The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yet, here we are looking at the same Kansas City Chiefs offense we've seen year after year.
The Chiefs have made three playoff appearances since Reid took over as head coach in 2013, losing once in the wild-card game (2013) and twice in the divisional round (2015, 2016). I'm a fan of Reid and quarterback Alex Smith, but with the way things are right now, they'll be sitting at home while Pittsburgh and New England duke it out on Championship Sunday.
I was Smith's teammate in San Francisco for one year (2010) and I got to know him well. When the weather starts playing a bigger factor in games late in the season, he's not a guy who can make tough throws in tough conditions. He's particular and wants the football a certain way. The colder the weather the firmer the ball and other conditions make the ball slippery. It's really hard to play in inclement weather as a quarterback, yet there are some guys -- like Brett Favre -- who could grab a ball out of a bucket of water or pile of mud and hurl it downfield. But everybody's not like that, including Smith. The conditions have to be right and the running game has to be there. As we've witnessed throughout his career, Smith isn't often going to transcend an offense and win a game on huge throws -- a frequent critique. He's just not that type of quarterback.
Early in the season, we saw Smith make those big plays and the Chiefs were rolling. We've seen downfield shots slowly digress as the season's gone on, a trend that goes back to at least the past two seasons. Since 2015, Smith has been far more effective throwing the ball down field (20-pus air yards) through the Chiefs' first eight games than he has in their final eight, completing more passes (42.1 percent vs. 36.7 percent) with a better TD-to-INT ratio (8:0 vs. 2:4) and a significantly higher passer rating (124.3 vs. 63.1).
Furthermore, since Smith's first year with the Chiefs in 2013, his passer rating on pass attempts of more than 20 yards has fallen off in the second half of the season.
The Chiefs' high-flying offense started to stall after the Steelers exposed a weakness in Week 6. Pittsburgh played more zone coverage and allowed them to throw the ball underneath by respecting the ability of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to make things happen downfield. In addition, the run game hasn't been as effective the last five games (the Chiefs are 1-4 in that stretch), averaging 81 rush yards per game. That's 70 yards per game fewer than Kansas City put up in its first five games (all wins). In my opinion, Smith needs the run game to improve or we'll likely see him continue to struggle throwing the ball downfield as this season progresses.
I know this sounds crazy, but there's a case for Patrick Mahomes, who played well in the preseason, to start in place of Smith as the playoffs near. The Chiefs gave up a third-rounder and next year's first to draft Mahomes, viewing him as their franchise quarterback of the future. He's a gunslinger who adds another dimension in the pass game when a) the weather worsens, and b) they're trying to go head to head with the AFC's best offenses.
Each week in the 2017 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season's efforts. Now, let's get to it -- the Week 12 pecking order is below.
Thielen's becoming one of my favorite players in the NFL. I record videos of Thielen and show them to my sons' high school football team because he runs perfect routes and doesn't waste movement. He's so fun to watch.
JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP 15:
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: This was undoubtedly Smith's worst outing of the season. When you're in the MVP conversation, it's hard to look past a performance like Sunday's (27-for-40 passing for 230 yards, no TDs, two INTs and a 61.5 passer rating). Smith's underwhelmed since Week 5, as the Chiefs have lost four of their last five.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots: Don't get me wrong, Gronk's still one of the most valuable players in this league but others are out-producing him right now. A few more big games could put him back in the top 15.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins: His steady production -- a 101.8 passer rating this season, a career best -- has flown under the radar. He played a good game in New Orleans (22-for-32 passing for 322 yards, three TDs and 132.6 passer rating) but that intentional grounding penalty may have cost his team the chance to win at the end of regulation. He should be recognized, though, for what he's done this year. He's doing a lot with less.
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears: Howard's making life for his rookie quarterback easier. He's enough of a threat that Mitchell Trubisky's getting some one-on-one matchups. The running back gained 125 yards and scored a touchdown on 15 carries vs. the Lions and is tied with Ezekiel Elliott for the league lead in 100-yard rushing games (11) since the start of 2016.