(Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)
For the second consecutive year, the Kansas City Chiefs dominated the AFC West in 2020. With a 14-2 record, they earned the AFCs overall number one seed for the playoffs and the only bye. In week five, the Raiders handed the Chiefs one of their two losses, 35-31. The Chief's second loss came in a meaningless week 17 defeat to the Chargers, 38-21. The final standings for the rest of the division were as follows: 1) Raiders 8-8; 2) Chargers 7-9, and 3) Broncos 5-11.
After earning the bye, the Chiefs faced the Browns in the divisional round. Coming off the 48-37 victory over the Steelers, the Browns once again proved that this magical season had not been a fluke. The Chiefs dominated first-half play, leading the Browns 19-3 at halftime. Much like they had shown for the rest of the season, the Browns played with grit and determination for the final thirty minutes. Baker Mayfield threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry with just under ten minutes to go in the third quarter, but Cody Parkey missed the subsequent point after.
It was at that point in time, that misfortune struck the Chiefs. Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes was injured midway through the period and would not return. Harrison Butker tacked on a field goal to put the Chiefs up 22-9 entering the fourth quarter. Soon after, the Browns completely swung momentum and had the Chiefs on their heels. Kareem Hunt scored from three yards out, to make the score 22-16 Chiefs with 11:07 remaining. With Chad Henne at the wheel, it seemed likely that the Browns would win the game. Despite not having great stats(six completions in eight attempts for 66 yards and an interception). Henne wound up making the game-sealing play.
With fourth and one looming near midfield and at the two-minute warning, head coach Andy Reid made the decision to go for it. Henne completed a five-yard pass to Tyreke Hill, giving the Chiefs the ability to run out the clock. Mahomes completed 21-30 for 255 passing yards and a TD on the afternoon, while adding a rushing TD. As they had all season, Hill ( 8 catches for 110 yards) and Travis Kelce (8 catches for 109 yards and a TD) dominated the receiving load.
After beating the Browns, the Chiefs hosted the second-seeded Bills. Despite leading early 9-0, the Bills offered little resistance to the high-powered Chiefs offense. The Chiefs would storm back and lead 21-12 at the half and 31-15 at the end of the third quarter. Never able to close the gap, the Bills wound up losing 38-24. Mahomes completed 29 passes out of 38 attempts for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Hill (9 catches for 172 yards) and Kelce (13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns) had monster performances yet again.
Despite being a three-point favorite in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs simply got crushed by the Bucs. Butker opened the scoring with a 49-yard field goal, but the Bucs took a 21-6 lead into the locker room. Things would never get better for the Chiefs in the second half, ultimately losing 31-9. Despite all of the hype, this turned out to be one of the least competitive Super Bowls in recent history. Constantly under duress, Mahomes completed 26 of 49 for 270 yards and zero touchdowns(with two interceptions). Kelce (10 catches for 138 yards) and Hill (7 catches for 73 yards) were the only bright spots for the game. Despite an outstanding regular season, the Chiefs failed in their attempt to win consecutive Super Bowls.
Although their success was very limited on the field, the Raiders, Chargers, and Broncos provided some useful stats for fantasy owners. The most excitement came from the Chargers’ rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. Drafted with the sixth overall pick, Herbert took over for Tyrod Taylor and started the last 15 games of the season. He would complete 396 passes out of 595 attempts for 4336 yards and 31 TDs. Other good fantasy outcomes included: 1) Josh Jacobs; 2) Melvin Gordon III; 3) Keenan Allen; 4) Darren Waller, and 5) Noah Fant. In all fairness, this division(not counting the Chiefs) turned out to be one of the least productive divisions for fantasy, outside of the tight end position.
With 2020’s lackluster results, the key question for fantasy owners moving forward is whether or not there is renewed hope for better results in 2021. After missing six games in 2020, fantasy pundits are high on Chargers’ RB Austin Ekeler entering the 2021 season. Per FantasyPros.Com, Ekeler currently has the 8th highest ADP amongst all running backs. Despite a disappointing season when comparing final results to pre-season ADP, Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire is expected to have a much better season in his sophomore campaign. The luxury is he is no longer being touted as a first-round selection but is now available in most leagues in the third round.
Ekeler and Edwards-Hekaire are the only players not previously listed above to fall within the top fifty in terms of ADP. There are some potential upside players within the division to draft. These players include 1) Bronco’s WR Courtland Sutton; 2) Bronco’s WR Jerry Jeudy; 3) Bronco’s rookie RB Javonte Williams; 4) Raider’s RB Kenyan Drake, and 5) Charger's WR Mike Williams.
As most of our loyal readers know, this is a preview of what’s to come. The biggest off-season move was likely the changeover in the coaching regime within the Chargers. The Chargers hired former Rams’ defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to be their head coach while bringing Saints’ quarterback coach Joe Lombardi to be the offensive coordinator. Many within the fantasy community expect Ekeler to gain a role very similar to Alvin Kamara. The second transaction of note was the Broncos trading for Teddy Bridgewater of the Panthers. The Broncos have a very young, but talented group of skill players. The question remains can Bridgewater or the incumbent Drew Lock help these players reach that potential
In terms of free agency and the draft, things were rather quiet outside of the Drake (Cardinals) free agency signing by the Raiders, and the Broncos drafting of Javonte Williams. The Raiders picked up John Brown (Bills) and the Chargers acquired TE Jared Cook in free agency, while the Chargers drafted WR Josh Palmer and TE Tre Mckitty in the third round. One additional thing to monitor is how the Chiefs’ wide receiver depth chart will shake out after Sammy Watkins went to the Ravens as a free agent. All of these things and more will be discussed in our team previews. These can be found on Twitter and by visiting our website listed here https://www.thecutffb.com/.
(Cover Photo Credit: NFL & Couch Guy Sports / Yahoo Sports)