The Kansas City Chiefs have owned the AFC West for six straight seasons but their reign could be nearing its end. Every other team in the division added star players while the Chiefs gave up two in Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu. Much of the media coverage has surrounded the loss of Hill. He’s one of the most dynamic players in the NFL and was a huge part of the Chiefs’ success.
However, the loss of Mathieu might be a bigger deal than people realize. He was the heart of the defense and was named an All-Pro twice during his time. Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller has battled Mathieu many times in his career and he has no idea how the Chiefs are going to replace his impact.
“I feel like it’s just the dog nature,” Waller said on Chris Long’s “Green Light” podcast. “That dude is like a lion out there, you know? There’s not many people who can replicate that level of raising everybody’s intensity level and energy level and just a collective confidence. So I wonder who’s going to be that for them now, because there’s few people — if any — who can do it the way that he does. And I feel like he gave them identity.
“Especially when, I feel like they struggled during the season, but then when it came time during the playoffs, they were just able to flip a switch almost. And I knew who had to have been leading them on the front lines of that mindset and that mental shift. So, we’ll see how that works for them.”
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Is Losing Mathieu That Big of a Deal?
The Chiefs quickly moved on from Mathieu in favor of Justin Reid in free agency. Reid is a very good safety who is five years younger than Mathieu so it makes sense on a surface level. That said, Reid definitely can’t replace the leadership and fire that Mathieu brought to the team.
He has as much swagger and passion as any player in the NFL. That’s not easy to replace. It may end up being the right move in hindsight but it could also deflate a Chiefs defense that has been widely inconsistent over the past few years.
Are Chiefs Still AFC West Favorites?
Until a team can prove otherwise, the Chiefs will likely continue to be the favorites in the AFC West. They still have quarterback Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid. As long as those two remain with the organization, they’re going to be tough to beat.
However, there’s a good chance they may have been surpassed by the other teams in the AFC West. The Raiders added Davante Adams and Chandler Jones while also hiring Josh McDaniels as head coach. The Los Angeles Chargers added Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. The Denver Broncos traded for quarterback Russell Wilson. All three teams should make leaps in 2022 while the Chiefs look worse on paper.