Patrick Mahomes needs a rebound game against the Bengals

After a terrible performance on Christmas against the Raiders, Patrick Mahomes needs to bounce back this week against the Bengals.

Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs
Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs are reeling and the dream of back-to-back Super Bowl victories appears to be highly unlikely at this point. The 2023 season has been one to forget for Kansas City and it hit rock bottom with a stunning 20-14 loss against their arch-rival Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Day.

Although the offense as a whole has not played up to their standards this year, Patrick Mahomes himself has been excellent. Until Monday afternoon. To be perfectly honest, he was downright awful against the Raiders—not just for his (very high) standards, but for any NFL quarterback.

Though the raw box score may not look that bad (27-44, 235 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and a 73.6), the tape told an even worse story. He was indecisive, consistently bolted from clean pockets, and put the ball in harm's way six different times (4 interceptable passes and 2 fumbles). On back-to-back plays, he was involved in a fumble that resulted in a Las Vegas touchdown and threw a pick-six.

To put the poor performance into numbers, Pro Football Focus ($) gave Mahomes a 34.2 grade, by far the lowest of his career. His previous low was 40.0 against the Texans in Week 6 of the 2019 season. To put the 34.2 grade into context, there have been just seven games this season in which a quarterback has recorded a worse overall grade (with at least 20 dropbacks). There's no spinning it, Mahomes was awful last week. If the Chiefs are going to somehow make a Super Bowl run, their star quarterback has to be elite. If not, they'll suffer an early playoff exit.

This week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals is important for a variety of reasons. First, the Chiefs have (another) opportunity to clinch their eighth consecutive AFC West title. In addition, Kansas City can lock up the #3 seed (if they win and at least one of the Bills or Dolphins win) and rest their starters in Week 18. If they lose, they risk their playoff spot in Week 18 against the Chargers.

For the Chiefs to beat the Bengals, Patrick Mahomes needs to have a bounce-back game. If #15 isn't playing well, the Kansas City offense cannot move the ball, even against a below-average defense. The Chiefs have no consistent running game, Travis Kelce has taken a step back this season, drops have been an issue, giveaways have been prevalent all year, and they've struggled to scheme open their wide receivers. If Mahomes isn't making plays, they won't score a lot of points.

Although winning in Week 17 is clearly important, Patrick Mahomes bouncing back is also necessary so the offense has some sort of confidence coming out of their (potential) final regular season game with starters before the playoffs. Even if the Chiefs win, but the offense looks terrible yet again, it would have been a month since they would have played well on that side of the ball. That's obviously not what fans want to see heading into a win-or-go-home game.

Even if Mahomes does play a quality game, that may not be enough for the offense to look competent since that's happened multiple times this season. If Mahomes plays well, there's no guarantee the offense will play well. If Mahomes has a bad day, there's very little chance that the Chiefs can put up enough points to beat a good team, especially in the playoffs, even with an elite defense.

The Chiefs are at a point where no game is safe due to how much of an issue their offense is. They just lost a game in which the opposing quarterback didn't complete a pass in the final three quarters, so anything is on the table. Even without Joe Burrow, Cincinnati will be tough to beat. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has had Andy Reid's number in recent years and that was with an elite offense.

Another significant concern is that Mahomes sometimes tends to not trust his tackles and non-Travis Kelce receivers, which were huge issues against the Raiders. That causes him to bail on clean pockets, hold the ball too long, and not target open receivers way too often.

The Chiefs have no chance of making a deep playoff run unless Patrick Mahomes is at his best and that needs to start against the Bengals. If he has another disappointing performance, the team might as well start planning vacations for late January and early February since they likely won't be playing football. Was Christmas Day just a fluke or was it a bleak sign of things to come in the next several games?