo Bills lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens lost to the Miami Dolphins. Despite all the struggles in K.C. through the early part of the season, only one team in the entire conference has more wins than the Chiefs now do.
That one team is the Tennessee Titans. Now, to the Titans credit, they are on an impressive winning streak, are two wins up in the standings over K.C., and have a head to head win over Kansas City. They are the clear leader in the conference right now. Their problem is that their identity has been so tied to Derrick Henry over the last few seasons that there has to be some doubt about their long-term success with him injured. So far they have taken care of business, but can that offense score enough points week in and week out on the arm of Ryan Tannehill? Time will tell.
Besides the Titans, everyone else has to be kicking themselves. They squandered the headstart that K.C. game them. The AFC West in particular has to be sick to their stomachs. The Raiders have now lost four of their last six games and still have to come to Arrowhead in a few more weeks. The Denver Broncos have gone 2-5 in their last seven games after a 3-0 start. Finally, the Los Angeles Chargers looked like the team to beat early in the season, but have now lost three of their last four games. All three teams left the door wide open and the Chiefs just walked back through it and reclaimed their rightful spot at the top of the division.
Now, the Chiefs aren’t out of the woods yet. They still have a tough schedule ahead of them and it starts with the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11. However, if this game isn’t just an outlier and the offense is finding it’s stride again, this is a team that could still be the favorite in every game remaining on their schedule—if the offense is really back and that is a big IF.
However, it’s not like we haven’t seen this offense shine for the past three seasons. Patrick Mahomes is still one of the most talented quarterbacks we’ve ever seen play the game. Travis Kelce is still one of the best pass catching tight ends the game has ever seen. Tyreek Hill is still one of the most dynamic weapons at wide receiver in all the NFL. The offensive line is really starting to play well, too. (Shout out to Andrew Wylie for surviving his battle with Maxx Crosby.)
In addition, the play calling seemed to find it’s groove again this week. Andy Reid is one of the best offensive minds in all the NFL, but the play calling has been really maddening over the past month. On Sunday night against the Raiders, the team really seemed to find the perfect mix of runs, short and efficient passes, and occasional deep shots to keep the defense honest. If the quartet of Reid, Mahomes, Kelce, and Hill can all be on their game the rest of the season, watch out.
Finally, the defense deserves some praise as well. The pass rush has finally come alive over the past three weeks. I really feel like that is such an essential part of this defense. If they can pressure the quarterback, good things eventually happen. You combine that with promising play from Willie Gay and Nick Bolton at linebacker and the secondary playing much better as well and this defense is now no longer a liability. In fact, you can argue that over the past three weeks, they have been flat out good.
So consider this a warning shot to the rest of the AFC. You should have put more distance between yourself and the Chiefs while you had a chance because the team that showed up against the Raiders on Sunday night is going to be a problem. The Chiefs aren’t going to lay down and let anyone else take the Lamar Hunt trophy this season. It belongs in Kansas City.