KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs begin their sixth season under Andy Reid Sunday.
This season is a milestone for Reid, who will become the third longest tenured head coach in Chiefs history behind Hank Stram and Marty Schotteheimer.
He has yet to experience a losing season in his Chiefs tenure and currently has the highest winning percentage of any head coach in Chiefs history. The organization will need that steady guidance on a roster that will feature between nine and 10 new starters on Sunday, with six of them potentially coming on defense.
The first six games of the season will feature five teams capable of making the playoffs and three who actually did in 2017. Patrick Mahomes and the defense will answer a lot of questions quickly about where their talent and scheme stand before they even reach Halloween. Here are some predictions for the maiden voyage of the Patrick Mahomes cruise.
Week 1: at Los Angeles Chargers
The Chiefs begin the defense of their potential third consecutive AFC west title in the friendly confines of the StubHub Center. The Chargers have become the media darlings of the AFC West, replacing the Raiders hype of the past two seasons.
Head coach Anthony Lynn has infused his physical style of play into the offensive run game and the Chargers look to be improved in that department. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has a lethal pass rushing tandem in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and a key addition in Derwin James at the safety spot.
The Chiefs have not lost to the Chargers since their backups lost a nail bitter 27-24 during Reid's first season with the Chiefs. Philip Rivers is the glue that has held the Chargers together, and if adhesive is loosened up with pressure, the offense and season fall apart. The Chiefs have perfected this art against the Chargers.
The biggest factor the Chiefs have going for them is nobody knows how different the offense will be under Mahomes and that is the tipping factor the Chiefs need to come out of Los Angeles with their first victory of the 2018 season.
Week 2: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger have routinely beaten the Chiefs in physical fashion during Reid's tenure here. The Steelers play a physical brand of football that Kansas City's front lines have been unable to match play for play.
That trend continues until the Chiefs prove otherwise. The interesting questions around the Steelers will be if former offensive coordinator Todd Haley had a bigger impact on the stability of the offense more than some realized and if the team can bounce back from the loss of linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Week 3: San Francisco 49ers
The Chiefs got their first taste of future 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in their destruction of the New England Patriots on Monday night football at Arrowhead in 41-14 victory. The Chiefs matched Head coach Kyle Shanahan point for point in their 2016 meeting when he was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons high octane offense that went to the Super Bowl that season.
The 49ers are a team on the rise and will compete for the NFC West crown. Shanahan and company finished last season strong and will likely build on that this season. The Chiefs catch them at the right time in their home opener and pull off a high powered scoring affair.
Week 4: at Denver Broncos
Quarterback Case Keenum is now the captain of the Broncos ship. He found success under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur in Minnesota last season but Shurmur did not join him in Denver. The Broncos still continue to have offensive line issues and the Super Bowl caliber defense becomes a distant memory with each fading season. The Chiefs pull off the win on Monday Night Football.
Week 5: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars play a physical brand of football similar to the Steelers and Titans. Kansas City struggles with that brand of football. The defense will likely be facing Blake Bortles but Mahomes will have his second best test of the season in what facing a championship defense looks like. The former tenth overall pick will get a great learning experience for this game but will also likely have some bruises after it. The Jaguars run game and defense will likely be too much for the Chiefs this early in the season.
Week 6: at New England Patriots
The Chiefs travel to New England on Sunday Night Football that can be watched on 41 Action News. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady likely haven't forgotten the exposure they experienced from the Chiefs in their opening game last season. Reid put on a clinic in how to expose the Patriots.
It helped former Reid pupil Doug Pederson in the most crucial game of his career take home his first Lombardi trophy. This will be a huge national stage for Mahomes against arguably the biggest star in the NFL. Mahomes can make a massive statement in this game and prove that he has arrived. Unfortunately, there will be five weeks worth of tape and tendencies for Belichick to get the best of the second year quarterback. The chance to topple two iconic Patriots figures will hopefully come when it matters in the most.
Week 7: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals come to town but the roster and coaching staff have declined over the past three seasons. Head coach Marvin Lewis' message has likely grown stale after 16 seasons and the Bengals offense hasn't been the same since the losses of Hue Jackson and Jay Gruden. The Chiefs leave Arrowhead with their first AFC north victory of the season.
Week 8: Denver Broncos
Three weeks since their last meeting, the Broncos will be improved but this is the point in the season where teams have enough tape to exploit the tendencies of their opponents. Reid hands the Broncos his seventh consecutive victory of them since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset.
