The Road To Glory: Part IX

Kansas City Chiefs 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Kansas City Chiefs/Sam Lutz

The Chiefs committed three turnovers and lost a possession when the Jaguars recovered an onside kick to start the game, and still ended up covering the lofty 9.5-point spread. Patrick Mahomes threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns (to four different receivers), and the defense tightened up when it mattered to deliver Kansas City a 27-17 win.

With losses by the Bills and all of their AFC West rivals, it couldn’t have been a much better Sunday for Chiefs fans. At 7-2 Kansas City once again ascends to the best record in the conference, supplanting Super Bowl favorite Buffalo who fell to 6-3 and now remarkably sits in third place in their division.

Based on everything I have seen and everything I know about Josh Allen, I think the dude is injured. I’m obviously not a doctor and he did make some incredible Allen-like plays in their 33-30 overtime loss to the Vikings, but over the last few weeks he’s thrown a ton of interceptions that don’t make any sense. Having a sprained UCL in his throwing elbow — the same ligament that leads to MLB pitchers missing a year with Tommy John Surgery — is probably the cause. Or it could be something else entirely. At any rate it’s my theory that his brain is preoccupied so much by what ails him that it’s been leading to questionable throwing decisions that have frankly cost the Bills these last two weeks.

I still believe Buffalo is the best team in football, but if Josh Allen is compromised by even 15 or 20 percent I think the Chiefs are, at worst, equals to the Bills. If the AFC Championship was being played this weekend in Kansas City the Chiefs would likely be about a 1-point favorite — as compared to the 2.5-point underdog they were a month ago — as we continue the trend of Kansas City getting better as the season wears on while Buffalo seemingly piles up injuries each week.

It remains extremely early in the NFL season, with still eight games left on the schedule. But based on the level of competition the Chiefs are facing over these last eight weeks — including two games against the Broncos, and home games vs. the Rams and Seahawks — it’s hard not to look at the top seed in the AFC as a realistic possibility. Kansas City will be favored in every game from now until the end of the season, and save for a Week 18 where they rest all their starters, the only obvious losses would come either this Sunday night on the road against the Chargers (where KC is -6.5 or -7 depending on the book), or on December 4th where they play the Bengals in Cincinnati (where the Chiefs will likely be favored by at least a field goal).

Aside from the continued brilliance of the defense, which has allowed more than 30 points just once this season (in a garbage time blowout win against Tampa Bay), the real storyline during the second half of the season — for me, anyway — is the ascension of wide receiver Kadarius Toney. After getting his feet wet against the Titans in his first game since being acquired by the Chiefs, on Sunday Toney caught four balls for 57 yards and a touchdown and added two carries for 33 yards.

Aware that those numbers are in a vacuum nothing to write home about, it is noteworthy given how little time he has spent in perhaps the most complicated offense in the NFL. Given the injuries to Mecole Hardman (who missed Sunday’s game) and Juju Smith-Schuster (who suffered a concussion), there’s a chance Kadarius enters next Sunday’s game against the Chargers as Kansas City’s second receiving option (behind Travis Kelce). Historically the Chargers do a good job of defending Kelce because they have Derwin James, one of the best safeties in the NFL, meaning it could be a big day for complementary weapons.

As far as that game is concerned, the math is pretty simple. A win over the Chargers puts the Chiefs at 8-2 and Los Angeles at 5-5, giving Kansas City not only a three-game lead in the AFC West but a sweep over the second place team — effectively making it a four-game lead. In other words: the division will be wrapped up. I’m kind of perplexed as to why the Chiefs are such heavy favorites, particularly considering the history of these two teams playing tight games on top of how badly the Chargers need it, but I suppose that’s why my money will be going down on the Chargers at +7.

I have opined that Kadarius Toney’s addition to the offense is a response to the fragility of the Bills secondary, but after seeing him play these last two weeks I’m not sure if he isn’t already Kansas City’s best receiver, period. As silly as that sounds, Patrick Mahomes already seems to have a trust and report with him, something that took over a month to develop with Smith-Schuster and hasn’t yet occurred with Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

It’s an exciting time for the Chiefs. Best record in the AFC. MVP favorite is playing quarterback. The defense is sleepwalking into allowing only 17 or 20 points on a weekly basis. And the best part is that they still have a good amount of room to improve.

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