This article is part of a series previewing the 2018-2019 NFL season where we will cover quick notes on all 32 NFL teams, favorite potential storylines, win-loss predictions, the playoff picture, and my picks to compete in Super Bowl LIII.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Pat Mahomes era has officially begun in Kansas City, and the hype has been through the roof this offseason. Although Alex Smith led the Chiefs to the playoffs in four of his five seasons in Kansas City, he was unable to get the team past the divisional round of the playoffs. The organization knew there had to be a change to break through to the AFC Championship game, and they believe the switch from Smith to Mahomes is just that. The Chiefs were able to get a third-round draft choice and CB Kendall Fuller from the Redskins in exchange for Smith, which helped address a major need for a defense that struggled against the pass last season.
Mahomes is set up for success for many reasons. One is that he was able to take a true redshirt year and observe Smith over the course of his rookie season. More importantly, he was able to brainstorm with one of the best offensive minds in football, head coach Andy Reid. Mahomes is also going to be surrounded with playmakers all over the field. The dynamic trio of TE Travis Kelce, RB Kareem Hunt, and WR Tyreek Hill were all Pro Bowlers last season that helped propel Smith to early MVP talks. The team also added free agent WR Sammy Watkins to put on the other side of Hill. The offensive line is average at best, but it will not be a liability by any means. Mahomes has one of the strongest arms of anyone coming into the league since Brett Favre, and with all the weapons at his disposal, and a genius play caller, the sky is the limit for this offense.
The defensive side of the ball will significantly improve solely with the return of All Pro safety Eric Berry after he ruptured his Achilles week one last season against the New England Patriots. Achilles injuries can be tricky, but Berry beat cancer before and earned an All Pro selection a year afterwards, so I am not going to doubt the guy will return to full strength. The front seven will lean on veteran OLB Justin Houston and rising star DE Chris Jones to create an effective pass rush. CB Marcus Peters’ departure to the Los Angeles hurts, but Fuller and CB David Amerson were added this offseason to give the cornerback room a new look, given that the group could not be any worse than last season. With Berry’s presence back on the field, I believe the defense will improve upon their underwhelming showing last season.
This season heavily comes down to how Mahomes plays each week, and if he can handle the pressure of being QB1. There are no excuses for him not to succeed and I do not think he will need any either. He has shown the arm talent and maturity to lead an NFL team, and Andy Reid is outstanding at winning divisions then losing in the playoffs early. I do not think that changes this season.
Favorite Potential Storyline: Pat Mahomes Bombs. They will go viral. Him and Josh Allen are going to compete for the longest throw of the season. They will also compete for the dumbest fucking throw of the season. Should be fun!
Prediction: 11-5 (1st in AFC West, 3rd Seed in AFC Playoffs)
Jon Gruden is back! The man that led my Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl victory is back in the NFL as a head coach for the first time since he was fired by the Bucs in 2009. During his coaching hiatus, Gruden was the lead analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football where he had opportunities to enter locker rooms all over the league week after week to absorb anything he could consume. Now, he is back attempting to turn around the team that traded him for two first round picks back in 2002. One of the main reasons Gruden came out of retirement was because he is being given the opportunity to coach who he considers a franchise quarterback in this league, Derek Carr. The Raiders struggled throughout the 2017 season in which Carr nursed a bad back, and the defense struggled to stop teams from throwing all over them. This team regressed mightily from their playoff appearance in 2016, and I see that same trend continuing in 2018.
Carr entering this season at full strength is encouraging, but I am not a fan of all the old veterans that Gruden is relying on making an impact on this team. Marshawn Lynch is a national treasure, but 32-year-old running backs typically do not pan out. But do not worry, Doug Martin is coming to the rescue! Martavis Bryant was hated by the Steelers organization, and they still managed to steal a third-round pick from the Raiders for the troublesome wide receiver. Jordy Nelson is a 33-year-old white dude, and the Packers would have never let Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target go if they thought he had something left in the tank. Amari Cooper needs to take a step forward this year, specifically by reducing the amount of dropped balls he has accumulated over his career. During the past three seasons, Cooper has a drop rate of 13.62% which is the fourth worst rate in all the NFL during that span. Cooper has elite playmaking potential, but he needs to prove he can be consistent. The offensive line is the best unit on the entire roster and will be crucial in a division that is home to prolific pass rushers such as Von Miller, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Justin Houston. If Gruden can find a way to maximize the potential of these veterans around Carr, he would then deserve a lot of credit.
The major issues for the Raiders begin when you start talking about defense. The hot button topic that still blows my mind is that Gruden has not had any contact with the Raiders best player, and quite possibly the best defender in the NFL, Khalil Mack. Mack, who is 27, is looking for a six-year extension, which would be in the range of $20 million a season. The Raiders are in the middle of a relocation to Las Vegas, and I could see money within the organization being tight for the time being, making it difficult to grant Mack’s demands. Regardless of the reason, Mack not being in a Raiders uniform is not a good sign for a defense that already struggled in the passing game last season. Without Mack’s pressure on the quarterback, the disappointing secondary is going to prove to be even more of a letdown. Linebacker has been a weakness for the Raiders the past few seasons, and the front office ignored the need once again, leaving the middle of the field open for business. If the Mack holdout continues throughout the season, the Raiders defense is going to be a shitshow at best.
Favorite Potential Storyline: I know it is a long shot, but if the Mack-Gruden relationship goes south when they start communicating, it would be interesting to see if the Raiders would actually consider trading Mack. They would be able to get a major haul for him (pending that he would agree to sign an extension with that team) and would allow the Raiders to save some cash during an expensive process of moving the franchise to sin city… also, Gruden memes are going to make me a happy, man.
Prediction: 3-13 (4th in AFC West)