KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Quarterback Patrick Mahomes' first season as a starter netted the Kansas City Chiefs the first NFL MVP in franchise history and the first AFC championship game at Arrowhead Stadium.
General Manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid arguably made the necessary adjustments with the coaching staff and player roster to climb even higher in 2019.
The Chiefs' schedule features three opponents who made the 2018 playoffs in the first six games. Ten teams on the schedule are arguably playoff caliber, so it won't be an easy task for the three-time defending AFC West champions to make it four in a row.
Here are 4th and 1 podcast co-host Nick Jacobs' predictions for the 2019 season.
Week 1: at Jacksonville Jaguars
The weather will play a factor in this one. Humidity got the best of the Chiefs during a portion of training camp this year and could factor in for the team's high-octane offense.
The Jaguars' defense could feel like this is a statement game, especially after last season went on a downward spiral after a 30-14 loss at Kansas City.
Jacksonville will want to prove their 2017 AFC Championship appearance wasn't a fluke. The Jaguars' defense looks faster this season, but the offense remains a work in progress.
Nick Foles should provide a better performance at the quarterback position, but offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will need a better showing than he had in Minnesota. The Chiefs should come out with their first win of the season here, but humidity and the Jaguars' defense will provide some challenges.
Week 2: at Oakland Raiders
The new and improved Raiders should have a more explosive offense with the additions of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and Josh Jacobs, but the loss of Jared Cook will keep this team from reaching its peak potential.
Second-year coach Jon Gruden clearly has decided that he must compete with the Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers through an explosive offense, but the development of quarterback Derek Carr in his West Coast scheme will determine if it is more of the same.
Carr is an interception-prone quarterback when teams pressure him correctly. This time the Chiefs come away with their second road win. Knock on wood, if you are with me.
Week 3: vs Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens provided one of the Chiefs' toughest games at Arrowhead last year because of a dominate run game and an unpredictable defense to go with it.
The promotion of Greg Roman to offensive coordinator will give them a chance to manage Lamar Jackson's growth as a passer. Assistant head coach and wide receivers coach David Culley will help the receiving corp improve their overall route running and run blocking.
Defensively, the loss of safety Eric Weddle and linebacker C.J. Mosley will be felt but free-agent safety addition Earl Thomas can provide more overall range on the back end.
The Chiefs' defense should be able to give Jackson enough looks to come away with some crucial turnovers in this game.
Week 4: at Detroit Lions
The Matt Patricia era in the Motor City has sputtered early on. Detroit looks like another carbon copy of the Patriots tree trying to find their way but without Tom Brady or Bill Belichick to make it work.
The defensive strategy should give the Chiefs some things to keep in mind for New England. This is a game the Chiefs should win decisively if their offense is in full swing.
Week 5: vs Indianapolis Colts
The national spotlight returns to Arrowhead for the first time in the 2019 season.
Andrew Luck's retirement puts the Colts' offensive attack in a state of uncertainty, but coach Frank Reich is a really good offensive mind who can adjust to the skill set of his roster.
The Colts' pass rush will see some improvement with the addition of former Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston but the overall roster still lacks a dynamic running back and the additional pass rushers to give the Chiefs a significant challenge. Kansas City should come away with a comfortable win.
Week 6: vs Houston Texans
The Texans will have enough tape at this point to get a feel for where their offensive line is at and if their defense adjusted to the loss of Jadeveon Clowney, who was traded to Seattle.
Coach Bill O'Brien made some unique trades that will either pay off in protecting franchise quarterback DeShaun Watson or hinder the defense's ability to generate pressure.
New Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo should have plenty of areas to attack this offensive line.
Week 7: at Denver Broncos
The Chiefs will be on a short week and traveling to play a physical defense. The combination of a physical performance four days earlier and the altitude in Denver will be a huge challenge for this football team.
New Broncos coach Vic Fangio and his offensive line coach, Mike Munchak, will instill a physical presence. Expect Denver to give the Chiefs a lot of looks and run the ball down hill on a short week.
This is also the time of the year where teams begin to settle in to their identity. Denver would benefit from a run-heavy offense with some big play-action passes from quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Chiefs' ability to score early will determine how they fair in this one, but I think Kansas City suffers its first loss due to the short week.
Week 8: vs Green Bay Packers
A marquee game in the middle of the season with two high-profile quarterbacks. This is a game that arguably most of the league will have circled on their calendar to watch.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers should be comfortable in the offense at this stage of the season. He also will have enough tape on how to attack the Chiefs' secondary. This one should be a high-scoring game if both rosters haven't sustained significant injuries.
