Kansas City Chiefs 2017 Preview: Can Andy Reid take them deep into January?

After winning the AFC West last season, the Chiefs are on the hunt for postseason success. Will it come this season?

The Chiefs are one of those teams that always seem to be contending, but are quickly bounced from the playoffs. They have won just one playoff game since January 1994, and when that win comes from the meltdown of the opposing quarterback does it really count?

2016 recap

Another injury riddled season from Jamaal Charles, as well as one for Justin Houston, would normally doom the Chiefs, but the continued emergence of Travis Kelce and the explosiveness of rookie Tyreek Hill kept the Kansas City offense ticking over, while on defense, the ball hawking skills of Marcus Peters and Eric Berry gave them more than enough production.

Alex Smith was once again a remarkably consistent and productive hub for the offense, distributing the ball around the field. He completed 67.1% of his passes, with Kelce and Hill leading the way but Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley also provided good secondary targets. On the ground Spencer Ware shouldered the load, with 214 carries, and while he fell just shy of the 1,000-yard mark he was a productive back.

Defensively, the Chiefs ended up in the middle of the pack thanks to a good pass defense and a worse-than-average run defense. A poor season from Dontari Poe and some rookie struggles from Chris Jones, along with a handful of missed games from Derrick Johnson really hurt them on that front.

Offseason moves

Bennie Logan, DTJeremy Maclin, WR
Roy Miller, DTNick Foles, QB
CJ Spiller, RBDontari Poe, DT
Cam Thomas, DTJamaal Charles, RB
Gavin Escobar, TE
Patrick Mahomes II, QB (Draft)

The Chiefs restocked their defensive line in an effort to improve their run defense. The subtraction of Poe and the addition of Bennie Logan, Roy Miller, and Cam Thomas is easily a net positive for the Chiefs. I’m a big fan of Logan and his explosive, surprisingly mobile, play is great to watch, and Miller has been an underrated run-defender for a long time now.

The rest of the roster has stayed pretty much the same, which is no bad thing, but the biggest shock came on Draft day when the Chiefs traded up to #10 to take Patrick Mahomes II. He is a big-armed, mobile quarterback and the successor, sooner or later, for Alex Smith.

2017 schedule

1@ New England Patriots
2Vs Philadelphia Eagles
3@ Los Angeles Chargers
4Vs Washington Redskins
5@ Houston Texans
6Vs Pittsburgh Steelers
7@ Oakland Raiders
8Vs Denver Broncos
9@ Dallas Cowboys
11@ New York Giants
12Vs Buffalo Bills
13@ New York Jets
14Vs Oakland Raiders
15Vs Los Angeles Chargers
16Vs Miami Dolphins
17@ Denver Broncos

The Chiefs get to go to Foxboro and take on the defending champions on the night they drop a fifth banner. They also have the tricky situation of visiting the Cowboys and Giants, who were both very good last season and look to be again.

The only easy game on the Chiefs schedule is really their trip to the Jets in Week 13, but they do at least get to close out December with a trio of home games. Still, with the AFC East and NFC East, as well as Pittsburgh and Houston, there is nowhere to hide in their schedule.

Three players to watch

There might not be many new players on the Chiefs roster, but there are always players you should watch…

Alex Smith & Patrick Mahomes, quarterbacks

The plan when they drafted Mahomes, I’m sure, was to sit him all year, learning the system and understanding the NFL before getting him into the starting spot in 2018, when Smith’s cap hit jumps up to $20.6 million. However, Mahomes has impressed in preseason, and the well-known limitations of Alex Smith’s game are very evidently covered by Mahomes. Is Andy Reid going to start a rookie in Week 1? I doubt it, but come the bye in Week 10 I wouldn’t be surprised if the plodding, safe Smith was benched for the mobile, cannon-armed kid. After all, last time that happened the team nearly won the Super Bowl…

Dee Ford, outside linebacker

In Justin Houston’s absence last season, the pass rushing burden fell at the feet of Dee Ford. He lived up to the expectations with 10 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 17 QB hits. That is a good total, but 7.5 sacks and nine QB hits came in three games. Ford needs to find much more consistency this season if he wants to keep his snaps and keep his place ahead of veteran Tamba Hali in the rotation.

Chris Conley, wide receiver

Jeremy Maclin is gone, and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce will be the focus of any defense the Chiefs play against. Which means someone needs to break through as another option, and Chris Conley is in the best position to do so.

He’s been on the Chiefs for the last two years and caught 61 passes for 729 yards. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but the Chiefs have hardly been a pass-crazy team. Now, as the most obvious #3 receiver, he needs to step his game up and provide options for whoever it is that is throwing passes.


Coming off a 12-4 AFC West divisional win and a #2 seed, the Chiefs will be hoping to repeat their regular season performance and do better in the playoffs, but I’m not sure that will be possible.

The Raiders will have Derek Carr and a strong will to win the division, the Broncos still have a great defense, and the lack of a high-powered offense or elite defense leaves the Chiefs open to lady luck.

The Chiefs led the NFL in takeaways last season with 33, but they allowed the 24th most yards (5,896) and were seventh in points against (19.4/game). It’s not an elite unit, it’s an opportunistic one, and you can easily lose a game waiting for opportunities to come.

If the Chiefs go to Mahomes this year I suspect it will be because things aren’t going well, however things are unlikely to go poorly because Andy Reid is a terrific coach and there is enough talent on this team to keep them afloat.

The degree of difficulty in the Chiefs schedule makes it very hard to really gauge how well they would do, but I would expect a double-digit win total for them. Reid may not have a very exciting team, but his sides are always consistent, and with that consistency comes more success than most teams would know what to do with.

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Toby Durant

Deputy Editor at RealSport. A life-long gamer, I have been with RealSport since 2016 and spent time covering the world of Formula 1, NFL, and football for the site before expanding into esports.


I lead the site's coverage of motorsport titles with a particular focus on Formula 1. I also lead RealSport's Madden content while occasionally dipping my toe into Football Manager and esports coverage of Gfinity Series events.