Kansas City Chiefs 2021 Season Previewby Mason Thompson August 25, 2021 1 comment
Entering the 2020 season, the Kansas City Chiefs had their sights set on starting a dynasty after winning Super Bowl LIV. For the reigning champs, there was no Super Bowl hangover. Kansas City ran through their schedule, finishing with the best record in franchise history at 14-2 and securing their fifth straight AFC West championship. After securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Cheifs defeated the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills en route to Super Bowl LV. However, they fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-9 as Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl ring.
Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 NFL Team Previews.
After a horrible performance in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs knew the top priority in the offseason was to revamp their offensive line. To open the offseason, Kansas City released starting offensive tackles, Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher. Both moves came as a surprise, but they opened up over $20 million in cap space. After releasing both tackles, the Chiefs beefed up the line by signing Joe Thuney to a five-year deal. The Chiefs also signed Kyle Long and Austin Blythe to one-year deals. However, the biggest offseason move the Chiefs made came when they traded for Orlando Brown. Brown spent the first three seasons of his career in Baltimore but wanted to play the left tackle position. He will be the starting left tackle for Kansas City.
In the draft, Kansas City added more to the offensive line by selecting center Creed Humphrey out of Oklahoma and guard Trey Smith out of Tennessee. Both rookies are slated to be starters this season. Along with the two draftees, 2020 pick, Lucas Niang is in a battle for the starting right tackle role. Niang and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are returning to the Chiefs after opting out of the 2020 season.
On defense, the Chiefs signed defensive tackle Jarran Reed to a one-year deal following his release from the Seattle Seahawks. The Chiefs also used their first draft selection on linebacker Nick Bolton from Missouri. In addition to the boost on the front seven, the Chiefs traded for cornerback Mike Hughes from the Minnesota Vikings. He will likely take over the role that was played by Bashaud Breeland the past two seasons.
The Chiefs offense will look different this season, but once again be amongst the best in the NFL. A completely revamped offensive line will provide new opportunities and potentially a huge year for second-year running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. After being pressured a Super Bowl record 29 times in February, Patrick Mahomes will have the best front five in his career. With Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, Mahomes is set for a huge season with a top-tier offensive line. Hill and Kelce are the top two targets for Mahomes and will have big seasons, but the one guy to watch is Mecole Hardman. With the departure of Sammy Watkins, Hardman will take over the No. 2 wide receiver. The Chiefs’ offense will once again be amongst the best in the NFL.
The Chiefs’ defense will look a little different this season. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense lost multiple starters in Breeland and Damien Wilson. However, Kansas City drafted Bolton and traded for Hughes to replace them. After signing Reed, the Chiefs have one of the better defensive lines in football. Reed will join Chris Jones and Frank Clark upfront. In the secondary, the defense will feature a lot of familiar faces, including Charvarius Ward, L’Jarius Sneed, Daniel Sorensen, and Tyrann Mathieu. Kansas City’s defense ranked 10th in points allowed last season but was 20th in sacks in the bottom 10 in penalties. The question that lies for the defense is how can they get more pressure on quarterbacks and eliminate penalties.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
After carrying two quarterbacks last season, the Chiefs will likely do the same this year. The team recently waived Anthony Gordon, meaning Shane Buechele will most likely earn a spot on the practice squad.
The Chiefs have a well-rounded backfield going into this season. Edwards-Helaire is the lead back. Williams provides a change of pace and a bruising run style. McKinnon provides a receiving threat out the backfield. Lastly, Burton will fill the void from the retirement of Anthony Sherman at fullback. He will make his impact on special teams mainly.
Hill is the top guy, who has three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the past four years. Opposite of Hill will be Hardman as he is taking over for Watkins. The battle for the third receiver spot is between Robinson and Pringle while Fountain and the rookie Powell round out the unit.
The tight end position is one of the strongest for the Chiefs. Kelce is one of the great tight ends in NFL history. He rounds out the unstoppable trio of himself, Mahomes, and Hill. The Chiefs drafted Gray in the fifth round. He has received praise from Mahomes and Kelce throughout training camp. Lastly, Fortson provides athleticism, size, and great hands.
As stated previously, the Chiefs made it a top priority to revamp the offensive line after a horrible Super Bowl performance. The Chiefs re-signed Remmers this offseason and he has been competing with Niang for the right tackle, but Niang has started both preseason games. Remmers will likely fill in as a swing tackle for depth. Long, Duvernay-Tardif, and Blythe all are dealing with injuries and could start the season on PUP.
The inside of the Chiefs defensive line got a boost with the addition of Reed. Last season, he recorded 6.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in Seattle. He will start alongside Nnadi as he enters his fourth season and looks to have a career year on the final year of his rookie contract. Saunders rounds out the group after a good showing in the first preseason.
With the signing of Reed, the Chiefs are moving Jones to the outside to play opposite of Clark. However, Clark’s availability is in question after an illegal weapons charge in the offseason. He could be suspended by the NFL. Okafor is the veteran reserve of the group and should make the roster after the Chiefs released Taco Charlton.
One of the thinnest positions for Kansas City entering this season is linebacker. The Cheifs moved on from Wilson after last season and drafted Bolton as his replacement. Hitchens has been one of the team’s highest tacklers since he joined the Chiefs in 2018. Gay will start alongside him after being one of the most improved players at camp this year.
The Chiefs found a diamond in the rough with Sneed last year. In nine games last year, he recorded three interceptions and seven passes defended. He will start alongside Ward and Hughes. Ward is entering his fourth season and has become a key piece to the Chiefs’ secondary. Fenton, Baker, and Keyes will round out the unit and provide upside.
The Chiefs’ secondary unit is led by one of the best safety’s in the NFL in Mathieu. He is a swiss army knife who can do it all. There is a battle for the other starting spot. Sorensen has consistently made big plays for the Chiefs when they need it, while Thornhill is back and 100 percent healthy. Armani Watts will likely start the year on the PUP list. Once he is healthy, Key’s roster spot is at risk.
The specialists have no competition this year. Butker has become one of the league’s best kickers. Townsend is entering his second season as the punter and Winchester remains as the long snapper.
One Player to Add
While the Chiefs have a very talented roster already constructed, they should look at the edge position. With Clark possibly facing a suspension, adding a veteran would be a wise move to make. A couple of potential targets include Trent Murphy and Jabaal Sheard. If the Chiefs wanted to add a veteran to the wide receiver room, Golden Tate and Danny Amendola are two available options.
2021 Outlook & Odds
The expectations for the Chiefs are greater this year as they look to win their third straight AFC Championship. With a brand new offensive line, the expectations for Mahomes and the offense are elevated. The Chiefs are at the top of the AFC and don’t expect them to give up that throne easily, if at all. Their over/under win total is set at 12.5 in most sportsbooks. Expect them to hit the over as they look to claim the top seed in the AFC for the third straight year.
Season Prediction: 14-3 and Win the AFC West
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