Know your Foe | Kansas City Chiefs

Arrowhead Stadium was good to the Texans in October 2019, but when the calendar turned to 2020 (like most of the rest of the year across the country), it was a disaster, The Chiefs beat the Texans 51-31 on a January Saturday after trailing 24-0 in the first half. It was a crazy game to say the least and the scoring in that first half proves that statement 100% true. The Texans built the 24 point lead on the back of two long drives, a blocked punt for a touchdown and a short drive after a Tyreek Hill fumble inside his five yard on a punt. The Chiefs took back the lead after a short drive after a long kickoff return, a short drive after a turnover on downs, a short drive after a fumble on a Texans kickoff return and a long drive before half.

The second half, though, was a different story. The Chiefs offense couldn't be stopped as Patrick Mahomes was in a groove that couldn't be slowed. The Texans offense had moments but not enough to overcome the hot and opportunistic Chiefs offense. So, who do the Texans play in the 2020 opener? That's right, back to the scene of the crime, if you will. The Texans will take on the Chiefs on Opening Night 2020 for the NFL. Nothing like ripping that enormous band-aid right off to start the season.

Let's get to week one's opponent...it's time to KNOW YOUR FOE - the defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs

2019 Schedule - Record 15-4, Super Bowl Champions
W, @ Jacksonville Jaguars 40-26W, @ Oakland Raiders 28-10
W, Baltimore Ravens 33-28
W, @ Detroit Lions 34-30
L, Indianapolis Colts 19-13
L, Houston Texans 31-24
W, @ Denver Broncos 30-6L, Green Bay Packers 31-24
W, Minnesota Vikings 26-23
L, @ Tennessee Titans 35-32
W, @ Los Angeles Chargers 24-17 (Mexico City)
W, Oakland Raiders 40-9
W, @ New England Patriots 23-16
W, Denver Broncos 23-3
W, @ Chicago Bears 26-3
W, Los Angeles Chargers 31-21

2019 Playoffs
AFC Divisional Round - W, Houston Texans 51-31
AFC Championship - W, Tennessee Titans 35-24
Super Bowl LIV - W, San Francisco 49ers 31-20

Chiefs OFFENSE (in 2019 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 98.1 ypg (23rd in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 281.1 ypg (5th)
Total offense per game - 379.2 ypg (6th)
Turnovers lost - 15 (5 INT, 10 Fumbles lost)

Projected Chiefs starting offense for 2020
QB - Patrick Mahomes
RB - Damien Williams
WR - Tyreek Hill
WR - Sammy Watkins
WR - Demarcus Robinson/Mecole Hardman
TE - Travis Kelce
LT - Eric Fisher
LG - NICK ALLEGRETTI
C - Austin Reiter
RG - Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT - Mitchell Schwartz

Other Key Offensive pieces
RB - Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU)
FB - Anthony ShermanOT -
Lucas Niang (TCU)
OG - Andrew Wylie

** - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2020

The Chiefs offense was always good with head coach Andy Reid in charge and Alex Smith pulling the trigger at quarterback, but the addition of uber-quarterback Patrick Mahomes has unleashed cheat codes unlike any we've seen in the NFL in quite some time. The Chiefs mid-season issues last year coincided with injuries to Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and a defense needing time to get up to speed with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense. Once Mahomes got back in the lineup the Chiefs lost just once the rest of the season, ironically the first game he returned - at Tennessee in November. Let's look at how each unit is constructed heading into the 2020 season

Quarterback
Mahomes (4,031 yards, 26 TD and five INT) is one of the brightest in the game and it's hard to see him slowing down any time soon. What else is there to say about one of the league's biggest stars? Nothing, really...I want to ignore the fact that he's even there.

Running back
Damien Williams (498 rushing yards, 213 receiving yards) has never been the go-to guy for any offense in his career, but he's always been a contributor. That changed late in the 2019 season as he made one big play after another for Kansas City's offense. In the 2019 season finale, a win over the Los Angeles Chargers, he had a 91-yard touchdown run to put the game on ice. Against the Texans in the Divisional round he had two rushing touchdowns and a receiving one as well. He had one touchdown receiving and one rushing in the Super Bowl, along with 104 rushing yards in that win over San Francisco.

But, the Chiefs figured the more the merrier and drafted LSU's star running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the last pick of the first round. The 5-7 dynamo ran for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns and had 55 receptions for 453 yards and one touchdown for the national champion Tigers. These two could be a major problem for teams in 2020 and beyond.

