The upcoming 2022 NFL season presents the greatest challenge yet for the trio of Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, general manager Brett Veach and star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The franchise underwent a revamp this offseason, swapping out the old guard of Tyrann Mathieu and Tyreek Hill for new weapons in Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Justin Reid.
The pairing of so many new faces along both sides of the ball with one of the toughest regular season schedules of the Mahomes era and an improved AFC West places Kansas City in unfamiliar territory.
“There are some new players on the team, which makes it exciting,” Reid told reporters as the Chiefs opened training camp at Missouri Western State University on June 22.
“It’s not the same group that has been here probably the last three to four years. There has been a nice influx of really good football players that we look forward to seeing as things heat up here,” he said.
KC’s new influx of free agent talent was met with 10 draftees from the 2022 class, including first rounders Trent McDuffie and George Kalaftis, who enter the upcoming season with high expectations.
Another of the rookies with high expectations is wideout Skyy Moore, who said that the newcomers are guided by the championship culture built by those before them.
“It’s a Super Bowl mentality,” Moore told reporters on one of the final days of training camp. “Every day is going to be a grind. Get better every day and we’re working to win,” he explained.
Securing a trip to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years will require plenty of work for Kansas City. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Chiefs are the first team in league history to open the season with eight straight games against teams that had a winning record in the previous season.
“We have a great schedule that we’re playing, that we’re all aware of and we look forward to that challenge,” Reid said. “That’s why we’re in this, for those kinds of challenges.”
Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook seem to agree, placing KC’s regular season win total projection at 10.5 total wins.
Prediction: 11-6, Wild Card berth
Kansas City’s opening eight-game gauntlet will tell us a lot about the mettle of this new-look group. While Travis Kelce, Mahomes and Reid remain, new faces such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Isiah Pacheco will be called on early and often to make plays for a unit that needs to hit the ground running. Defensively, Steve Spagnuolo’s unit has been known to start slow. If 2021 is a guide, Mahomes and Co. will be expected to shoulder a heavy load while the defense still salts away chemistry in the early weeks. KC is rookie-laden on defense and while the upside is high, it is fair to expect a handful of first-year mistakes early in the season.
Emerging from the first eight games with a 5-3 or better record would by all accounts be considered a win.
Reid after a bye week is a fun trivia stat, but fans looking for a light stretch in the schedule will be disappointed. Home matchups with the Jags and Rams are flanked by trips to Denver and Cincinnati just in time for colder weather.
There’s no debating the division around the Chiefs has improved. But I believe KC has done enough to stave off the pack … for now.