Unpopular opinion: The Kansas City Chiefs can still win Super Bowl 58

Just hear us out.

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs / Jamie Squire/GettyImages
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Well, things have definitely been better around here before, huh? Yes, Chiefs Kingdom finds itself in yet another "staring in the mirror looking for answers" moment after yet another frustrating loss the the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Day. This one felt much like the shellacking the Chiefs took from the Broncos earlier this season in Denver - a game where the opponent simply wanted to beat the Chiefs more than the Chiefs wanted to notch another win. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, yet we all sat around after opening presents hoping for one last gift and were instead given a steaming pile of manure that somewhat resembled football.

I'll take accountability for some things being off on my end from a viewing standpoint. First of all, I wore a brand new hoodie, exhibiting an unparalleled level of arrogance and acting as an imposter who thinks that what he wears doesn't impact the football universe. That hoodie had no wins coming into the game and no wins coming out. I'll do better next time. One thing I won't take accountability for? All of the Christmas candy in my house somehow going missing. There has been a candy thief on the loose since around Halloween and it's becoming a problem, but I'll solve it. The Candy Caper will be captured and brought to justice, one way or another.

Accountability is also a word that many outsiders (and "insiders") have been clamoring for the Chiefs to embrace over the course of the past couple of months. Which at first was comical to me. That we, as fans and even members of the media, can sit back and tell professional athletes that they need to work on their discipline and accountability is laughable. I can barely make myself get on my Peloton and do a 30 minute workout as the bike stares at the back of my head most of every day, let alone force myself to tirelessly practice and study a game that is so intricate at the professional level that world class athletes still fail when the mental side isn't there.

Do we really think that a team led by one of the greatest head coaches of all time, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and arguably the greatest tight end of all time (among other veteran leaders who have won multiple Super Bowls) is having an accountability issue inside of their walls on a day to day basis? At this point I don't know the answer to that question. Before Monday's embarrassment, another feather in the cap of an offense that has been nothing short of a disappointment in 2023, it's getting harder and harder to believe that the team or coaches will learn from any of this, right?

I don't take the term "disappointment" lightly. When your parents get mad at you for doing something dumb that's one thing, but when they're disappointed? That's brutal. That's where we are with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2023. Disappointed. There is no other word that fits how we should feel with the product we've seen trotted out for 16 weeks thus far in 2023. The same issues the Chiefs had in Week 1 - penalties, drops, disorganization, issues with play calling, turnovers - are the same problems that damned them in Week 16 against the Raiders and are the same problems that could ultimately be the end of the line when it comes to the outcome of the season. Unless...

It's tough to imagine that, with the way things have gone thus far in 2023, that the ship can be righted to the point where this is a championship contending team. Very tough. But what if we look at some facts that could point us toward where the Chiefs could end up, versus where we know they are now? Everyone covering the Chiefs this year has done a great job pointing out what they've done wrong, but what about what they've done right? Are there things that the Chiefs have shown that they can go back to for success? Sure, they've battled the same issues over and over again this year and can't seem to fix them. But how do they take advantage of what is right in front of their face?

The Chiefs have started an apparent trend of just thinking they can show up and win in 2023, and that's simply not the case. The pass catching options are not enough to stir fear in the heart of any opponent this season, so the opponent strategy of doubling Travis Kelce and daring anyone else to make plays has been pretty successful so far. The running game has been good for K.C., but with borderline lunacy occurring with the offensive play calling it is impossible to believe that they can be an effective ground and pound team - Matt Nagy and the offensive staff have refused to stick with it thus far. But what if that changes, what if they go back to the well in the run game? What if they make physicality on offense their calling card?

The Raiders game is a bad example of the run game working for the Chiefs - not only was Isiah Pacheco back (for a little bit, anyway) from an injury that sidelined him for two weeks - the team was also without Jerick McKinnon. While the latter may be true for at least the rest of the regular season, Pacheco getting more and more reps with Mahomes and the first team offense and finding a groove to go along with the unexpected fire that Clyde Edwards-Helaire has provided in the past couple of weeks could be the spark the Chiefs offense needs.

