Thu Aug 22 12:11pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid speaks at a news conference after the team's preseason NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 17-7. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) shakes hands with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) after a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 17-7. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs came within a defensive stop in overtime of beating the New England Patriots in the AFC title game, the closest they've come to reaching the Super Bowl in nearly five decades.
Not surprisingly, expectations among fans are to take that next step.
They are among the Chiefs, too.
''Last year was a good moment for us,'' linebacker Reggie Ragland said, ''but we strive to get to win the AFC championship this year and go to the Super Bowl, so we have to keep working - keep getting better, keep being physical, keep being tough mentally. So far, we're doing a good job of it.''
There are plenty of reasons to believe the Chiefs can finally wipe away all those years of mind-numbing disappointment, and return to the Super Bowl for the first time since Len Dawson was under center.
Start with the guy who plays Dawson's position.
Patrick Mahomes is coming off a record-setting debut as the starter, throwing for more than 5,000 yards with 50 touchdown passes and a mere 12 interceptions. But beyond the numbers, the young quarterback out of Texas Tech proved he could be a leader from the get-go, taking center stage in a locker room full of more experienced players and leading vocally and by example.
It helps when you're voted All-Pro and the league's MVP.
''We got a lot of experience last year. We played in a lot of big games. We won some, we lost some,'' Mahomes said. ''What you learn from those games, you see what you have to do to be a great football team. For us this year, it's all about just taking that next step. It's all about going out every single day and doing whatever it takes to find a way to win the game on Sunday.''
Mahomes has just about everyone in his supporting cast back this season, losing only wide receiver Chris Conley and getting second-round pick Mecole Hardman as a replacement.
In other words, Mahomes could very well surpass the eye-popping numbers he put up last season.
The question now is whether the other side of the ball can raise its level of performance.
After the Chiefs' defense melted down in overtime against the Patriots, it took little time for coach Andy Reid to fire defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Longtime stalwarts such as Justin Houston and Eric Berry were let go, and Steve Spagnuolo was brought in to overhaul the entire system.
The Chiefs now run a 4-3 set. They've added high-profile players such as Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu. And at least in their early preseason games, the returns have been promising.
''This is what I always preach to them: We are going to chase perfection but rely on relentlessness,'' Spagnuolo said. ''That's been a motto and a theme for us. I'm hoping we're adopting that as players.''
As the Chiefs prepare for their opener Sept. 8 in Jacksonville, here are some other story lines:
Hardman ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the NFL scouting combine. When he is on the field with fellow wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, it gives the Chiefs a trio of threats capable of running sub-4.4 second times in the 40.
''You name it, we got 4.2, 4.3, maybe 4.1. I don't know what Tyreek runs now, who knows?'' said tight end Travis Kelce, another favorite Mahomes target. ''We got guys who can absolutely fly all over the field, and speed kills in this game. If you got it, you're in the advantage.''
SPEAKING OF HILL
The Chiefs' star wide receiver was suspended all offseason while the NFL investigated a domestic violence case. Hill ultimately was cleared by both the district attorney and the league, reported for the first day of training camp and has been making plays throughout the preseason.
The Chiefs acquired Clark from Seattle and gave him a five-year, $104 million deal. They nabbed Mathieu in free agency, along with pass rusher Alex Okafor and cornerback Bashaud Breeland. Then they got another big name midway through training camp when cornerback Morris Claiborne inked a one-year deal.
Special teams coach Dave Toub has received some interest in head coaching jobs the past couple of offseasons, but he's still running the show in Kansas City. Veteran punter Dustin Colquitt is back along with strong-legged kicker Harrison Butker, and the Chiefs' flotilla of speedy wide receivers and defensive backs gives them plenty of options in the return game.
The Chiefs play three of their first four games on the road, then face a four-game stretch against playoff contenders Green Bay, Minnesota, Tennessee and the Los Angeles Chargers. The division race could be decided in December, when the Chiefs visit New England and Chicago and play Denver at home before a regular-season finale against the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.
Patriots running back James White has been ruled out for the Week 3 game against the Jets because his wife is expected to give birth, according to multiple sources.
Updating a previous report, Minnesota Vikings CB Mike Hughes (knee) will play in Week 3's game against the Oakland Raiders, according to a source.
Free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown tweeted on Sunday that he's done playing in the NFL, citing the league's contract structure and the fact that teams can void guarantees. Brown's future in the league was already in question after being released by the Raiders and Patriots already this season while facing multiple claims of sexual misconduct, among other issues. While Brown's talent is obvious, his off-field issues have derailed his career and hurt numerous people in the process, and it would be a shock to see him on an NFL field again in 2019, if ever.
New England Patriots RB James White has been ruled out for Week 3's game against the New York Jets because his wife is expected to give birth, according to multiple sources.
Fantasy Spin: Sony Michel is expected to receive the bulk of the carries in the New England backfield this week, with Rex Burkhead and possibly Damien Harris seeing additional offensive snaps due to White's absence. Only Michel is worthy of consideration as a starting option in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will start Sunday's Week 3 contest against the Seattle Seahawks, though the team intends to use Taysom Hill at times during the game. Heading into the weekend, head coach Sean Payton hadn't committed to a starter, though it was looking more and more like it'd be Bridgewater. This isn't an easy matchup and Bridgewater didn't set the world on fire when he came in as an injury replacement for Drew Brees last week, so it's fair to think of him as just a mid-tier QB2 despite the weapons around him.