Week 9: at Cleveland Browns
This point in the season, Hue Jackson may no longer be coaching the Browns and former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley could potentially be in charge with first overall pick Baker Mayfield at the helm. The Chiefs should win the John Dorsey bowl but experience a more physical game than expected if Haley is running the show.
Week 10: Arizona Cardinals
The retirement of Bruce Arians, along with an offensive line and quarterback position that still remains a struggle should provide the Chiefs with an opportunity. New head coach Steve Wilks will still be working to install his brand of football. The Chiefs can take full advantage of instability for this season.
Week 11: at Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City
The Monday night football game will be a unique experience for both teams. The primary story line will be about Marcus Peters facing his old team but the collection of defensive talent under Wade Phillips will be the difference in this experience for Mahomes. The Rams showcase a physical performance in prime time.
Week 12: Bye week
The Chiefs will get a much needed rest after 11 physical weeks of football and trip to Oakland on the horizon.
Week 13: at Oakland Raiders
Kansas City gets their first experience of the new Jon Gruden era and one without their best defensive player in Khalil Mack, who was shipped off to Chicago. The Raiders have only beaten the Chiefs twice during the Reid era, both times were on Thursday night football on a short week, west coast trip after the Chiefs came off two physical games in back to back weeks both times.
Derek Carr was the quarterback in both games, otherwise the Raiders have been ineffective in the overall series. The morale of the roster will be interesting at this point in the season to see if the players are buying in to what Gruden is selling after a unique decision in trading their best player.
Week 14: Baltimore Ravens
This is the part of the season where the Chiefs are due for a poor performance collectively. The weather is getting colder and a physical rushing attack is more in vogue at this point. Former Reid pupil John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco are both fighting for their tenures in Baltimore to continue with the Super Bowl a distant memory at this point. Mahomes and company have an off day before refocusing and attempting to close down the stretch in playoff form.
Week 15: Los Angeles Chargers
This is the time of season where the Chargers have typically reeled off five to seven wins and are one of the hottest teams in football. The Chiefs offensive line is normally much better in pass protection at this point in the year and near this time last year they fed Kareem Hunt for a decisive victory filled with turnovers. Reid secures his sixth consecutive winning season with the Chiefs.
Week 16: at Seattle Seahawks
The legion of boom is a memory from the past now. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has moved on and the Seahawks have been unable to recapture their magic from their Super Bowl runs. Brian Schottenheimer is now the offensive coordinator but is a long way and many failed stops from his ball control attacks with the New York Jets during the Rex Ryan era. The Chiefs pull off another NFC West win on Sunday night football that you can catch on 41 Action News right before Christmas.
Week 17: Oakland Raiders
If the Raiders are struggling to win games, this will be the point in the season where most players on the Oakland roster are ready to pack it up and hope they find a new opportunity in the league away from Gruden. If the Raiders offense is clicking though at this point, it could be a high scoring affair to close out the season. Carr still remains winless in Kansas City and this prediction doesn't have that changing.
AFC West Predictions
1. Chiefs (11-5)
The defense will be a big question mark throughout the season but the offense has the opportunity to be a high octane attack despite some likely turnovers that can prop it up while the develop their chemistry. Mahomes is being doubted a great deal but betting against Andy Reid in the regular season is something that is tough to do.
2. Chargers (10-6)
Injuries and lulls have been the typical problems for a Chargers team that always has a great deal of potential. Rivers is running out of time to change that fortune and this team is likely the closest on paper that can get it down. The Chiefs games could be the tipping points in their outcome.
3. Broncos (7-9)
Vance Joseph is still instilling his brand of football into the roster but the coaching staff has already had a huge flux with six assistant coaches fired in the off-season. The offense appears to be in a transition stage without a franchise quarterback. The defense is reloading as well and has the ability to keep the Broncos afloat for now.
4. Raiders (5-11)
Jon Gruden is attempting to change the culture in Oakland but his move of trading their best player on the roster will likely not go over well with many in the locker room. The offense is capable of putting up a lot of points but the biggest question is if players are willing to buy in.
AFC Playoff Predictions
1. Patriots (12-4)
2. Jaguars (12-4)
3. Steelers (11-5)
4. Chiefs (11-5)
5. Chargers (10-6)
6. Texans (10-6)
NFC Playoff Predictions
1. Rams (13-3)
2. Vikings (12-4)
3. Falcons (11-5)
4. Redskins (10-6)
5. Packers (11-5)
6. 49ers (10-6)
Super Bowl Prediction
Packers over the Patriots