Mahomes is clearly uncomfortable in the pocket, even when he shouldn't be. Part of this is due to pressures being allowed by a set of offensive tackles that have been a bust so far, and part of this is due to receivers not being able to get empty down the field. But let me introduce a novel concept - maybe the staff should quit calling plays that rely on multiple receivers getting open 10+ yards down field when only 1-2 guys on the entire team can create separation at any level? Let the offensive line (the tackles specifically) get some confidence early on by getting behind their pads and opening up some holes in the running game. Be a "run first" team, which seems like an absolutely insane idea with a quarterback like Mahomes, but it is the only way to make this offense work this year. The sooner Nagy and the staff see that, the sooner the Chiefs begin to look like a competitor again.

This seems even crazier than the play calling woes ceasing, but what if they Chiefs also have more than just Travis Kelce and Rashee Rice step up in the passing game? Hear me out - I know none of us have faith in Kadarius Toney, or MVS, or Noah Grey, or any of the other pass catching options for that matter at this point, but what if one of them decides to be a professional athlete again and makes some plays down the stretch? In my opinion this is more than feasible, and borderline likely.

The most disappointing part of all of this, so far, is that the Chiefs offense is absolutely wasting what might be the best defense we get in the Andy Reid era. In a season where Chris Jones and L'Jarius Sneed are both contributing in a massive way to what a rebuilt defensive unit has been doing to opponents, we will ultimately see it be all for naught if the offense continues to flounder. These guys are going to be free agents at year's end, this isn't someting we can let a misguided offense just waste. But what if they don't?

What if the offense leans into this tool they have on the other side of the ball and become a true ground and pound team. A team that waits for their shots, and when safeties get up in the box to defend a running game that can easily chunk 5-6 yards a carry, some of the receivers who have had issues getting open against shell coverages that have no need to creep up start getting turned around all of a sudden?

The blame, and solution, for this largely lands on the shoulders of Matt Nagy. That's both frustrating and exciting. Is Nagy a good guy? I'm sure, it appears the players love him. But he is not Eric Bieniemy, that is clear. The Chiefs offense lacks what Bieniemy brought to the table - discipline and a hard nosed "we're going to beat your ass" mentality. Right now there are fingers being pointed, there are players complaining, and no one outside of Andy Reid is challenging them in any way. But the players respect him, they like him, and he has the ability to get with Andy Reid, get a gameplan to turn this around, and properly use the personnel at his disposal. The Chiefs are not a team that lacks talent, they are a team that has - for 16 weeks - lacked direction.

The worst case scenario - the Chiefs somehow missing the playoffs - surely won't unfold this year. But that all of a sudden doesn't feel llike a guarantee. A 9-8 finish would be a crippling end to a disappointing season, but I don't believe it ends there. Where does it end? Somewhere in the first two rounds of the playoffs.? This is definitely not a Super Bowl team, right? Unless some things change drastically in the next two weeks. Let's not lose sight of the fact that the Chiefs are likely going to end up at 11-6 as the AFC's 3 seed. If that's the floor, we're in pretty good shape. While other teams look better right now, who has actually done it in January?

Look at the games across the league this weekend. Baltimore looked great against San Francisco, sure, but there were drops galore in that game, the Eagles made mistakes and almost lost to the Giants, the Bills barely survived the Chargers. Every team that is sitting atop both conferences has their flaws. The 49ers are loaded, but they have Brock Purdy under center. The Ravens are loaded, but playoff Lamar is a very real thing we've seen over and over again. The Chiefs have already beaten the Dolphins, and were the more physical team against Buffalo and Philadelphia before ultimately falling victim to mental errors that cost them those games. Limit the mental errors and what happens? KC is 11-4 and we're having a different conversation.

There is a roadmap for the Chiefs to defend their Super Bowl crown, and it's not that far-fetched to think they can make the changes to get there. They've already shown it in 2023. But they're almost out of time. After a 6-1 start I believed the Chiefs were still the best team in football. Now, after a 3-5 stretch over the last two months, I've found myself questioning if they can actually get it done.

The bottom line is this team can. They have Patrick Mahomes, and offensive line that can control the line of scrimmage in a run-first scheme, a Hall of Fame tight end who can feast off of play action, and a rookie wide out who is finding himself in a big way down the stretch. If a couple other pieces find ways to make a big play or two in the coming weeks and the defense stays the course, this team is as dangerous as any in January. We just have to remember what this team can do, not what they have done recently. We could be sitting back in mid-February saying "If you told me on Christmas this team would win the Super Bowl I'd have called you crazy". Call me crazy, but it can happen.