For the first time in Patrick Mahomes’s NFL career, his team has a record below .500 in the month of September. It took a 21-20 opening night loss to the Detroit Lions, but an 0-1 start to the season now has the Kansas City Chiefs drifting in uncharted waters. Mahomes is like a life jacket for the Chiefs’ offense, keeping them afloat when he can, but there’s only so much he can do to keep the waves from roaring over and submerging them into the water.
Mahomes wasn’t perfect in Week 1, but there were multiple times his receivers let him down with drops. If Mahomes is like a life jacket, then tight end Travis Kelce could be like this team’s life boat. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, their life boat was nowhere to be found in the choppy waters throughout the game. Kelce wasn’t able to play in the opener due to a hyperextended knee he suffered earlier in the week, and his presence on the field was missed.
The good news is Kelce is possibly expected to be back for Week 2 in a big conference game on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mahomes has become accustomed to looking for Kelce on third downs but with his favorite target out, there wasn’t much going for the Chiefs’ offense — especially in the second half when they failed to score a touchdown against the Lions. On paper, the Jaguars have more firepower on offense, and Mahomes and the offense will need to do much better in execution if they want to get back on track.
The Chiefs and Jaguars were projected to win their divisions before the season. Even though it’s way too early to be thinking about the playoffs, an early September meeting between these two squads could have seeding implications. Last year, the Chiefs were able to handle the Jaguars at home in the Divisional Round despite an injury to Mahomes in the first half. Jacksonville will be out for revenge in this game, and with apparent chinks in the armor, the Jags will be ready to pounce.
The Chiefs will need their young receiving core to step up in Week 2 if they want to go on the road and get the win. Mahomes will be there to steady the waters, but the Chiefs can’t have another game where Skyy Moore has zero catches on three targets. They can’t have another game where Kadarius Toney has one catch for one yard and three dropped passes, including a deflected pass that goes back for a pick-six. They can’t have another game where Jerick McKinnon, their best receiving weapon out of the backfield, has one catch on two targets.
Rookie Rashee Rice actually had a decent game in his debut, scoring a touchdown and racking up the highest wide receiver rating among the group. He can look to build upon that, as Mahomes will be looking for someone he can trust moving forward. There were some issues with drops in the preseason but hopefully Rice, and the wide receiver group as a whole, will be able to clean it up as the season progresses.
The defense looked surprisingly sharp for most of the game against the Lions. They only allowed two touchdowns and forced a red zone turnover, which should be enough to get the Chiefs a win most weeks. Defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was sitting out this game while trying to get a new contract extension worked out, was only noticeably missed on a few plays. The defense didn’t cost the Chiefs a loss in Week 1, but there will be a big challenge coming up this week with rising star quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his array of weapons on the other side of the field.
The special teams were looking good on Thursday. Punter Tommy Townsend averaged nearly 50 yards per punt, with his longest being 58. Flipping field position in a game where weird things were happening on offense was big in keeping things close. Harrison Butker made both of his field goal and extra point attempts and looks to be back on track. When special teams can be automatic, that takes pressure off other aspects of the game.
The Chiefs will potentially have the advantage of being able to add an All-Pro offensive player to the mix in Week 2. Eventually, later this season, they’ll also be able to add an All-Pro defensive lineman into the fold. Getting off to a slow start may not have been widely expected, but there were some signs that this was a possibility.
Kansas City can right the ship and get back on track with a big win against the Jaguars. It will take strong performances in all three phases but with Mahomes coming off a loss, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Chiefs take out their frustrations on the road against the Jaguars next week.