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The Kansas City Chiefs are broken.

They have fallen.

We'll see if they can get up.

In a season where the common refrain has been for the league, collectively, to await this team returning to its perch atop the AFC, it may be more salient to consider why that is, and what evidence this outfit has provided that 2021 will be anything like 2020, or 2019 or 2018. Sure, Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are super special, but this team is seriously flawed, lacking any balance on offense, with Mahomes becoming a mistake machine and now having to deal with adversity the likes of which he has never seen before as a pro, and with Kansas City's defense threatening to go down as the worst in league history.

If anything, that defense got a boost on Sunday, with the Titans ripping the Chiefs throats out by the half, sitting on a 27-0 lead that felt more like 54-0. Had Tennessee and Ryan Tannehill had any designs on throwing for 500 yards, and chucking it around in the second half despite that big lead, trust me, Kansas City couldn't have done anything about it. They sit at 3-4, and I'd posit they are awful lucky it's not worse than that. Outside of a hurried comeback against Cleveland at home in Week 1, they have been punked by the rest of their conference.

The Chiefs' three wins? Surviving the Browns and then churning out workman-like victories over the lowly Eagles and WFT. That's it. In every game they have played against an AFC opponent, there has been a stretch of the game where the Chiefs have been taken to the woodshed. Cleveland pushed them around in the first half, Baltimore torched them in the second half to win from behind, the Chargers out-shot them, the Bills had them killed off after three quarters and the Titans thoroughly humiliated them Sunday.

It really is that bad, and I don't see much changing all of a sudden. Here is a snippet of the hammering the Titans put on them, with these stats at the time the Titans went ahead 27-0 late in the first half:


First downs












Time of possession



Oh, and Tennessee was 6-for-7 on third down and Tannehill was 17-for-21. And this was with Derrick Henry running for only three yards per carry (though he did throw a touchdown pass!). Once again, the other team's quarterback out-played Mahomes, which is almost incomprehensible but has been a trend, and watching Mahomes being twisted up and knocked from the game with a blow to the head had to further the collective angst in Kansas City.

The Chiefs reformatted offensive line is not good. The quarterback is under more pressure than ever, without a run game to rely on. He is trying to do too much, too often, knowing how terrible the defense is, and it is all snowballing. To the point where even Mahomes is a part of the problem.

Mahomes, whose luck with picks was sure to regress at some point, had another multi-turnover game Sunday. He left the game tied with Jets injured rookie Zach Wilson for most interceptions this season (9). He has thrown a pick in six straight games and has 16 picks in his last 16 games. This team, as presently constructed, isn't overcoming that.

And I am not sure it gets much better overnight. The schedule is relentless. Yeah, they get the Giants at home, and they have yet to play the lowly Broncos, but there isn't another breather to come outside of that. Already just 1-4 in the AFC, chasing the Chargers in the division, these head-to-head tiebreakers can loom large. I'm not saying they won't make the playoffs with the expanded field … but it ain't gonna be easy, and I don't see this group doing anything close to what we have become accustomed to in January.

Cincy defense for real, better team wins Bengals-Ravens

The Bengals defense is the most improved unit in the NFL. They are for real. Their unmasking of the Ravens Sunday said more about Cincy than it did Baltimore; the better team won handily and the manner in which they did it bodes very well for the Bengals' playoff chances.

For the entirety of Lamar Jackson's tenure as a starting quarterback for Baltimore, the Bengals had no answer for this run game. The option plays devastated them. Baltimore ran up over 400 yards on the ground on them to end last season, and you could put them down for a solid 250 anytime they met.

No longer. Not close.

Yeah, Lamar still got his – within reason – but Baltimore's running backs amassed a total of 29 yards rushing and the Bengals revamped defensive front completely ate their lunch for four quarters. They pressured Jackson relentlessly – often needing just four rushers to do so – and when they did bring numbers it was overwhelming. Tight end Mark Andrews went off on an early drive, then the Bengals eliminated him the rest of the way.

They silenced Baltimore's big-play offense with rare exception (a bomb to Hollywood Brown), and had Jackson running for his life. We knew they had offensive talent … it's this defense, meeting this unique challenge, that truly has me thinking this group could make noise this season. Yeah, they are still a little thin, and need to avoid the injury bug that has struck every other team in the division. But they aren't going to just fall apart as long as Joe Burrow is under center.

Benched Darnold may not get another shot; Watson on radar

If you read this space, you knew Sam Darnold was on borrowed time. His play had been among the worst in the NFL, he had yet another brutal start Sunday and was benched. Not sure he'll be getting another shot anytime soon, either. His eight picks are third-most in the NFL, he doesn't push the ball downfield, is indecisive and looks like a QB who was broken by the Jets (as he was). Panthers owner David Tepper has to be livid about four straight losses after a 3-0 start and an offense capable of nothing without an NFL starter on the roster. His desire for Deshaun Watson has been well-known and reported on here since early in the offseason; the Texans could not have asked for a better scenario for trade hopes given the Panthers' implosion against a bad Giants team coupled with what happened in Miami.

More insider notes from Week 7

  • Yup, the Dolphins are still really bad, overall, but really good at finding ways to lose football games. Even when facing an opponent like Atlanta that also excels in blowing games. Tua Tagovailoa overcame some picks to keep Miami in the game, but his support group there doesn't run deep. Brian Flores's defense gave up too many sustained drives and lost despite forcing two fourth-quarter takeaways, giving up a game-winning drive in the process. Stephen Ross now sits on six straight losses (even more than Tepper!), with the trade deadline just over a week away …
  • The Ravens losing right tackle Patrick Mekari for any period of time would be a huge blow. He left with an ankle injury and was playing phenomenal football run blocking and pass protecting. Already a lot of injuries and changes to that unit, and they were the most right-handed running team in the NFL (52% coming in, 10 percent more than any other team and well above the league average of 34%). Mekari and fullback Patrick Ricard had a lot to do with that … 
  • Taylor Heinicke plays a fun brand of football, I'll say that much. Some wild runs against the Packers, but turnovers (some controversial) cost them at Green Bay … 
  • Had a feeling the Patriots would obliterate the Jets. Bill Belichick wasn't losing five in a row at home to start a season, and certainly not to that opponent. The Jets continue to find ways to look worse almost every week, and Zach Wilson getting hurt was starting to look inevitable.