Chiefs continue in title window, Washington surprise package
There’s a lot at stake for Ron Riviera, as the franchise’s new owners want to see results. In Kansas City, on the other hand, everything points to another terrific season.
Kansas City Chiefs
The front office has managed to retain much of the team from last season’s very successful campaign. On defense, DC Steve Spagnuolo, who is entering his fourth year with the franchise, can rely on experienced players like defensive tackle Chris Jones. Jones has been with the Chiefs since 2016 and now knows the subtle nuances of his coaches and is improving year over year (15.5 sacks last season). Spagnuolo also got two new edge rushers in free agent Charles Omenihu, as well as first-round pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Veteran Matt Nagy was promoted to offensive coordinator, but play-caller on offense remains Andy Reid. The offense also retains its two most important players, most notably quarterback Patrick Mahomes (2022 MVP). Travis Kelce also stays and is already one of the best tight ends of all time (seven straight seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards).
The O-Line saw some changes with the departures of tackles Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie. Donovan Smith came in as a replacement here, but he has struggled recently for the Buccs. Six sacks allowed, far too many “holding” penalties and an elbow injury threw the 30-year-old off track. Also unclear is the future of RB Isiah Pacheco, who performed surprisingly well last season (3.15 yards after contact per carry). But whether he can maintain that level, or whether he was more of a flash in the pan, won’t be clear until his sophomore season. Also inconvenient: Frank Clark has landed with division rival Denver, a rookie is expected to replace the two-time Super Bowl champ
Motto of the season: As long as Reid and Mahomes are in the driver’s seat, the Chiefs will continue to be in the title hunt.
In Washington, we start with a familiar face from Kansas City: Eric Bieniemy. The former Chiefs OC is now on the Commanders’ coaching staff and hopes to rub off some of the Super Bowl-winning offense on the Washington team. And he’s doing so for the first time as a play-caller. While we will see some new faces on offense, the D-Line remains the same after Payne was kept with a franchise tag. The secondary has been made a lot more dangerous with the addition of rookie cornerback Emmanual Forbes, and defensively there are no discernible gaps left in this roster.
A big area of improvement for Bieniemy is the offensive line, but more important is the performance of the starting QB. Both options, Jacoby Brisett and Sam Howell, don’t necessarily knock you off your chair. Howell could score points with his rushing ability. The former fifth-round pick definitely needs to work on his sloppy footwork, and overall his use as a starting QB is quite risky. Brisett, on the other hand, is the much more conservative option; at least they fall halfway soft with him as a backup. Whoever the Commanders choose, Ron Riviera’s job will depend on how well they get the ball moved down the field.
Motto of the season: Strong defense, big step for Bieniemy and question marks for Howell: Washington remains a surprise package.