Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Sessler examines the Kansas City Chiefs.
1) The Patrick Mahomes Experience
Why would Kansas City ship a reliable veteran quarterback out the door to the Redskins, a player in Alex Smith who operated at an MVP level for much of last season?
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach made that crystal clear at the NFL Scouting Combine, turning heads when he said of Mahomes, Kansas City's heir under center: "All the physical tools are there. He is one of the best players I have ever seen."
A newbie quarterback with only one regular-season start is arguably fodder for why an NFL team won't make the playoffs, but the switch to Mahomes showed no hint of desperation. It was the opposite of a knee-jerk reaction, with coach Andy Reid slow-cooking the rookie all last season before agreeing to move Smith in January. As Veach told scribes: "Coach had a vision, and we brought [Mahomes] along slowly, and we are excited for the future."
Aesthetically, Mahomes looms as an opposite to Smith, showcasing a raw and frenetic skill set, a shotgun arm and a flair for the big play. That was on display during last summer's preseason action and one impressive start against the Broncos in Week 17. Mahomes also needs time and experience, but teammates already believe in the young QB:
"Yeah, without a doubt. I feel like Patty Cakes can come in and roll the dice on anybody," tight end Travis Kelce told NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano during Super Bowl Week. "He can throw the ball any way, he can throw it off his back foot and he can jump and throw -- he can throw the ball anywhere, any way you need for it to be thrown. His confidence is definitely one of the best attributes to his game.
"When he played against the Broncos, I mean, he had a lot of footballs where he put it right on the money. And in crucial times and in crucial moments."
The football landscape is filled with those who believe in Mahomes -- and those who need to see more. Much more. I tend to put my faith in ...
2) Andy Reid
Reid wouldn't have dumped Smith if he believed Mahomes -- a player he traded up for in last year's draft -- might turn into Brock Osweiler 2.0. Kansas City's experienced coach has a full season of practice footage on his new quarterback to go along with hundreds of hours of tape-room study and personal interaction.
Reid has been around seemingly forever, tutoring a laundry list of quarterbacks and building a host of playoff-worthy teams with aid from his trusty utility belt. This is far from a rash, devil-may-care figure: Reid, instead, has earned the reputation for authoring ...
3) One of the NFL's most flexible attacks
Critics shrugged when Reid, in 2013, hired ex-Vikings coach Brad Childress as his "spread game analyst." Nobody is laughing today, though, with Kansas City leading the way when it comes to incorporating college concepts into the playbook.
Reid once told Kevin Clark of The Ringer that he viewed the college game as "five years ahead" of the pro template.
"Andy is a much more progressive, open-minded coach, in whatever area, than people give him credit for. He's always curious, always interested," former Eagles executive Joe Banner told Clark of Reid. "He's been talking about making the defense defend the length and width of the field for a very long time."
It's no coincidence that Super Bowl LII left us hailing Eagles coach Doug Pederson -- Reid's former pupil -- as an offensive-minded wunderkind. It's equally no surprise that Bears fans are imbued with a new sense of hope over the hiring of former Chiefs play-caller Matt Nagy. Losing these two minds, along with Childress, is no help to the Chiefs -- but let's not forget who runs the ship. Reid will have this offense perfectly molded around his young quarterback, who remains surrounded by ...
4) A saucy flock of weapons
Alex Smith produced the league's top Deep Passer Rating in 2017, per Pro Football Focus. That's a credit to Smith, but something of an aberration during his long career.
He was helped last season by an offense that featured lightning-quick deep threat Tyreek Hill, Pro Bowl tight end Kelce and Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Kareem Hunt. All three are back for 2018, and free-agent addition Sammy Watkins gives Kansas City the wideout it was missing to pair with Hill.
The superior coaching and surrounding offensive talent give Mahomes a chance to succeed in ...
5) The less-than-invincible AFC West
We spent last year crooning over the West as football's finest division. All of that looked foolish once the Raiders imploded and Denver emerged as one of the worst teams in the AFC. The Chargers have playoff -- potentially Super Bowl -- talent, but let's wait a minute before we go crowning teams in early June.
The Chiefs have lost star power on defense, but the offense is littered with playmakers. If Mahomes emerges the way other first- and second-year standout passers have done in recent campaigns, Kansas City has a chance to hang around until Week 17 -- and beyond.