The extra three days of rest should be the difference for the Chiefs.
Week 9: vs Minnesota Vikings
The Chiefs will face a very physical defense in this matchup. Mike Zimmer has put together a brand of football that can sustain success in the NFL.
The problem for them is quarterback Kirk Cousins. If you pressure Cousins correctly, he will turn the ball over.
Kansas City comes away with a hard-fought victory against a great defensive mind.
Week 10: at Tennessee Titans
Mike Vrabel is building a good brand of football in Nashville. The problem he has is at the quarterback position.
The Titans had built a physical football team during the 2017 season. Last year, offensive coordinator Matt LeFleur tried to force Marcus Mariota and the offense to play against its strengths to fit his scheme.
New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will be at a crucial point in deciding the direction of this team and Mariota's career trajectory.
The Chiefs come away with a physical win in Nashville against a team that could find its way into the playoffs.
Week 11: at Los Angeles Chargers in Mexico City
The Chiefs travel to Mexico City for a Monday night matchup.
Quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers will give the Chiefs their best shot. Kansas City is the team standing in the Chargers' way in the quest for an AFC West title.
The status of running back Melvin Gordon, who is holding out, and safety Derwin James, who will miss several months with a foot injury, are two key factors in where this team will be at record-wise, but I suspect the Chiefs will come up short in a potentially high-scoring game.
Week 12: Bye week
The Chiefs will get a much needed break after taking the best shot from 11 teams aiming to make a statement to the league.
Week 13: at Oakland Raiders
Kansas City will have plenty of tape on how to attack the Raiders at this point on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs come away with a significant win out of their bye week.
Week 14: at New England Patriots
The Chiefs will have revenge on their minds in a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game.
Mahomes should look significantly better this time around, having competed against Belichick twice now, though Belichick certainly will have some new creative ways to negate the Chiefs' offensive fire power.
Kansas City has been able to beat the Patriots when its third and fourth weapons step up or the pass rush gets to Tom Brady.
This could be a classic matchup, if both teams are healthy. But until it can be proven on the field, I have to give the Patriots the edge.
Week 15: vs Denver Broncos
Denver may have gotten the unexpected best of the Chiefs the first time around, but the Chiefs will have a full week of rest and a previous game to look back on in the rematch.
Kansas City takes this game decisively a second time around.
Week 16: at Chicago Bears
The Bears should be playing for a playoff spot just before Christmas.
Second-year coach Matt Nagy will want to show off his play-calling ability against his former mentor in this Sunday night matchup, but the loss of Fangio will keep this defense from being able to contain the Chiefs' offense.
Plus, Spagnuolo may have some interesting looks prepared for the Bears.
Week 17: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chiefs should be battling for the No. 1 seed in the AFC if all the stars align.
Kansas City will know how Los Angeles approached stopping the offense from the first meeting and that should lead to a decisive victory in the second meeting.
AFC WEST PREDICTIONS
1. Chiefs (13-3)
Expectations are high across the board. Anything short of a Super Bowl will be deemed a failure.
The Chiefs' offense shined bright last season despite a defense that could have easily pulled them back to .500 or worse if Mahomes didn't rise to the occasion.
This season, the Chiefs have a defensive coaching staff and roster which can help carry its portion of the weight.
2. Chargers (11-5)
Coach Anthony Lynn has built a great team in Los Angeles. His teams are resilient, tough and always compete.
Rivers is a quarterback who can always keep the Chargers in contention, but he never leads his teams over the mountain top. He began to lose his fastball last season and made himself even more susceptible to turnovers.
It will be the difference in the AFC West.
3. Broncos (7-9)
Fangio will build a physical brand in Denver and put this team back on the right track. The Broncos' offense is going to need significant time to develop long, and Flacco won't be the one to help them flourish.
4. Raiders (6-10)
Jon Gruden should see an improvement in the scoring offense this season, but the defense has too many holes to rise in the AFC West.
AFC Playoff Predictions
1. Chiefs (13-3)
2. Steelers (12-4)
3. Patriots (11-5)
4. Colts (10-6)
5. Chargers (11-5)
6. Jaguars (9-7)
NFC Playoff Predictions
1. Saints (13-3)
2. Rams (12-4)
3. Eagles (11-5)
4. Vikings (11-5)
5. Bears (10-6)
6. Seahawks (10-6)
Super Bowl Prediction
Chiefs over Eagles