Kansas City Chiefs
The success of the Kansas City Chiefs hinges upon how well their new defense performs. The offense appears ready to pick up where it left off last season. Patrick Mahomes will be fresh off a full NFL offseason as the team’s starter after the Chiefs traded Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. Kareem Hunt should keep up his production behind a solid offensive line, and Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill will be valuable, dynamic weapons for Mahomes moving forward, and free agent acquisition Sammy Watkins provides playmaking ability that the Chiefs haven’t had in their receiving core, outside of Tyreek Hill.
The loss of Matt Nagy might have some effect on the offense’s performance as a unit, but the talent is there for Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy to work with. If anything will be the problem with this Chiefs’ team, it will be their defense. Brett Veach blew up the team’s defensive core, trading Marcus Peters to the Rams while letting veterans Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali test the market.
The Chiefs’ secondary, in particular, will look much different in 2018. Kendall Fuller, David Amerson, and Steven Nelson are likely to be the day one starters at cornerback, while the two safety spots could come down to veteran Eric Berry and rookie Armani Watts. Watts is a high-upside prospect, in terms of athleticism, but in college, he struggled with consistency and lacking instincts. Thus, it’s hard to tell how he’ll fare as a starter, if he’s forced into the fire right away.
Fuller should provide the Chiefs wth quality play wherever they use him; He played primarily in the slot last year with the Washington Redskins, registering as one of only five elite cornerbacks in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. He’ll hope to fill the void left by Marcus Peters, and although he has big shoes to fill, his position is not one that should incite much worry. But those around him are particularly unproven,, and it’s likely that this new secondary will have some early struggles.
The front seven of the Chiefs’ defense is decent, but it too has new pieces that will need to mesh. Reggie Ragland is a surefire starter at linebacker, but Anthony Hitchens was never more than a depth player with the Cowboys. He’ll be asked to take on a bigger role in Kansas City, and that could backfire. The Chiefs also have rookie Dorian O’Daniel, who provides depth, but even he may struggle if pressed into action too soon. The team’s defensive line rotation is strong, but it’s not dominant, like the Eagles’.
If the Chiefs’ new defense coalesces and starts at a high level, then there’s a chance the Chiefs could end up stalking the AFC West from the Chargers. They have the best chance to do it , especially with their offense. Right now, the Chargers are the better, more secure team. But the Chiefs have a chance to climb the ladder before long.