NFL football is finally back. After seven months since the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, the 2018 season kicks off Thursday night. Expectations are high across the league for many teams, including the Kansas City Chiefs as they begin the Patrick Mahomes era.

The expectations are usually low for a team going with an unproven quarterback a year after the previous quarterback led the NFL in passer rating and won the first back-to-back division titles in team history, but the expectations for the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs are high as Mahomes takes over after Alex Smith was traded to the Washington Redskins this offseason.

Mahomes will be one of the many new faces starting for the Chiefs this season. The Smith trade brought over cornerback Kendall Fuller to strengthen the secondary with one of the league’s best slot corners and Sammy Watkins signed to add to an already solid set of receivers. Some familiar faces will be gone along with Smith however as Marcus Peters was traded away to the Los Angeles Rams and Derrick Johnson found a new home with the Oakland Raiders after the Chiefs released him. Even if he takes a step back, the return of Eric Berry helps the team with a key leader to help the defense.

On paper, this offense looks to be one of the league’s best. Mahomes is taking over a good offense from a year ago with Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce giving Mahomes some of the best weapons in the league. Watkins would be in this list too, but his injury past and lack of success in the Rams offense last season shows some concern. But Watkins along with Spencer Ware, Chris Conley and De’Anthony Thomas give Kansas City much needed depth behind their top skill positions. 

While the offense looks to be on par with top units like the New Orleans Saints and Rams, the defense still has some work to do. The defense struggled for much of the preseason and while Fuller has looked solid, the rest of the cornerbacks’ play should make fans question if the Peters trade was a good move by Kansas City.

At least the team has one of the stronger special teams units in the league.

While the defense could hold this team back, the overall success of the Chiefs in 2018 will mainly fall on the new quarterback. Mahomes looks to be Brett Favre 2.0. That comparison should both excite and worry Chiefs fans. Mahomes will be able to make the throws that few quarterbacks can make like Favre did in his record-setting career, but Mahomes could also throw a costly interception that leads to a loss, also like Favre did. Mahomes will make a mistake that will cost the Chiefs a game or two this season.

The team’s finish is one of the hardest to predict in the NFL this season. Talent-wise, this is a team that can go 12-4, but a 4-12 season is just as likely. The offense looks good on paper, but they still could struggle. The defense is not that strong and as good of a coach as Andy Reid is, his horrible clock management paired with these factors will cause the Chiefs to stumble in a few games that they shouldn’t. I think this team will go 8-8 and finish second in the division behind the Los Angeles Chargers. 

 

League predictions

The first pick in the draft will belong to the Buffalo Bills after a train wreck season in a 2-14 campaign. Tampa Bay finishes with the same record, but the Bills have the tiebreaker. 

Speaking of Tampa Bay, Dirk Koetter will be the first coach fired. It will be during the season and he will be joined by a handful of others by the end of the season.

The NFC will have 10 teams with winning records, including the Chicago Bears, but not the Seattle Seahawks.

The Saints defense will regress in 2018, causing the team to miss the playoffs.

The Cleveland Browns show promise in a 6-10 season, which would be their second-best finish over the last 10 years.

Along with the Chargers winning the AFC West, the other AFC division winners will be the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots. The Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans are the wild cards. In the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Rams win their divisions with Green Bay and San Fransisco snagging the wild cards in a tight race. In the playoffs, the Vikings and Jaguars win the right to Super Bowl 53 where Jacksonville wins its first title. I am sure a key injury will throw the whole predictions off, but based on what we have right now, teams like the Vikings, Jaguars, Patriots and Eagles all are Super Bowl caliber teams with others like the Rams and Steelers not far behind.

Luke Peterson is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at lpeterson@leavenworthtimes.com