With defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigning, quarterback Justin Fields defending his erratic play and the loss of starting left tackle Braxton Jones to a neck injury, it’s been a tumultuous week for the Chicago Bears, who bring an 0-2 record to Kansas City this weekend.
Sunday’s matchup at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium has all the makings of a blowout, and that was reflected in an opening line that favored the Chiefs by 13 points. On paper, this seems like one of the easy marks on the schedule for the Super Bowl champs.
But let’s look at the Chiefs as double-digit favorites in the Patrick Mahomes era. Since 2018, the Chiefs have been favored by 10 points or more in 24 games. Their straight-up record is 22-2, but against the spread it’s a coin-flip: 12-11, plus one push.
The losses came to the Indianapolis Colts in 2019 and Las Vegas Raiders in 2020.
Last season, the Chiefs were 2-3 as double-digit favorites, playing too-close-for-comfort games against the Tennessee Titans (+12.5), who were down to a third-string quarterback, and the lowly Houston Texans (+14.5) and Denver Broncos (+12.5). All three games were decided in overtime or by a field goal.
Two-score margins are trending downward. Last season, 57.6% of games were decided by eight points or fewer — the highest figure since at least 1994.
The Chiefs clearly have a stronger roster than Chicago. The Bears are in disarray. But chaos also can be a galvanizing force. Let the bettor beware.
Here’s what else to watch Sunday:
CHIEFS SPOTLIGHT: GEORGE KARLAFTIS
Karlaftis started turning the corner in the second half of last season, his rookie year, and the evolution continues.
Karlaftis was credited with 1 1/2 sacks against the Jaguars last week. He’s part of a defense that’s off to a fast start, surrendering just two touchdowns in two games.
“We’ve had a couple of good games and we’re off to a good start,” he said, ”but consistency is the truest measure of a good defense.”
It didn’t hurt to have Chris Jones back in the lineup last weekend. Jones had missed the Chiefs opening game while holding out; like Karlaftis, Jones recorded 1 1/2 sacks against Jacksonville.
“When you have a guy like that come back, his impact was evident the whole game,” Karlaftis said. “Just to have a guy like that play next to you, it helps me a lot.”
BEARS SPOTLIGHT: KHALIL HERBERT
Running back Khalil Herbert spent his first four college seasons at Kansas and once rushed for 291 yards in a single game. He finished his career with one season at Virginia Tech before being selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s been an effective back as a pro, averaging 4.9 yards per attempt in two-plus seasons. This year, he shares the team’s rushing lead with Justin Fields (62 yards).
When the Chiefs defeated Jacksonville last weekend, Andy Reid recorded career victory No. 270, including playoff games. That matches Tom Landry for fourth place on the all-time NFL wins list, behind only Don Shula (347), Bill Belichick (329) and George Halas (324).
Reid won 140 games coaching the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999 to 2012 and owns 130 victories for the Chiefs over the past decade.
Maybe Reid, 65, coaches long enough to top the overall list. He’s in the midst of his greatest run, with 76 victories since 2018, when Patrick Mahomes became the Chiefs’ starting QB. Another five-year run like that would put him on the doorstep of Shula’s total. Or maybe Belichick, 71, remains active long enough to become the leader.
KEYS TO VICTORY FOR CHIEFS
Keep the Bears spiraling. Chicago’s losing streak, dating to last season, stands at 12, and they’re playing poorly on both sides of the ball this season.
The Bears’ defense ranks 31st in the league, their offense 23rd. Fields is coming off a rough game against Tampa Bay in which he threw two interceptions.
“I wasn’t necessarily playing my game,” Fields said. “Felt like I was kind of robotic and not playing like myself. My goal this week is just to say ‘eff it’ and go out there and play football how I know to play football.”
The Bears’ defensive line got pressure on Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield last weekend but didn’t record a sack. The Chiefs’ offensive line has dealt with penalty problems this season but hasn’t allowed a sack of Mahomes. Clean up the penalties and the Chiefs should have their best game of the season to date in terms of production.
A FLAG-FREE DAY FOR JAWAAN TAYLOR
The Chiefs’ $80 million left tackle collected five flags in Jacksonville last week and missed a couple of snaps while coaches tried to get him straightened out on the sideline.
“I know he’s a problem that needs to be fixed,” Taylor said of the penalties. “I’ve been working this week to clean it up.”