The Road To Glory: Part I

After the Chiefs traded wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins in June the remainder of the offseason was filled with questions. How effective would Patrick Mahomes be? How would Andy Reid be able to run his offense without having a cheat code on the field? Could Kansas City finally come back to earth?

These questions were mostly erased after, like, one preseason drive against the Chicago Bears. That’s all it took. People were quickly reminded that the immovable object that plays quarterback for the Chiefs is still pretty fucking good, and with a collection of viable receivers the offense would be just fine. In my preview of the season that I wrote a couple weeks ago I suggested something that kind of scared even me after I hit the return key to begin a new paragraph:

I know it’s not the most 2022 thing to say because passing is the analytical way to enhance efficiency and, in turn, achieve wins, but what I argue is that the formula they’ve used over the last few years has already been proven. What Kansas City haven’t proven are what they look like when they are multiple, where they can impartially distribute the ball to anyone on the field on any given play.

Kansas City Chiefs 44, Arizona Cardinals 21

Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

This game was a complete bloodbath.

Patrick Mahomes completed 30 of 39 passes for 360 yards and 5 touchdowns. Nine different receivers caught passes. Each of the Chiefs three active running backs carried the ball at least four times, and they all averaged at least five yards per carry. In every conceivable way the Kansas City offense dominated, and made it seem like they were playing in a seven on seven drill more than an actual football game.

What’s interesting is the Cardinals aren’t actually supposed to be that bad. Betting markets had them pegged as an 8.5-win team in 2022, which in a 17-game season implied they are exactly average. For most of the offseason the Chiefs were a 3-point favorite in the season opener, but in the handful of days leading up to game time the spread was bet all the way up to KC -6.5.

I found it strange, which is why I bet on the Cardinals plus the points. In my mind I believed the Chiefs new-look offense was going to take some time to gel, and that Arizona were at least competent enough to play a competitive game on their home field in the opening week of the season. Given how the game played out I was completely wrong.

As much as I’d like to go drive by drive and break down the minutia, my objective in these game recaps has more to do with general observations. So here it is:

  • When the game was competitive, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire received a ton of action. On the first drive alone he had carries of 9, 7, and 18 yards, respectively, and ended up catching two touchdown passes (both walk-ins) in goal-to-go situations. Besides Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, CEH may have the biggest chip on his shoulder of anyone on the roster. So it’s good to see he made the most of his opportunities.
  • It’s obviously only one game, but of all the new additions to the offense Juju Smith-Schuster appeared to be most in sync with Patrick Mahomes on plays where the quarterback was outside the pocket. He ended the day with 6 catches (on 8 targets) for 79 yards.
  • Travis Kelce is still a dude. I guess after all the success he’s had I keep waiting for his production to fall off a cliff, yet the 32 year-old just keeps getting the job done. He finished with 8 catches (on 9 targets) for 121 yards and a touchdown, and remains far and away Mahomes’s favorite option to throw to.
  • The defense looked sharp. Defensive tackle Chris Jones was wrecking the Arizona offensive line with regularity, and if not for a couple garbage touchdowns the final score would have looked significantly more lopsided.

Of course, with only one data point it’s hard to say if the Cardinals are just god fucking awful or if the Chiefs simply made them look that way. Tomorrow’s matchup against the Chargers will offer more answers. Right now Kansas City is either a 4- or 4.5-point favorite depending on which sports book you prefer, a sign that betting markets view the Chiefs as the clearly superior team.

I won’t be surprised by anything, but I will say regardless of tomorrow’s outcome I can’t be any more excited about the prospects of the 2022 season. Pretty much the best-case scenario I had in my head came to fruition against the Cardinals, a welcome and necessary first step in what looks like could be a very special season in Kansas City.

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