Five bold predictions for Chiefs: Mahomes posts another 50-TD, 5,000-yard season, leads Kansas City to Super Bowl
Bold predictions about the Chiefs involve some lofty numbers for their high-flying offense
A year ago, predicting that Mahomes would become the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a single season (in his first-ever season as an NFL starting quarterback) would've been insane, but Mahomes did in fact throw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in his first-ever season as an NFL starting quarterback, which makes it difficult to find bold predictions for Mahomes and the Chiefs. It's not like we can predict a 6,000-yard, 60-touchdown season because that's actually insane. But we'll do the best that we can.
Continuing our summer series here at CBS Sports as the season rapidly approaches (only one week to go), let's make five bold predictions about the upcoming Chiefs season after their mesmerizing 12-4 campaign a season ago ended in overtime of the AFC Championship Game.
1. Mahomes repeats as MVP with 50 TDs, 5,000 yards
If you play Fantasy football, there's a good chance you've heard all about the case for regression when it comes to Mahomes. The argument makes sense.
There's a very good chance Mahomes won't throw for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards again, because history has demonstrated that it's nearly impossible to throw for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards on a consistent basis. There's a reason why Peyton Manning only did it once and no one else besides Mahomes and Manning has ever done it. Only two quarterbacks (Manning and Drew Brees) have thrown for 4,500-plus yards and 35-plus touchdowns in consecutive seasons. History says Mahomes will regress.
So, I guess it's bold, in a way, to say that Mahomes will both repeat as MVP while piecing together another 50-touchdown, 5,000-yard season.
It's worth repeating that Mahomes did what he did last season as a first-year starter, which means there's a decent chance he'll improve just by having acquired more experience. When you look at the pieces surrounding Mahomes, it's not like the offense got worse at the skill positions. Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and Damien Williams are still around and they're joined by rookies Mecole Hardman and Darwin Thompson. The key, of course, is Andy Reid. As long as he's there, Mahomes is going to be placed in the best possible situation to succeed. Another key is the Chiefs' defense, which will likely remain bad (more on that in a bit). If the Chiefs' defense is bad, Mahomes will be forced to win a lot of shootouts. There won't be many games where the Chiefs can sit on a modest lead and chew up the clock. They'll need Mahomes to keep throwing and to keep putting up points, and nobody should be surprised if that's exactly what Mahomes does.
History says Mahomes will regress. But has there ever been a quarterback like Mahomes in NFL history?
2. But Mahomes' interception count spikes
While Mahomes should have a shot at winning back to back MVPs, don't be surprised if his interception count rises.
A year ago, he was lucky to get away with only 12 interceptions in the regular season. Football Outsiders tracks a statistic called adjusted interceptions, which takes into account passes that should've been intercepted, but weren't for a variety of reasons and passes that were intercepted, but weren't the quarterback's fault. Last year, Mahomes tied for the most adjusted interceptions (21) with Sam Darnold.
Given how much Mahomes will be asked to throw the ball and how often he takes risks, it won't be surprising if we see his interception count spike. But even if Mahomes were to throw somewhere around 16 or so interceptions, he should have a reasonable shot at winning MVP -- assuming his touchdowns and yards remain consistent. He gets away with most of his risks. That shouldn't change.
3. Hardman, Thompson combine for 12 TDs
The Chiefs found a way to upgrade at the skill positions by drafting receiver Mecole Hardman in the second round and running back Darwin Thompson in the sixth round. But due to the presence of established veterans ahead of them -- Hill and Watkins at WR and Damien Williams at RB -- they'll both find it difficult to make a sizable impact come Week 1.
Still, despite a crowd of playmakers, the prediction is that the two rookies will combine to score 12 touchdowns from scrimmage. For context, consider that Williams and Watkins only combined to score nine touchdowns last year. The vast majority of touchdowns will still belong to Hill and Kelce, a duo that combined for 23 touchdowns last year.
As, the Chiefs should design plenty of nifty plays for Hardman to take advantage of his speed.
(As a quick aside, it's all those little touch passes, which are more like handoffs but count as pass attempts, that will help Mahomes get back to 50 touchdowns.)
As we've seen in the preseason, Thompson is good enough to wrestle away some touches from Williams.
The Chiefs scored 35.3 points per game last season. So, there's plenty of touchdowns to be spread around.
4. The defense doesn't improve at all
The Chiefs underwent a massive transformation on the defensive side of the ball after their defense cost them a spot in the Super Bowl. They and , which means they're also changing schemes. They parted ways with both and , and . They said
They've made a ton of moves, but it's probably not going to make much of a difference. The fourth bold prediction is that the Chiefs' defense won't improve in 2019.
In Spagnuolo's nine seasons as a defensive coordinator and head coach, his defenses have ranked in the top five in points allowed only twice. Six times his defenses have finished worse than 25th in points allowed. While the Chiefs' decision to part ways with both Houston and Ford was probably at least partially related to their schematic changes, the simple fact is that they got rid of two players who combined for 22 sacks last season. Clark is a good player, but he alone can't replace their production.
Last year, the Chiefs finished 26th in defensive DVOA. The year before, they ranked 30th. I'm predicting they'll land somewhere in between 26th and 30th in 2019. And if Mahomes' interception count really does rise, then they'll probably give up more points too (after allowing 26.3 points per game last year) because they'll be placed in worse situations.
5. But the Chiefs still win the Super Bowl
The thing is, the Chiefs don't necessarily need an improved defense to win the Super Bowl. Even with a defense that ranked 26th in DVOA, 31st in yards allowed, and 24th in points allowed, the Chiefs came a coin toss away from reaching the Super Bowl. If they'd won that overtime coin toss against the Patriots in the AFC title game, there's no doubt they would've marched right down the field and scored a touchdown -- they scored 31 points in the second half, including 24 in the fourth quarter alone. If the Chiefs were a coin toss away from reaching the Super Bowl last season, they can take the next step during the upcoming season even if their defense doesn't make an improvement.
The key is how much the Chiefs' offense regresses. They're probably not going to average 35.3 points per game again. But even if the Chiefs' offense takes a small step back, they're still probably going to be the best offense in football. They were the best offense in football last season by a wide margin, outscoring the Rams by 38 points and the Saints by 61 points.
Furthermore, I'm not entirely convinced the Chiefs offense has to regress the way most people seem to think it will. This will be Mahomes' second season as a starter and his third season in the offense. Isn't there a chance he's now had the chance to master the offense after learning it the past couple seasons? Isn't there a chance he's going to get even better? Most quarterbacks don't peak in Year 1 or 2. They usually peak only after they acquire enough experience to know what's coming on the other side of the ball. As Tom Brady said a couple years ago, There's no way Mahomes had all the answers to the test in Year 2. He might not have all the answers in Year 3, but he should have more answers than he did a season ago.
You might think that predicting the Chiefs to make the Super Bowl isn't bold, but at this point in the Patriots' dynasty, picking any team other than the Patriots to win the AFC qualifies as a bold prediction. The final prediction is that the Chiefs topple the Galactic Empire and then go win the whole damn thing two weeks later.
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