Every NFL season brings with it outliers who far exceed expectations or disappoint miserably. With the futures odds set for the 2021-22 NFL season, we examine that broad range of possibilities for the Kansas City Chiefs.
When Last We Met
Sorry, Patrick Mahomes. But it isn’t quite your time yet. After already being hailed as the greatest quarterback in today’s game, Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs lost Super Bowl LV to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What made it worse is how the Chiefs had the NFL’s best record at 14-2 and were favored to win.
Mahomes did all he could to keep the Chiefs afloat. But despite his best efforts, the Buccaneers shredded their defense and Mahomes couldn’t even give the team a single touchdown as Tampa Bay’s defenders swarmed him all game long.
But a loss can be a good thing for the Chiefs, who quickly went to work by addressing their offensive and defensive issues. They will enter the 2021 season with a rebuilt offensive line and are back on top of the NFL betting odds.
To Miss the Playoffs (+650)
To put it bluntly, even the best fiction writers will have a tough time conjuring up doomsday scenarios on how the Chiefs fail to make the playoffs. But, let’s give it a shot.
It will have to start with Mahomes suffering a season-ending injury for the first quarter of the season. As backup Chad Henne takes over, he too gets an injury and leaves the Chiefs with Anthony Gordon, an undrafted quarterback who has yet to play a single snap in the NFL.
The nightmare doesn’t stop here. Several players from the Chiefs’ newly rebuilt offensive line also miss time, as does running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs’ defensive line continues to get worse while the secondary loses cornerback L’Jarius Sneed to injury.
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s division rivals play well. Justin Herbert turns out to be the real deal for the Los Angeles Chargers and they sweep the Chiefs and capture the division. The Denver Broncos finish second with some inspired play from their defense while even the Oakland Raiders beat the Chiefs.
With all the injuries, poor performances, and elevated play from their rivals, the Chiefs finish with a 7-10 record and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
We may have gone a bit overboard here with this nightmare scenario. But Kansas City is a juggernaut on the NFL playoff odds. Still, a slightly unlucky season mired with injuries force the Chiefs to miss the playoffs even if they finish with a winning record like in 2014.
Both the Chargers and Broncos are playoff-caliber teams that could get better and the extra game Kansas City got, against Buffalo, is a much tougher matchup than whoever their division mates face.
Kansas City may have finished with just two losses in 2020, but its last seven wins were all won by a single possession. If the team’s defense continues to deteriorate, this would put more pressure on Mahomes and the offense and that can make the Chiefs break down over a longer season.
To Make the Playoffs (-1200)
Just keep being the Chiefs? No mind-blowing NFL predictions needed. Barring a slew of injuries, Mahomes suddenly not playing like Mahomes, and any other uncharacteristic deterioration to the team, Kansas City should be a lock to make the playoffs.
They play the 11th-hardest schedule but should still be favored to win over at least 15 of these games. The Chiefs are favored to finish with the best record in the NFL and are slated to win 12.5 games, per the NFL regular-season win totals.
With an additional game and an additional wild-card spot, the margin for error for the Chiefs is even greater. While that also applies to the rest of the league, none of those teams have Mahomes at quarterback, Andy Reid as coach and six other Pro Bowlers on the team.
To Win AFC West (-300)
Much like the Chiefs are a lock to make it in the playoffs, it’s already a foregone conclusion that they’ll win the AFC West per the NFL Division odds. But these lines are too juiced and there is a good chance the Chiefs lose the division.
It begins with their division rivals. As mentioned, the Chargers and Broncos are legitimate squads who could be better this season. Herbert can build on an impressive first season where he set the rookie touchdown record. For his efforts, the Chargers rewarded him by improving the offensive line.
Denver didn’t draft Justin Fields, but it acquired Teddy Bridgewater, who will be an upgrade over Drew Lock at quarterback. Even if he’s limited offensively, Bridgewater should help stabilize the offense to further help the defense, which can be a top-10 unit in the NFL this season.
If Herbert and the Chargers’ offense take a step forward, they will be able to give the Chiefs a run for their money. And if the Broncos play up to their potential, winning 10 or 11 games is realistic for either team. Las Vegas shouldn’t be left for dead, either, as they were the only team to defeat Mahomes last season.
It’s plausible that Kansas City splits its division games and loses a couple to the likes of Green Bay and Buffalo. With improved records from Denver and Los Angeles, Kansas City might find itself in a two-way tie for first and lose the tiebreaker.
However, the opposite scenario is also equally likely.