Philadelphia Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery (calf) is not expected to play in Week 3's game against the Detroit Lions, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Jeffery had been listed as questionable on the injury report after being unable to practice at all during the week. The Eagles' Week 4 game is on Thursday Night Football, so the team may decide to hold him out of action versus Detroit in order to give him a few more days to recover.
Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert (calf) reportedly looked better at practice Saturday, Sept. 21, and is currently considered a pregame decision for Week 3's contest against the Detroit Lions.
Fantasy Spin: Goeder had been listed as questionable on the injury report after participating in one practice session during the week on a limited basis. Fantasy owners should be able to find better options even if he is active for the game.
New England Patriots running back James White (personal) won't play in Week 3 when the Patriots meet the Jets as he awaits the birth of his child. With White out, expect a healthy dose of Sony Michel on early downs and Rex Burkhead on passing downs. Michel in particular should see a ton of work in this game, as the Patriots project to go up big early and run the ball plenty in the second half. Burkhead gets a boost and looks like a high upside starting option in deeper leagues now.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews (foot) will participate in pregame warmups prior to Week 3's game against the Kansas City Chiefs before the team will know if he'll be able to play, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Andrews was listed as questionable on the injury report after taking part in two practice sessions during the week on a limited basis. He has been one of the NFL's top-producing players at his position and should be started in fantasy leagues as long as he is active, especially since this afternoon's game versus the Chiefs could be a high-scoring affair.
Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack (calf) is likely to play in Week 3's game against the Atlanta Falcons but the team wants to see how he fares in pre-game warmups before making a final decision on his status.
Fantasy Spin: Mack was listed as questionable on the injury report after participating in one of the team's three practices during the week on a limited basis. He will continue to receive a great deal of action in the Indianapolis backfield, making him worthy of consideration as an RB2 in many fantasy leagues.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (quadriceps) is likely to play in Week 3's game against the Atlanta Falcons but the team wants to see how he fares in pre-game warmups before making a final decision on his status.
Fantasy Spin: Despite the quarterback change this season, Hilton has continued to play well, with 12 receptions for 130 yards and three touchdowns through his first two games. View him as a low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 in most fantasy formats.
Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny (hamstring) is not expected to play in Week 3's game against the New Orleans Saints, according to a source. He strained his hamstring during practice Friday, Sept. 20, and even though the injury is not believed to be serious, the team wants to err on the side of caution with his health.
Fantasy Spin: If Penny is sidelined, Chris Carson should see the bulk of the carries in the Seattle backfield this afternoon, with C.J. Prosise likely to see additional offensive snaps as well. Carson should be viewed as a viable RB2 option this week, while Prosise isn't worth starting in any fantasy format.
Cleveland Browns CB Denzel Ward (hamstring) is not expected to play in Week 3's game against the Los Angeles Rams, according to a source. He tweaked his hamstring during practice Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Updating a previous report, New Orleans Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater is expected to get the starting nod for Week 3's game against the Seattle Seahawks, although QB Taysom Hill is likely to see some action during the game as well.
Fantasy Spin: Bridgewater is the better bet this week as far as streaming fantasy options go, while the bulk of Hill's action is likely to come in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Cleveland Browns lockdown cornerback Denzel Ward (hamstring) is not expected to play against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night. Ward suffered a hamstring strain during practice this week and he is looking unlikely to take the field. Meanwhile, the team is more optimistic about rookie corner Greedy Williams (hamstring). If Ward is unable to play, that would be a huge boost to the Los Angeles wide receivers, namely Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. In just over a year, Ward has established himself as one of the better lockdown corners in the NFL. His absence would create a huge void in the Cleveland secondary on Sunday night. You were probably starting them in season-long leagues anyways but both Woods and Cooks become much more interesting for DFS slates that include the Sunday night game.
Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny (hamstring) isn't expected to play against the Saints. Though the injury, which occurred during practice throughout the week, isn't considered severe, the team wants to be careful with its No. 2 back. In his stead, C.J. Prosise will back up Chris Carsonon Sunday, with the former having relatively no fantasy value, however.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quad) may play against the Falcons, with the final decision coming before opening kick. The veteran receiver managed to practice throughout the week, although in a limited capacity, but will still be considered a must-start in virtually all fantasy formats on Sunday.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack (calf) is a game-time call against Atlanta. Mack returned to practice in a limited capacity on Friday after not participating the previous two days. Nonetheless, the team remains hopeful that the 23-year-old is in uniform on Sunday and would be considered a must-start despite going up against mediocre Falcons Defense. If he does sit, look for Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines to pick up the slack.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf) may still play in Week 3 against Detroit, but chances are slim that he will get a full workload even if he does. With DeSean Jackson (abdomen) already out, Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz are expected to pick up the slack.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) is expected to be in uniform on Sunday against the Ravens. The veteran's status was iffy coming into this one, but after practicing in full on Friday, he should take over as the No. 1 option in Week 3, with Darwin Thompson coming in for relief. McCoy is still a game-time call despite the recent revelation, so fantasy managers will want to monitor his status up until opening kick.