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Chiefs defend throne with key characters in place

Jul 24, 2023; St. Joseph, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid talks with quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during training camp at Missouri Western State University. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs

2022 record: 14-3, first AFC West

Playoff picture: The defending Super Bowl-champion Chiefs have reached the AFC Championship game in five straight seasons with memorable meetings with the Bengals and Bills in recent years. The division favorites are also consistently challenged by the Los Angeles Chargers. Five of the past six games between them were decided by one score.

Biggest Week 1 question: The holdout of star defensive end Chris Jones hurts the defense if he doesn’t report before the Thursday night kickoff game with the Detroit Lions. The four-time Pro Bowler wants a huge payday after being one of the top defensive players (15.5 sacks) in the NFL last season. The Chiefs also start the season without Charles Omenihu, who was suspended six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

What’s new: Omenihu, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, was signed in the offseason. First-round draft pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah also could play a role up front. Kansas City has two new offensive tackles, spending big money for ex-Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor (four-year, $80 million) to play on the right side. Donovan Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) was signed to be the left tackle and protect star quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ blind side.

They’re gone: Left tackle Orlando Brown departed for the Cincinnati Bengals and fellow offensive lineman Andrew Wylie and pass rusher Frank Clark also are gone. Receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman relocated in free agency, but the Chiefs are high on second-round pick Rashee Rice.

On the money: Mahomes won MVP honors after a monster season that included 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns. Kansas City has reached the Super Bowl in three of his five seasons as a starter and the franchise has two rings to show for it. Mahomes starred in the playoffs despite a gimpy ankle. Tight end Travis Kelce will be looking for his eighth straight 1,000-yard season.

Get to know: Defensive end George Karlaftis had 6.0 sacks and seven pass breakups during a solid rookie season and he could approach double digits if Jones is around. Karlaftis has a keen ability to deflect passes and part of it stems from his time serving as the goalkeeper on the Greece under-16 national water polo team. Treading water and trying to deflect the ball at the same time went a long way in improving Karlaftis’ hand-eye coordination.

The 2022 first-round pick from Purdue also has been working on his pass-rushing technique with Chiefs legend Tamba Hali.

Vegas says: BetMGM has Kansas City in the favorite role (+600) to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

–Field Level Media