The Chargers have been, for a lack of a better word, “cursed” and are either marred by injuries or underachieve. Herbert was inconsistent last season and he could disappoint this season. The Broncos’ defense, while solid, is not the type to dominate. Bridgewater may also not move the needle for them at all. And Las Vegas has and will still be inconsistent.
As far as the division goes, the Chiefs are the best bet to win consistently. They may not be as infallible as they were last season, but winning 12 or13 games shouldn’t be an issue and that should be enough to capture their sixth straight division title.
To Win the AFC (+225)
Winning the division and finishing with the best record in the NFL is one thing. But making a third straight trip back to the Super Bowl is another. There have only been three teams in Super Bowl history to make three consecutive trips to the Big Game: the Miami Dolphins of the ’70s, the Buffalo Bills of the ’90s, and the New England Patriots from 2016 to 2018.
So history is not on Kansas City’s side as far as returning to the Super Bowl. But if you look at the rosters of these teams, the Chiefs share a few things in common with them.
For one, they have a future Hall of Famer at both quarterback and head coach. Secondly, all three teams were from the AFC.
The AFC has historically been the easier of the two conferences. It will not be a walk in the park for Kansas City, but the Chiefs are significant favorites for a reason: Mahomes just beats everyone.
Look at the next crop of contenders: Buffalo (+500), Baltimore (+600), and Cleveland (+700). Mahomes beat all of these teams last season, two of them in the playoffs. And they beat the Ravens and Bills on the road in the regular season.
Since he began starting, only six AFC teams have beaten Mahomes: New England, Indianapolis, Houston and Tennessee along with the Chargers and Raider. Except for the Raiders and Titans, the quarterback or roster of these teams are now much different.
If this trend holds, Mahomes and the Chiefs are only getting bounced from the AFC playoffs if they run into the Titans. Tennessee has had Kansas City’s number in recent meetings.
But that slim chance of happening is why the Chiefs are heavily favored over the next contender in Buffalo on the NFL Conference Odds.
Kansas City did win the AFC Championship last season even with a makeshift offensive line. It eventually failed them in the Super Bowl, but it just goes to show that this team is on a higher tier than its conference peers.
To Win Super Bowl (+375)
Now that the Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl, the question remains: Can they beat Brady and the Buccaneers? This is assuming the Buccaneers return to the Super Bowl, of course. Assuming they do, the Chiefs have made upgrades immediately when they were able.
Kansas City added several players to the offensive line: guards Kyle Long and Joe Thuney and tackle Orlando Brown from the Ravens. They also used a second-rounder to draft a center in Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey.
The Buccaneers made life hard for Mahomes as they cut through his paper-thin offensive line. If the line holds up this time, Mahomes should be able to play much better and give the Chiefs’ offense a better shot.
NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 10, 2021
On the defensive side, the Chiefs addressed its passing defense by trading for cornerback Mike Hughes and then drafting highly touted linebacker Nick Bolton out of Missouri and Joshua Kaindoh, a pass rusher from Florida State. They also added defensive tackle Jarran Reed from the Seattle Seahawks.
Kansas City is even better now than last season, at least on paper. That’s why they’re the favorites for the Super Bowl odds again. Barring injuries, the Chiefs should be able to put on a better performance against the Buccaneers for the rematch.
If it’s not the Buccaneers, Mahomes has beaten every NFC team he’s played except for the Los Angeles Rams and Seahawks. He also beat the San Francisco 49ers for his first Super Bowl win but they played him tight to the last minutes.
The elite NFC West could send the next Super Bowl representative from the conference. The Rams and 49ers have potent defenses. Los Angeles also has Matthew Stafford now while Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll may just match whatever tricks Mahomes and Andy Reid come up with.
However, the Chiefs will likely still be favored to beat any of those three teams in terms of Super Bowl betting. Mahomes is still better than all four NFC West quarterbacks, though the X-factor will be his team’s defense.
The Buccaneers, Rams, and 49ers all have top-10 offensive lines, per Pro Football Focus. Mahomes could outperform their quarterbacks, but the defense needs to do their part and help neutralize them.
If the defense can’t, Mahomes will need to be peerless in matching the production of his opponents. He should be up to the task provided his offensive line is as well.
But like all teams, a lot of things have to break right for the Chiefs. The defense has to threaten, the offensive line needs to stick, and Mahomes needs to be Mahomes. It seems a lot to ask, but the Chiefs should have a smoother ride to a title than the rest of the league.