For the past six seasons, the AFC West has belonged to Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s the longest current streak in the NFL, with the Packers’ run of three straight NFC North championships.
But with an evolving cast of supporting characters and a newly-improved set of competitors from within the division, it’s reasonable to wonder if they still have the juice to remain at the top of the heap.
Where We Left Them
Before we speculate too much on the future, it’s worth bringing up the recent past. It’s definitely worth noting that Kansas City probably should have been the AFC Champions last year.
At one point in last season’s championship game, they were up 21-3 on the Bengals. If not for badly bungling the end of the first half, odds are they would have returned to the Super Bowl for the third straight season.
So before we concern-troll too much, we should note that they haven’t exactly struggled in recent times.
An On-The-Fly Retool
Throughout their reign at the top of the AFC West, the X-Factor always bailing the offense out was Tyreek Hill. The game-breaking receiver is one of the best deep threats in the history of the NFL and was a perfect par with Mahomes’ rocket arm.
In one of the Chiefs’ biggest moves of the offseason, Hill was shipped out for a package of picks from the Miami Dolphins following a contract dispute.
To replace him, Kansas City brought in free agent receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and drafted Skyy Moore in the first round of the draft.
Defensively, Tyrann Mathieu departed to head home to New Orleans and has been replaced with Justin Reid from the Houston Texans.
While the infrastructure remains in place, it’s tough to imagine any team being able to easily replace the likes of Hill and the Honey Badger.
The biggest obstacle in the way of the Chiefs making it seven straight AFC West titles is the improved competition from within.
Last season, the Las Vegas Raiders overcame a ton of turmoil to squeak their way into the playoffs despite a ton of off-field turmoil. They improved over the offseason by bringing in Chandler Jones and arguably the best receiver in the league, Davante Adams.
The Los Angeles Chargers narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year and have an emerging superstar QB in phenom Justin Herbert. By acquiring Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson, their defense should be greatly improved and another year of development from Herbert should scare anyone.
Even last year’s cellar dwellers from Denver went from having one of the worst quarterback situations in the league to having a former Super Bowl champion under center when they traded for Russell Wilson.
Across the board, all three of their division rivals improved in terms of talent, while one could say the Chiefs took a step back.
The Odds Are Still In Their Favor
According to Pat Corkery, a sports betting specialist at SportsbooksOnline.com, “Despite the departure of [Tyreek] Hill and the Honey Badger, virtually all of America’s major online sportsbooks have Kansas City favored to win the West for the 7th straight season.”
The expectation is still very much that Mahomes, Reid, and company can maintain their positions with most bookmakers favoring the Chiefs to win the division. But, in a tougher division than years past and with many new faces to incorporate it remains to be seen if Vegas’ faith in the team will be rewarded.