Fifteen AFC teams this season will be tasked with trying to buck a certain trend.
The New England Patriots will enter the 2019 campaign as three-time defending AFC champions. The streak nearly was halted back in January, but the Patriots managed to secure a thrilling overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game en route to their sixth Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
The team that narrowly fell to New England in that epic clash will be seeking revenge when the new season gets underway in September, and it’s primed for another strong campaign. In fact, ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick views the club as the Patriots’ biggest threat in the conference.
“There’s a couple that could get hot and catch New England on a bad day,” Riddick said on ESPN’s “NFL Live.” “Look, the AFC is gonna be tightly contested. I’m gonna stick with Kansas City only because they were basically an offsides penalty away from being the AFC representative in the Super Bowl anyway. Now there’s a lot that’s going on with this football team both from a distraction standpoint and from a schematic overhaul standpoint on the defensive side. But they have a coach who understands his football team better than anyone, they have a quarterback that in a short amount of time is really gonna be considered for the Hall of Fame as far as I’m concerned — that’s neither here nor there. They have some very, very, very good pieces to work with on the defensive side of the football. Can they get it all together? If they can, they’ll be right there in the AFC Championship again.”
It’s tough to imagine the Chiefs will be affected by any distractions. After all, Kansas City dealt with the Kareem Hunt situation in late November last season and still marched on to secure the top seed in the AFC playoffs. The franchise likely will be able to maintain a similar focus as the Tyreek Hill situation continues to unfold.
Arguably the Chiefs’ biggest task will be dealing with high expectations. They’re not going to surprise anyone around the league, and Patrick Mahomes has his work cut out for him in trying to replicate what he put together in his sensational MVP campaign. Not to mention, Kansas City — at least on paper — has one of the tougher 2019 schedules, as its opponents’ combined 2018 win percentage stands at .520, tied for the fifth-highest in the NFL.
The Chiefs have more than enough talent to make a run to the Super Bowl. But as it’s been proved countless times in the past, it takes far more than just personnel to play for the Lombardi Trophy.