As the Chiefs prepare to open their 2022 campaign in Glendale against the Arizona Cardinals, we look back at openers from seasons past.
I sat here for a while and pondered how to begin this post. Overthinking is often the deadliest poison to a writer’s mind and flow. The answer was sitting right in front of me, yet I was trying to concoct something Shakespearian to ignite an emotional bond to this piece with drips of curious foreshadowing to keep you mentally engaged. What am I thinking? I know my audience, and I know all I need to say are three sweet, sweet words.
Football is back.
I don’t know about you, but seeing my social media timelines flooded with college football updates, scores, takes, and memes kept me in a continuous state of football bliss this weekend. As a football guy, I have felt the angst and sense of deprivation radiating from all of my football brothers and sisters over the course of the last few months. You must understand, however, that going from the depths of football depravity to the overstimulation of full football immersion can be a shock to the system. Let me help you ease back in.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Kansas City Chiefs will travel to Glendale, Arizona this weekend to take on Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury, and the Arizona Cardinals to open the 2022 season. The Chiefs enter Week 1 coming off of a 12-5 regular season in 2021 that saw Kansas City advance to and host the AFC Championship for a fourth consecutive year before falling to the Cincinnati Bengals to end their run at a third straight Super Bowl appearance.
The Cardinals are coming off of a 2021 season that could be classified as the definition of hot and cold. They sprinted out of the gate in 2021, starting out 7-0 with wins against playoff teams in the Titans, Rams, and 49ers before heading into their bye week 9-2, atop the NFC. After the bye? The Cardinals were 2-4 and limped (literally and figuratively) into a Wild Card playoff spot. Their postseason would be brief, as the Cardinals were blown out by their division rival and the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card round.
While the Chiefs kicking things off in the desert is certainly the highlight of the week for Chiefs Kingdom, the rest of the league is buzzing with excitement to get things going as well. The aforementioned Rams will get an early opportunity to show off their Super Bowl bling to the entire world as they host this year’s Super Bowl betting favorite the Buffalo Bills to kick off the season on Thursday night. Around the league on Sunday, the excitement lies in a couple of divisional matchups (Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, New England at Miami) as well as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers traveling to Jerry’s World to take on Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.
Around the AFC West, we will get an early look at the Raiders’ and Chargers’ revamped rosters in their first slugfest of the year—a rematch of the week 18 thriller for the final AFC Playoff spot—as the Raiders cruise through the desert on I-15 to Los Angeles to take on Justin Herbert and the trendy Chargers. To cap the week off, Bronco Country’s newest resident Russell Wilson will ride with his new squad into Seattle to take on his old squad, the Seahawks.
Back to the important part. Patrick Mahomes will lead a new-look Chiefs offense into their battle with the Cardinals with both excitement and uncertainty. Excitement because this is without question the deepest receiving corps Mahomes has had at his fingertips in his 5 years as the Chiefs starting QB, and uncertainty because the one constant in those previous groups (Tyreek Hill) is no longer there. Regardless, the Chiefs enter the year with a young offensive line coming off of a massively successful debut season heralded as one of the league’s best going into 2022 as well as reloaded running back and tight end groups.
Defensively the Chiefs will rely heavily on a youth movement spurred by the clinic that GM Brett Veach appears to have put on in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Chiefs will have rookies contributing at every level of the defense, from George Karlafits up front, to Leo Chenal in the middle, rounded out by Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook, Jaylen Watson, and more contributing on the back end of the unit. While the unit figures to be fast and exciting, it will without a doubt take them time to gel on the field with opposing offenses firing live rounds in regular season play.
While we don’t know exactly how all of the pieces, especially the new ones, will fall into place over the course of the 2022 regular season, we do know how head coach Andy Reid has had the team prepared to open the regular season historically. That answer: dominant.
In Andy Reid’s nine seasons as head coach of the Chiefs, K.C. is 8-1 in season openers by an average of 8.9 points in margin of victory. The Chiefs have averaged 31.7 points per game in season-opening games—36.3 in the Mahomes era—and have failed to cover the spread just twice in that span.
More on the Mahomes era. Since Mahomes has been the starting quarterback, the Chiefs have not lost on opening day. In his 4 opening day starts, Mahomes has amassed 1,182 yards passing and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions. Let’s take a look back at those four games and performances so we can take a proper look ahead to Sunday’s opener against the Cardinals.