Despite a 7-1 record and a record-setting quarterback, it’s still difficult for at least one writer to believe in the Kansas City Chiefs.
I need to apologize to Patrick Mahomes right from the outset. It really, truly has nothing to do with you.
In fact, it’s a testament to you that I’ve even wavered in my negativity at all, that I’m even thinking about coming out of my Shell of Disbelief (yes, that’s a proper noun) in the first place.
The Kansas City Chiefs are 7-1 through eight games in the 2018 regular season. They sit alone (completely and utterly alone) at the top of their entire conference and currently enjoy a 1.5 game lead in their division. They’ve weathered the most difficult part of the schedule with ease and rang up monkey-shaking wins on the road in the process. Only a down-to-the-wire showdown with the New England Patriots (on the road, of course) mars the record from being a perfect 8-0 overall.
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The Chiefs achieved all of this with a defense in transition that still has room for improvement at every level and a young dynamic offense that will only get better with experience and chemistry. The team hasn’t even enjoyed its best defensive player on the field for a single down. They’ve lost their second-best for multiple games. They’ve employed every safety on the roster in a starting role and they’re on their third starting center in a half season.
All of this is important because it would allow most NFL fans to feel overly confident about their team. But that’s not working for me.
Heading into a second half filled with also-rans on the schedule like the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders (2x) and more, the Chiefs could lose every single game against any remaining decent team and still turn out with 12 wins on the year. Still each week my head is filled with reasons why we—as if I have anything to do with the Chiefs—will lose.
Some recent examples:
- I can’t help but think about this week’s game against the Browns as a trap game. The Browns literally have nothing to lose and every excuse to fall away in the standings, further back than they already are. But they’ve played several teams tough and now have no one believing in them. Plus Gregg Williams as head coach has me worried about potential injuries, dirty play, etc. I just don’t like this game at all (more on this in a second).
- In Week 8, I thought the Broncos would beat the Chiefs, even though the game was at Arrowhead and even though the Chiefs had won their last six games against the Broncos. I was worried about how much tape Denver had on Mahomes over other teams. I also worried about one team having its back against the wall while the other is playing with house money. In the end, Denver lost for the third time in nine games to Mahomes.
- Two weeks ago, I thought the Bengals front seven was going to be too much for the Chiefs offense, and that the impact players Cincy had on both sides of the ball would match the Chiefs. It turns out I was off by 35 points.
- Three weeks ago, I was overly worried about Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and a stout Jacksonville defense. I thought it was time for Mahomes to return to earth as if Reid scripted the first few weeks of the season. Instead, Jacksonville hasn’t been the same since they played K.C.
You get the idea. I do this for every single game. I worry. I fret. I make mountains out of molehills and molehills out of thin air.
Just last Sunday, I drove some of our Arrowhead Addict writers crazy. We share a Slack channel to organize our thoughts and communicate about story ideas. On game day, it’s a fun place to watch a game and share your thoughts about how the Chiefs are playing. I am pretty sure I typed the line “we’re going to lose this game” five times throughout the course of the win over the Broncos.
I hate being conditioned like this. I’d much rather feel carefree about this whole thing. The problem is that history tells me otherwise. Andy Reid has certainly helped me to expect a win more than a loss—that much is true. At the same time, even just last year, the Chiefs were the lone unbeaten team then lost three straight games to all three New York franchises and all three were/are pitiful teams.
We’ve all experienced the fall from grace, either in the standings or once the postseason is reached. It’s the Colts meltdown. It’s Lin *******. It’s Derrick Henry running all over the Chiefs just ten months ago.
At some point, it feels like the other shoe has to drop because the other shoe has always dropped. It’s what happens and there’s no way around it. It’s like a Newtonian law that applies to the Chiefs, a postulate that likely reads:
Newton’s Team Law 4: If a team is based in Kansas City and plays football therein, that franchise will be forcibly removed from any sustained, meaningful success and immediately placed within any category ranging from “above average” or lower.
There’s a place in the holy scriptures where a man comes to Jesus wanting his son free from some demonic possession (likely a Raiders fan). Jesus extols the virtue and power of belief and the father replies, “I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9) [Editor’s note: I think God is okay tossing in Raiders jokes here and there.]
That classic couplet is, for me, the best way to describe the way I feel about these Chiefs. There is a very real sense underneath all of my fear or anxiety that knows this Chiefs team is really different. Patrick Mahomes is the real deal. This is a completely new era for the Chiefs and I need to understand that and shift my perspective accordingly.
At the same time, I can’t help but retain some level of unbelief. That is, I’ve been fooled before. I’ve believed in new hires, new quarterbacks, new draft picks, new schemes. I’ve cheered an offseason only to cry once the games meant something. I’ve been elated at the regular season only to cringe at the postseason.
So I’m left with this feeling of knowing the Chiefs can beat the Browns by a solid 40 points and it wouldn’t even be that surprising. At the same time, I’m also worried that they’re walking into a total shocker of a Sunday in which the underdog will do what they sometimes do and topple the favorite. It’s the tension I will likely live in until the Chiefs actually cause some real damage in January and beyond.