Now that the NFL schedules have been out for a while, I figured it would be a good opportunity to do some deep-tissue analysis of the Chiefs’ schedule to find out if the football gods blessed them with a gracious enough schedule to follow through with a solid title defense. We’ll break this down into four quarters over the coming weeks.
THIRD QUARTER: PANTHERS, @RAIDERS, @TAMPA BAY, BRONCOS
I should put on the record that Cam Newton is one of my favorite quarterbacks. When he was healthy, I could guarantee you that nobody could do what he did on the field as well as him before or since. Now, for reasons I cannot explain convincingly, Cam Newton is out of the job at Carolina as freshman NFL head coach Matt Rhule tries to establish himself as a rising star after turning Baylor into a Big 12 contender.
To help him in this quest, he enlisted Joe Brady, who was part of LSU’s offensive brain trust during their remarkable championship run this past year. Whether or not Brady’s got the juice to run the show by himself remains to be seen, but he’s got weapons like Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson, Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore to try and make an offense led by Teddy Bridgewater a contender in an NFC South full of firepower.
On the flip side of the ball, Rhule is going to try and use that 4-3 positionless defense that buttered his bread at Baylor to give the Panthers an edge on D. He made it show, too, by picking guys like Auburn DT Derrick Brown, Penn State edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos, and Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn. Time will tell to see if this heavy defensive investment in the draft will pay off, and when this game comes around we’ll have a pretty good idea of what kind of team the Panthers are, so expect an interesting throwdown at Arrowhead.
If you thought the last Raiders week wasn’t enough, this time it’s a road trip to the brand new home of the Las Vegas Raiders, right near the Golden Knights stadium. I’m gonna be honest, I will miss the Black Hole a lot because of how much personality it had, even if the field wasn’t always the nicest. It’s gonna be hard to top the energy and atmosphere Oakland fans brought even if the team stank but hey, who knows, Vegas took to the Golden Knights pretty quick so this may bode well for the Raiders. They did rep UNLV about as hard as any other city repped their professional sports team so it’s not like there’s a lack of enthusiasm. All the Raiders gotta do is win, baby.
Now here’s a game that intrigues me greatly.
The Bucs made the shrewd business decision of taking a look at their quarterback stable, noting that their starting quarterback is going to be 43 when the season starts and, perhaps by divine intervention, drafted arguably the best tackle in this year’s draft in Tristan Wirfs to keep that quarterback upright. They also bagged a couple standouts from last year’s Minnesota Golden Gophers squad in WR Tyler Johnson and safety Antoine Winfield Jr, as well as slow and steady Vanderbilt RB Key’Shawn Vaughn (for reasons I don’t quite understand). Regardless, this Tampa team – under the watchful offensive eye of Bruce Arians and a Todd Bowles-coached defense comprised of stone cold killers like 2019 sack leader Shaq Barrett, Devin White, Lavonte David, and Jason Pierre-Paul – may try to make a run for a wild card spot, if not a push for the top of the NFC South. It’s gonna be interesting to see how Tom Brady functions at his age in an offense that some may consider much more… complex than his recent squads. With a group like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and former WWE 24/7 title winner Rob Gronkowski, though, Brady may have the weapons to keep up with the demands of a more high-octane environment.
There are many moments across Pat Mahomes’ brief, yet very prestigious, career that you can point to and say, “Yup, that’s where I knew this kid was going to be something.” This moment didn’t just occur to me the last time Denver came to Arrowhead, but the fact that Mahomes was slinging it in conditions that are usually gunslinger-averse (like driving snow and cold) reaffirmed in me that this dude has what it takes to be a top tier quarterback in the league. While other teams might stick their noses to the grindstone and pound the rock until someone topples over, the Chiefs stuck to their guns and it ended up paying off. I don’t see that mindset changing with this game for either team come rain, sleet, or snow.