After a 2-0 start – where the Kansas City Chiefs looked unbeatable against one supposed playoff team and fought for a gritty win over another – it’s only fair that we feel optimistic. But given all the rhetoric about the difficulty of the team’s program (and the improvement of the division), staying unbeaten (and in the driver’s seat of the AFC) is far from safe.
With their poor start (0-1-1) and injury problems, facing the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s third week game might seem like a game of traps. Despite all their current problems, the Colts still boast the best running back in the league and other recognizable names on the offensive and defensive lines. The Chiefs can’t afford to take their foot off the gas.
Here are some players who may be trending this week:
Orlando Brown Jr .: The sinister Kansas City tackle has come into retirement late and will end this season pretty much where it started: with a franchise tag and long-term negotiation looming. So he needs to have the kind of season that forces the Chiefs (or some other team) to pay him for what he thinks he’s worth. The season opener wasn’t much of a test, but week 2 against the likes of Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa in prime time? This is the kind of game that can win kids over paid. Brown responded well enough, conceding only two pressures, a hit quarterback and no firing against the Los Angeles Chargers. In fact, in two games, he didn’t concede the sack. Meanwhile, the Kansas City running backs are all finding some level of success behind Brown and his linemates. Against the Colts, they will face a couple of other big names in the passing race (Yannick Ngakoue and DeForest Buckner), but neither will risk Brown’s solid start. Even if his PFF grades didn’t match him, a good performance on Sunday should make us feel good about where Brown is headed.
Nick Bolton: The second year linebacker looked like a star, did everything he showed last season – and then some. In two games, he has amassed 20 tackles, 13 of them alone, enabling him to be among the leaders of the league this season. But he’s also showing improved skills in space and coverage, allowing for a completion rate of just 62.5% across eight goals so far. Facing Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor without Willie Gay Jr. means he will be asked to carry more load, but so far Bolton appears to be up for the challenge. He looks more and more like the three-down linebacker the Chiefs were hoping for.
Jaylen Watson: It’s not just that Thursday night he had a 99-yard pick-6 that changed the game. Watson also earned AFC Defender of the Week honors with consistent coverage, clean tackles and good ball skills. He just doesn’t look (or sound) like a seventh round rookie. Confidence in him should continue to grow as he faces a slammed Colts receiving unit. Watson should have more opportunities to make plays this week, keeping the cornerback position while Trent McDuffie is on the reserve / injured squad list.
Others heading in the right direction: wide receiver Justin Watson, defensive ends George Karlaftis and Mike Danna, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, defensive tackle Chris Jones and punter Tommy Townsend.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Against the Arizona Cardinals, the former Green Bay Packers captured all four targets – three of them for first downs – but against Los Angeles, those results simply weren’t there. He only captured two of his seven targets for a total of thirteen yards. It was a frustrating performance for a guy who is usually considered the # 1 quarterback. 1 wide receiver. The Indianapolis defense isn’t as loaded as the Chargers unit, so Valdes-Scantling will have the opportunity to stake a more efficient performance. If he doesn’t, how long will it be before another receiver (like Justin Watson, Skyy Moore or Mecole Hardman) starts to see more of his volume than he does?
Andrew Wylie: Upon retirement, the right tackle was a position where we expected the competition to bring out the best and hopefully a young player would step up and win a job. Instead, the Chiefs went with the versatile veteran who served them well last year. But after watching him fight Bosa and the Chargers, it’s clear Wylie may not be up to the challenge of the division’s top rushers. Until Wylie starts, Kansas City will have to keep helping him and Mahomes will have to face more pressure on his face. Since the Colts don’t have the same kind of passing run issues, Wylie is likely to look a little better on Sunday. But one wonders: once off the Reserve / PUP list (physically unable to perform), could Lucas Niang have the opportunity to get started?
Others going in the wrong direction: corner back Rashad Fenton and safety Bryan Cook
Valuable choices (dormant): two offensive directors
Jody Fortson And Skyy Moore: Thursday night, the Los Angeles defense made life difficult for the Kansas City attack, so the team pinned their offensive veterans to pull off the win. Lost in the fray were two young directors who saw few opportunities. They both still have plenty of productive matches ahead of them, perhaps as soon as Sunday. Tight end Fortson only saw 10% of snaps and only one goal: a badly thrown ball in the end zone. Rookie wideout Moore was on the pitch for only 4% of offensive snaps and received no passes. But this season, the Chiefs’ pass-catcher stories may be on a pendulum swinging in opposite directions every week. In one game, they might be JuJu Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling, but the next one might belong to the young. Perhaps the defense of the Colts will be more hospitable to these two young directors. In Indianapolis, one (or both) might find space to run and maybe hit some cash.