Wide receivers/Tight ends
Tyreek Hill (58 receptions, 860 yards, seven TD) lives here, alongside Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce (97 receptions, 1,229 yards, five TD). That's scary enough, but the emergence of Mecole Hardman in year two could take this group from scary to nearly untouchable. Hardman didn't overwhelm with gaudy numbers as a rookie, but he was a threat to make a house call every time he stepped on the field. Oh, yeah, Sammy Watkins (52 receptions, 673 yards, three TD) and Demarcus Robinson (32 receptions, 449 yards, four TD) also reside in Kansas City. With this group, there's no secret; the Chiefs and Mahomes want to attack, attack and attack some more.

Offensive line
Offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been a guy I've followed and studied for a long time. When I first saw him at Cal in a bowl game against Miami, I knew he was going to be a stud. He is and he's one half of an excellent tackle tandem with former 1st overall pick Eric Fisher at left tackle. The interior isn't at that caliber, but guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has been nothing if not consistent since he arrived five years ago. This offensive line protects Mahomes well, giving up just 25 sacks in 2019 and for the small number of times that it breaks down, Mahomes scrambles and creates as well as anyone in the game.

Chiefs DEFENSE (in 2019 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 128.2 ypg (26th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 221.4 ypg (8th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 349.6 ypg (17th)
Turnovers generated - 23 (16 INT, 7 Fumble recoveries - Chiefs were +8 in TO margin in 2019)

Projected Chiefs starting defense for 2020
DE - Alex Okafor (returning from injury)
DT - *Chris Jones (franchise tag)
DT - Derrick Nnadi
DE - Frank Clark
LB - Anthony Hitchens
LB - Damien Wilson
CB - Bashaud Breeland
CB - RASHAD FENTON
S - Tyrann Mathieu
S - Juan Thornhill (tore ACL late in the 2019 season)
CB - Charvarius Ward

Other Key Defensive pieces
DE - Tanoh Kpassagnon
DE - Taco Charlton (released in Miami)
DT - Mike PennelDT - Khalen Saunders
DE - Mike Danna (Central Michigan/Michigan)
LB -
Willie Gay Jr. (Mississippi State)
LB - Dorian O'Daniel
DT - Khalen Saunders
S - Daniel Sorensen
CB - **L'Jarius Sneed (La. Tech)

** - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2020

The key for Steve Spagnuolo's group last year was health and improvement, every single week. The additions of Mathieu at safety and Clark out the edge didn't seem to be paying dividends through the first ten weeks of the year. But, then the whole thing clicked. Mathieu played like one of the best safeties in the league and Clark got healthy and set the tone off the edge. Combined with the interior menace Chris Jones, the Chiefs trio helped stifle teams over the last six weeks of the regular season, setting them up for a successful three game playoff run to the Championship. Not much has changed for the Chiefs on this side of the ball, but they need to solidify one aspect of that defense or it could make things monumentally more difficult to repeat.

Defensive line
The biggest question for the Chiefs on defense, defensive line or otherwise, will be the status of star rusher Chris Jones. He didn't play in the two games against the Texans and they missed him in those matchups. However, in the Super Bowl against the 49ers, he was the biggest star of the game, not named Patrick Mahomes. He was such a disruptive force and now it's time to get paid. The Chiefs franchised him and there were some rumors that the Chiefs were attempting to deal him prior to the draft. I can't believe those rumors were true, but I hoped they were. Regardless, he's going to command $19-20M per year and the Chiefs don't have a ton of money to pay him (then Mahomes in due time) so something will have to give in the future.

But, when he's right and Frank Clark is healthy, this is a solid group up front. I don't think Clark can carry this unit by himself but I can't see the Chiefs letting one of the best interior rushers in the league move elsewhere. As such, I expect Jones will sign the franchise tag and see what opens up in the future.

Linebackers
I think the Chiefs are vulnerable here, to a point where they invested a late second round pick in a guy that had a ton of off the field issues at Mississippi State - Willie Gay. Damien Wilson and Anthony Hitchens are solid, at best, but Gay gives them an athlete that can do pretty much anything that a linebacker is asked to do in the current NFL. In my estimation, the linebacking duo will eventually be Gay and Dorian O'Daniel, two outstanding athletes that fit better in today's NFL than Wilson and Hitchens.

Secondary
I knew the addition of Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu would give the Chiefs a jolt, but I didn't think it would be THE move that helped put that unit over the top. He was brilliant for the Chiefs in 2019 after his one year stint in Houston in 2018. Mathieu, Juan Thornhill and Dan Sorensen form one of the better safety trios in the league, but the corners don't carry such cache. I do think that the cornerbacks are vulnerable. Charvarius Ward, Bashaud Breeland and Rashad Fenton don't scare me at all, but quarterbacks need time to get the ball off and that's where this trio is aided by the presence of Clark and Jones in the pass rush. Without those pass rushing threats, this group would struggle mightily and that's what I'm hoping happens when the Texans arrive for their September opener at Arrowhead.

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