Notes From A Crumbling NFL Empire: Part VI

Kansas City Chiefs 41, Las Vegas Raiders 14

Last week my unimaginably complex, brilliant, objectively scorching hot NFL take boiled down to this: If Patrick Mahomes gets back to being himself… the Chiefs will get back to being good again.

Pretty fucking smart, amiright? I know, I know, football is a difficult sport to observe and report on. Not everyone is capable of putting on a hard hat and some steel toes and doing the hard work that needs to get done. But that’s why I’m here. And that’s why you are here. You need me to parse through the noise to give you the truth. And the truth, well, it’s never easy to find. Where else can you go to find out that if the best player on the planet plays like the best player on the planet, then the team he plays for is going to win football games?

In all seriousness, I am just happy that for the first time in seemingly forever the Chiefs played a clean one for four quarters. Granted, the 41-14 final score probably isn’t totally indicative of the action; the Raiders were down 27-14 when WR DeSean Jackson fumbled on a play that he may have — or should have — scored a touchdown on, and despite Mahomes’s excellent 400-yard, 5 TD performance, he did put a couple passes in harm’s way.

That’s why it’s worth mentioning that it apparently is possible for the ball to bounce the Chiefs way from time to time — something that hasn’t happened very much over the course of the 2021 season. For seemingly the entire year I have written about how hard everything has been for Kansas City on offense. During Sunday Night Football they sent out a reminder to the rest of the NFL just how easy it can be when everything is clicking.

Before the season I wrote about the Chiefs’ schedule. Why? Because on May 13th, 2021, I didn’t have anything better to do. For some reason, however, I had the foresight to notice something that we are now in the middle of, a remarkable run where they are going to be playing at home a helluva lot more than they will be traveling. I said:

The second item of importance comes in that beautiful stretch that you see in bold from Week 11 through Week 14. The Chiefs won’t have to leave their home state of Missouri for a full month. They have three homes games wrapped around their aforementioned BYE. Further, the Chiefs have just one road game from Week 8 to Week 14, and just two road games from Week 8 to Week 16. I’m not an expert on scheduling, but it seems to me that the NFL is taking good care of the Super Bowl favorite.

We can (probably) dismiss that last line about the NFL giving a scheduling break to the “Super Bowl favorite,” as this was likely randomness more than a delicately concocted conspiracy to help out the Chiefs. We can also, hopefully, forgive that the paragraph in italics reads pretty awkwardly in retrospect. The whole point was that starting in Week 8 — which is where the Chiefs began the three-game winning streak they are currently riding — they are playing a lot of home games.

That could just be a coincidence, or it could mean that Kansas City were really looking forward to getting to this part of the season. All around the NFL we are seeing good teams lose football games that they shouldn’t, and it’s all just puzzling. The Chiefs have garnered the most media backlash, but I suppose that’s just the price they have to pay for entering the year with the highest expectations.

I feel like the 17-game season hasn’t received quite the amount of attention it deserves. I mean, football is a brutal fucking sport. Understanding that it isn’t merely “just one more game on the schedule,” which in actuality it is, there is a chance that players have simply changed their outlook on how they want to dedicate their physical and emotional resources. I am only speculating, of course. But I think it’s a credible theory considering Super Bowl favorites like the Bills and Bucs are losing random games to the Jaguars and Football Team, respectively.

And it’s not just them. It’s pretty much all of the good teams. We can only see what we see from the outside; inside team facilities, I believe the best teams understand exactly where they are. Since that’s the case — since it’s happening just about everyone we consider “good” — I will continue operating under the assumption that teams like Kansas City, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay will be there in the end.

I’d like to think the Chiefs are (still) one of those “good” teams. The squares and talking heads are suddenly talking like Kansas City is back. And the sharpest people, the professional sports bettors and PFF analysts, are saying that the Raiders went with a defensive game plan unlike what has been working against the Chiefs — thus explaining how Patrick Mahomes and the offense got back on track.

I guess we won’t know — until we know — which side is right in this case. I rewatched the Chiefs/Raiders game and was struck by how well Mahomes moved in the pocket, how Travis Kelce seemed to be running better than he has in recent weeks, and how the defense appears to be proving the doubters wrong. So while I am not jumping up and down atop the mountaintop, I am highly encouraged that beating the Raiders 41-14 might have been the shot in the arm Kansas City needed.

And I’ll be back next week, win or lose, to continue this series. It’s certainly possible that this game’s outcome was nothing more than a mirage, or the high point we will look back on in a forgettable Chiefs’ season. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that Patrick Mahomes and the rest of Kansas City are back on track to be who we thought they were.

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