Ever since Patrick Mahomes became the starting quarterback prior to the 2018 season, the Kansas City Chiefs have taken the NFL by the scruff of the neck.
Under Mahomes’ watch, the Chiefs have won 34 of a possible 44 games over the last two and a bit seasons, including last season’s Super Bowl.
A shock Week 5 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders gave this team a reality check, and the signing of free-agent running back Le’Veon Bell shortly after was a sign that this team plans on getting to the grandest stage of them all once again.
The Chiefs are ranked ninth in defence and first in offence, with many thinking that we haven’t even seen the best of them yet this season. They currently hold a 2.5 game lead in the AFC West and are just half a game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers for the top spot in the conference.
With the NFL changing their postseason seeding, only the top of the conference gets a Week 1 bye. The Chiefs are gunning for that, which would also give themselves home-field advantage up until the Super Bowl.
Looking ahead to the Chiefs’ last nine games of the season, only two come against teams with a record better than 0.500, meaning they should have the top spot in the AFC all but locked up.
So, right now if you are looking at how to bet on the Super Bowl or any game involving the Chiefs for that matter, you are probably going to see a lot of people putting their money on the defending champs.
But if you aren’t sold on Kansas City, our NFL experts have broken down the three toughest competitors from each conference that have the best chance to knock the Chiefs from their Super Bowl throne.
The Ravens, behind last season’s MVP Lamar Jackson, put themselves in the championship picture in 2019. They only lost two games all season and finished two games ahead of the Chiefs in the AFC standings.
Baltimore was unable to carry this success into the postseason, getting stunned by the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round and unable to face the Chiefs for the AFC crown.
Lamar Jackson, at just age 23, has started 28 regular-season games. In 25 games against teams other than Kansas City, Baltimore is 24-1. But in the three games against the Chiefs, the Ravens are 0-3.
An embarrassing Week 3 home loss to the Chiefs, the Ravens’ only so far this season, has highlighted the fact that Mahomes and Kansas City might just be Jackson and Baltimore’s kryptonite.
The Ravens are expected to win the AFC North and finish second in the conference behind the Chiefs, setting up a potential AFC championship match between the two. Will Jackson and the Ravens be able to overcome the team that clearly has the wood on them?
The only undefeated team left in the NFL is sitting one game ahead of the Chiefs in the AFC standings. Ben Roethlisberger has returned from injury and this Steelers team is back to their winning ways.
Pittsburgh have had a relatively easy schedule to date, only playing two teams with a winning record from their six games. Things will get a little bit more difficult for them, with five of their last ten games coming against such teams, including two match-ups with the Ravens.
Pittsburgh’s offence with Roethlisberger at the lead will always be explosive, but with this comes risk and turnovers, which was highlighted in their second half against the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers surrendered a 20-point lead, allowed the Titans to score 17 unanswered points and only a missed field goal saved Pittsburgh from going to overtime with all the momentum against them.
This team isn’t perfect but has a top-four defence and an experienced quarterback, two things that mean a lot when it comes to playing in the postseason. But is it enough to overcome Mahomes and the Chiefs on their quest for back to back Super Bowl rings?
The Chiefs’ opponent in last season’s AFC championship game. Tennessee surprised the NFL world when upsetting the New England Patriots in the wild-card round in what would be Tom Brady’s last game with the team. They then went on to defeat the league-leading Ravens to set up a tough fought match-up with the Chiefs.
Derrick ‘King’ Henry is the Titans’ star on offence, leading the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season and is leading both again through the first seven weeks so far.
After suffering their first loss last week, Tennessee are now aware of their flaws and are hungry to go further than they did last season, with savvy, hard-nosed coach Mike Vrabel having great expectations for this team.
The Titans have all of the pieces to challenge the Chiefs and with five of their last nine games coming against teams with winning records, have plenty of opportunities to fine-tune themselves in preparation.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The first of the NFC teams to pop up on the list of contenders. Led by Tom Brady, big wins over the Green Bay Packers and Las Vegas Raiders (the only team to defeat the Chiefs so far this season) have put the Bucs into favouritism for the NFC championship.
Tampa Bay has one of the best defences in the league, highlighted by their relentless attack on Aaron Rodgers in their Week 6 thumping of the Packers in which they had five sacks.
Not to mention they have the greatest quarterback of all time leading the way with one of the best offensive units at his disposal. Brady has the sixth-most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns, and the Bucs just added Antonio Brown, one of the best wide receivers in the game when he isn’t allowing off-field mishaps to impact him.
Tampa Bay has the easiest remaining schedule of NFC contenders and is primed to make a deep playoff push, being the most likely to come up against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, should they make it.
Brady has a 2-1 record against Mahomes and has a better offence and defence now than all three times they have previously met. And the Super Bowl is being played in Tampa Bay this season, another edge to the Bucs.
The Seahawks are on top of the NFC with a 5-1 record and Russell Wilson leading the way. Wilson is the current favourite for MVP and has had to do everything for this Seahawks line-up that is lucky to be where they are.
Injuries have kept starters out of the defensive unit that is allowing the most yards per game in the entire league. Opposing quarterbacks have been able to throw for monstrous yards against Seattle, highlighted in their first loss last weekend when second-year QB Kyler Murray threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns.
Wilson has minimal offensive help, even worse with the injuries that have occurred, but, despite Seattle already having their bye, has still managed to pace the league in touchdown passes while throwing for the sixth-most total yards.
Seattle started the season on fire, but have a difficult slate of games remaining. They are in the toughest division in the league, the NFC West, and still have five divisional games left to play.
Seattle is likely going to have to travel for at least one postseason game, potentially two and that might be their undoing. Unless they can get help for Wilson.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers has fully embraced second-year coach Matt LeFleur’s offensive system and has returned to some of his best football. Rodgers has thrown just two interceptions through six games so far, both of which were against the Bucs.
Outside of that game, Rodgers and this offence has looked close to unstoppable, scoring at least 30 points in their other five contests.
Green Bay have been plagued by injury so far, including losing star running back Aaron Jones for last week’s contest. With Jones back in the fold, Rodgers has another weapon at his disposal – one that will help this team go far in the postseason.
If Green Bay wants to make the Super Bowl and attempt to knock the Chiefs off, they will have to travel to Tampa Bay to play against the Bucs, a combo that already hasn’t worked well for them once this season.
Pick of the bunch
Kansas City has their work cut out for them. Assuming they finish on top of the AFC, which we think they will, their postseason could look like this:
Wild-card round – bye.
Divisional round – Pittsburgh Steelers or Buffalo Bills.
AFC championship – Baltimore Ravens or Tennessee Titans.
Super Bowl – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers or Seattle Seahawks.
That is an incredibly tough three-week stretch of postseason games, however, our pick of the bunch to knock off the defending champs is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady is in legacy mode, attempting to add as many rings as possible.
This Tampa Bay team gives him the offensive and defensive tools to be able to add another one this season. Also, if the Bucs make the Super Bowl, they will be playing in their home stadium.
No team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the New England Patriots did it in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, led by none other than Brady. It may seem like the perfect passing of the torch moment for Mahomes to be able to accomplish this feat against the man who last did it, but Brady isn’t that sort of guy.
Kansas City will have some tough postseason match-ups in the AFC and make it to back-to-back Super Bowls, but they will be undone by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.