December 15, 2021

Are the Kansas City Chiefs the Most Unstoppable Team in the AFC?

Less than two months ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were enduring a doomed season. The reigning AFC champions were buried in last place in the AFC West thanks to hot starts from the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders. Sitting at 3-4 and coming off a 27-3 beatdown to the Titans, the Chiefs' conference-wide dominance seemed all but over. 

From Week 2 through Week 7, the Chiefs' once-explosive offense coughed up a whopping 17 turnovers, masking a unit that was producing at an otherwise elite rate. The defense didn't help, though, allowing 352 total yards or more in all but one game to that point. The secondary in particular was prone to catastrophic, highlight-inducing mistakes.

Their loss to the Titans didn't cause an immediate turnaround in terms of performance, but the wins have stacked since then. Kansas City barely scraped by the struggling Giants and was at risk of losing to the Jordan Love-led Packers. At least the defense had started to gel at that point, allowing a combined 601 yards and 24 points between those two games.

Andy Reid and the Chiefs then integrated newly-acquired veteran edge-rusher Melvin Ingram to the defense, and the entire fate of the team changed. Ingram's presence allowed the Chiefs to shift All-Pro defensive lineman Chris Jones from the end position to his natural defensive tackle spot. Since adding Ingram, the Chiefs have allowed an average of 9.6 points and 314 total yards per game.

Their complete shutdown of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11 and both games against the Las Vegas Raiders have served as the official awakening of a defense playing at a high level.

Dallas boasted a deep array of offensive playmakers, the second-best scoring offense, and the fourth-best passing unit. Vegas was the best passing offense at the time of their first matchup but Derek Carr was limited to less than 500 total yards in the two games.

The situational play of the team has also massively improved in addition to overall defense and the reduction of turnovers. The Chiefs are first in converting first downs, second on fourth downs, and 12th in third-down defense. The offense has flourished thanks to their increased ball security, and the defense has benefitted from Ingram and the promotion of safety Juan Thornhill to the starting unit.

Meanwhile, the rest of the AFC appears to be in shambles besides the Chiefs and New England Patriots. The Buffalo Bills are 7-6 and in the midst of a terrible cold streak. The AFC North has been slammed by injuries and Covid-19. And the Titans, without Derrick Henry, aren't nearly as intimidating in a one-game playoff rematch scenario.

Reid has the Chiefs sitting in prime position to get the conference's top overall seed once again. The offense is ranked eighth in scoring, and the defense, for all of their issues, is sixth. Boasting superstar Patrick Mahomes is the ultimate wildcard worth banking on in the playoffs as well.

Bettors can still find value with the Chiefs despite the clear indication they're taking over the AFC. DraftKings has the Chiefs as -250 favorites to win the West before their Thursday night battle against the Chargers. They're +175 to win the top AFC seed, and also +225 favorites to win the conference.

I'm taking each of those bets with the confidence that this team will win at least three of their four remaining games. A 12-5 or 13-4 record can clinch the two regular-season bets, and I don't see a massive threat to the Chiefs' throne except for the Chargers in the AFC West.

Photo: Getty Images