- Win Over/Under: 8.5 (+100/-120)
- Make AFC Playoffs: +110 (48%)
- Win AFC West: +275 (27%)
- Win AFC Championship: +1000 (9%)
- Win Super Bowl: +2000 (4.8%)
The Action Network’s Projected Wins: 8.11 (17th)
How good do you think the Kansas City Chiefs will be in 2018?
Because if your expectations are generally in line with the consensus, odds are you’re underestimating them.
The Chiefs have blown past their win total in each of Andy Reid’s five seasons as coach, winning an average of 2.1 games more than expected.
Reid has been doing this kind of thing for a while. He went 9-4-1 vs. the over as the Eagles head coach and, overall his teams have surpassed preseason expectations 70% of the time.
So when Reid trades up in the first round to draft a new quarterback and then cuts his old quarterback, who went 50-26 (.658) as his starter, we should trust that he knows what he’s doing.
And Reid is swapping a bow and arrow for a rocket launcher.
With Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, this offense could be absurd.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill is a speedster whose last 13 touchdowns average 64 yards, with none under 30. I’d call him the Steph Curry of football, but even Curry takes layups once in a while.
Travis Kelce led all tight ends in yards after catch in 2017, and only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones have more 100-yard games over the past two seasons.
Running back Kareem Hunt ripped off 246 total yards and three touchdowns against the Patriots in his first NFL game, led the league in rushing yards as a rookie and had as many 80-yard receiving games as some wide receivers.
And for as much heat as Sammy Watkins took last season for his disposition to milk cartons, he scored as many touchdowns (8) as Julio Jones and Michael Thomas combined — on 153 fewer catches.
Even though concerns about Mahomes’ interceptions are overblown, it’s true that the offense won’t lead the league in fewest turnovers anymore. But the ceiling for that type of offense with Alex Smith turned out to be “go scoreless in the second half of a wild-card game and blow a 21-3 lead to Mike Mularkey.”
I imagine Reid channeling Dustin Pedroia when he looks back at this decision in a few years:
A couple of years ago, I had a conservative quarterback I was winning with, but I let him go for a higher-upside quarterback, and everyone was ready to kill me.
And what happened?
It’s pretty clear that in a best-case scenario, this offense could be a cross between 2010 Michael Vick and 2017 Deshaun Watson.
So what are the potential concerns?
Pro Football Focus ranked the Chiefs’ offensive line 19th in the league, although that shouldn’t matter too much considering Mahomes has a 95th-percentile Agility Score and Hunt led the league in yards after contact.
Former offensive coordinator Matt Nagy will also be missed, but this has always been Reid’s offense. Reid has had three coordinators so far in Kansas City, and his offenses have never finished below average in points scored, averaging a ranking of 10.4.
The defense is what probably scares people the most, but coordinator Bob Sutton has always done a great job of bringing the “bend but don’t break” cliche to life.
Last season, Sutton’s defense ranked No. 28 in yards allowed but still managed a No. 15 finish in points allowed. On average, his defenses in Kansas City have ranked 10 spots better in points (6th) than yards (16th).
Despite trading away self-ejecting cornerback Marcus Peters and trotting out cornerbacks so bad they should be ejected, the secondary should be better this season.
One reason I’ve been critical of the Redskins for the Smith acquisition is they seemingly threw in one of their best defensive players as an afterthought: Cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Fuller graded out as the No. 2 overall cornerback in PFF’s charting last season, and even though he played mostly in the slot, he’s expected to play outside in base packages for Sutton — something Fuller’s tape suggests he should be able to do quite well.
If Fuller is able to give the Chiefs an inside/outside presence at corner, not only will they have a No. 1 corner who graded higher than Peters (15th), but they’ll have one who isn’t stationary like Peters was.
The Chiefs also have star pass-rusher Justin Houston, emerging defensive lineman Chris Jones (No. 7-ranked interior lineman by PFF) and a pair of top-25 graded linebackers in Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland.
Anything the Chiefs get from safety Eric Berry, who earned first-team All-Pro honors in each of his past three full seasons but is coming off a torn Achilles, would be a bonus.
And special teams is a near-lock for excellence under Dave Toub. The Chiefs have five straight top-nine finishes in Football Outsiders’ Special Teams Rating metric under his watch.
Despite all that, Kansas City has been generating the 11th-lowest percentage of over bets on its win total.
The public’s fear of a quarterback without a track record and the replacement of a big name on defense with a quality player who isn’t as popular has created not only a soft win total but also even money on the over.
The Chiefs are underrated on both sides of the ball and coached by a man who has surpassed win-total expectations for more than two-thirds of his career. They’ve won 60% of road games under his watch, including half of their games as road underdogs, according to BetLabs.
Kansas City hasn’t lost to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers since 2013, and the Chargers are one season-ending injury or Roberto Aguayo promotion away from making the Chiefs’ division-title future tempting as well.
Aside from having to sit through a highlight of giant Andy Reid’s childhood Punt-Pass-Kick competition for the umpteenth time, fans will enjoy watching this team play.
Come for the win-total value, stay for the laser show. – Chris Raybon
The Bet: Over 8.5 Wins
Kansas City Chiefs 2018 Schedule
- Games Favored: 8
- Avg. Spread: +0.1
- Strength of Schedule: 11th (1 = Easiest, 32 = Hardest)
Survivor Pool 101
- Use the Chiefs: Week 10 vs. ARI
- Use Chiefs’ opponents: Week 2 @ PIT, Week 6 @ NE
Fantasy Football Outlook
- Top Pick: RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce
- Sleeper: QB Patrick Mahomes
- Potential Bust: WR Sammy Watkins
Best of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+
“We have them at 8.5 wins but juiced the over to -140 because of the support.”
– Westgate bookmaker Jeff Sherman to The Action Network’s Michael Leboff
Kareem Hunt Over/Under 10.5 Touchdowns? (-115/-115)
After Hunt became the NFL’s leading rusher and scored 11 touchdowns as a rookie, it’s safe to expect regression from him this season.
He was given a massive workload after Spencer Ware suffered a season-ending injury last preseason and benefited from getting touches all over the field. On top of having to compete with Hill, Kelce and Watkins for touchdowns, Hunt will have a hard time matching his rookie numbers with Ware back.
This number is 0.5-1.0 touchdowns too high. Take the value on the under. – Sean Koerner
The Bet: Under 10.5 Touchdowns
Win Going Away With Tyreek Hill in DFS
Hill has displayed some interesting home/away splits that might not hold up in the long run but are still worth noting: According to the FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, Hill has averaged 20.4 DraftKings points per game with an outrageous +9.1 Plus/Minus and 85% Consistency Rating on the road compared to 12.5 points per game with an alarming -0.03 Plus/Minus and 50% Consistency Rating at Arrowhead in his career.
Even if the splits don’t hold, Hill has come at a +6.7% ownership premium at home, so it still makes sense to target him more on the road. – Ian Hartitz
More on the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs
- The Right Reid: Kansas City Chiefs 5-Year Betting Run Under Andy
- Eric Berry: Can He Hold Together the New-Look Chiefs D?
- Patrick Mahomes: What to Expect in 2018?
- Will the Chiefs Have the NFL’s Most Explosive Offense in 2018?