Three biggest questions facing the К.Ϲ. ϹҺι̇efѕ at the Ьуe week

03:51 24/11/2021

If this was any other week during the 2021 regular season, we’d have a lot more questions to ask about the Kansas City Chiefs.

In previous weeks, we’ve scratched our heads over the team’s offensive inconsistency and their defensive ineptitude. We’ve asked questions about pretty much every single player on the roster, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes. We’ve put Frank Clark and Chris Jones under the lens, and wondered if fans were going to drive Tyrann Mathieu away. We even wondered if Andy Reid was going to be okay after leaving Arrowhead in an ambulance back in September.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – NOVEMBER 21: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs signs autographs after the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Arrowhead Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Week after week, it seemed like the Chiefs were losing and everyone else was winning. If a team was even considered to be in the hunt in the AFC, the Chiefs rolled over for them on the schedule. The results were miserable and the Chiefs landed themselves in the AFC West basement with NFL talking heads asking if the team would make the postseason, if Andy Reid’s creative genius was washed up, and if Mahomes himself was “broken.” Yeah.

Here are some of the biggest questions facing the K.C. Chiefs as they enter the bye in Week 12.

Times have changed, fortunately, and these Chiefs have fewer questions than ever before. The defense has turned into a real juggernaut with playmakers on each level. The offense has plenty of weapons and is still as dangerous as ever. Special teams have proven exceptional in recent weeks. The Chiefs are in first place with their sights now on the postseason.

So what questions are left? Not many but we’ve got a few we’re still asking as the team heads into the bye and a well-deserved week of rest.

Will Josh Gordon ever emerge?

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 14: Wide receiver Josh Gordon #19 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 41-14. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

There was a point, even a few weeks ago, where would have stopped asking this question. The assumed narrative would have gone something like this: “Josh Gordon was signed. Josh Gordon hasn’t had an impact. Josh Gordon didn’t work out.”

That storyline is a pretty familiar one to Chiefs Kingdom already. Le’Veon Bell was a preseason addition that just didn’t work out all that well. Kelvin Benjamin was a  total bust of a late-season signing. Darrelle Revis was just here in K.C. to cash checks. Chiefs fans have seen this before, with a midseason acquisition that didn’t quite pan out as expected. It happens.

But we keep bringing it up because the Chiefs keep bringing it up—on the field. Gordon is getting serious snaps every game these days, and the bye week should only give him a bit more time to learn more of the offense, settle in further to relationships and chemistry, and come out the other side perhaps ready to impact the game even more.

So far, Gordon only has 2 catches for 18 yards, but he also just played 43 percent of snaps and started the game for the Chiefs offensively. Reads aren’t going his way, but he’s clearly earned the trust of the coaching staff to be on the field so much. That doesn’t happen unless they believe you’ll do your job as a pass-catcher, a route-runner, and a blocker.

Andy Reid keeps insisting that Gordon is making strides and will make an impact in time. While that sounds like coach-speak, just know that he said the same thing about the entire team. Even when the Chiefs were in last place, Reid asked fans to trust and believe knowing the tide would turn. He’s now saying the same about Gordon, but if he can emerge down the stretch, this Chiefs offense would gain a level of dynamism missing at times since Sammy Watkins left in free agency.

Can the Chiefs stay healthy?

LANDOVER, MARYLAND – OCTOBER 17: Rashad Fenton #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up before the game against the Washington Football Team at FedExField on October 17, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

On Sunday night, the Chiefs watched cornerback Rashad Fenton crawl to the sidelines in order to get off the field while in pain after suffering a knee injury that looked scary at the moment. It was hard to watch the third-year defensive back getting medical attention—not only because of the nature of the injury but also for what he means to the team.

On Monday, Fenton was scheduled for an MRI, and by the end of the working day, FanSided’s own Matt Verderame had a source saying the team believed Fenton would be “fine”. Just like that, the Chiefs looked as if they were lucky on the injury front once again.

The Chiefs have taken some hits this season, and it definitely cost them a game or two this year. The defense would have looked much better early if, say, Frank Clark had been feeling great for the first month of the year, or if Willie Gay Jr. didn’t work through a toe injury for the first five weeks. The Chiefs could use Mike Remmers or Lucas Niang back ASAP after the bye to shore up right tackle, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire was missed for the last month (although Darrel Williams did a solid job in relief).

But beyond those injuries, the Chiefs have been a fairly lucky team when it comes to avoiding major concerns on the health front. Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s a trait that all Super Bowl teams have to have—that bit of fortune or luck that allows one team to watch its stars play all year while others see their biggest investments sent to injured reserve.

The Baltimore Ravens are snake-bitten this season. The Tennessee Titans have pressed on after losing their offensive pillar in Derrick Henry. The Arizona Cardinals are making do with Colt McCoy while Kyler Murray is on the mend. The Chiefs are largely healthy right now and even have the bye working in their favor. It’s a perfect alignment, but they’ll need to carry some of that fortune forward with them into December and beyond.

How much will early-season losses affect them in the end?

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Clyde Edwards-Helaire #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs fumbles during the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Clyde Edwards-Helaire #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs fumbles during the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Right now the Chiefs are on a roll with a four-game winning streak perfectly timed to head into the bye and come out rested for an important run through the conference. They’ve climbed their way out of the divisional basement in the AFC West and now control their own destiny to at least make the postseason by peaking at the right moment that every team wants to look good—down the stretch entering the holidays.

But there’s also a cloud hanging overhead from the early stretch of the regular season. The question is no longer about “playoffs or not?” in Kansas City. While it seems safe to conclude they’ll be playing into January, we’re wondering whether that elusive first-round bye is still a possibility at this point or if the Chiefs early-season miscues sunk that ship already.

The NFL decided in recent years that the top seed in each conference would be the only recipient of any first-round bye (a horrible rule, by the way), which means everyone is chasing the Titans at the moment. Tennessee just so happens to hold the tiebreaker with the Chiefs since they beat them back in Week 7. The same can be said of the Baltimore Ravens (Week 2), the Buffalo Bills (Week 5) and even the L.A. Chargers hold the edge on them head-to-head with one game left to play. The first third of the regular season wasn’t all that kind to the Chiefs.

But on the other side, everyone is looking very mortal these days. The Titans are only a single game ahead of the Chiefs with several to play and they just lost to the Houston Texans. The Bills are now behind the surging New England Patriots in the AFC East and are now hoping just to make the postseason. The Ravens keep squeaking by poor teams (the Bears were this week’s lucky turn) and must run through a very tough AFC North in December.

While all those teams hold the edge on the Chiefs in a tie-breaker, it’s also possible they could each lose a couple more games and help the Chiefs come out with a better record entirely on top. If they tie, K.C. is sunk with no one to blame but themselves for playing so poorly in the first few games of the year. Will they come out with the top seed? That first-round bye is a considerable edge in the playoffs and the Chiefs should chase it with everything they have.

 

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