NFL Week 18: Biggest Takeaways, Saturday’s AFC Playoff Implications Doubleheader |  News, Scores, Highlights, Stats & Rumors

NFL Week 18: Biggest Takeaways, Saturday’s AFC Playoff Implications Doubleheader | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats & Rumors

NFL Week 18: Biggest Takeaways, Saturday’s AFC Playoff Implications Doubleheader |  News, Scores, Highlights, Stats & Rumors

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney (19) scores as Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Luke Masterson and cornerback Sidney Jones IV (31) defend during the first half of a Las Vegas football game NFL on Saturday, January 7, 2023 in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

AP Photo/John Locher

Kansas City Chiefs Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are post-modern versions of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Doubt them at your peril.

It was supposed to be the year the Los Angeles Chargers finally challenged the Chiefs for AFC West supremacy, the Las Vegas Raiders made enough investments to be counted among the best teams in the conference and the Denver Broncos have finally found their franchise quarterback after seven listless years since Peyton Manning’s retirement.

Fake. Fake. And spectacularly wrong.

Instead, the Chiefs continued their dominance by claiming their seventh straight division title, the No. 1 conference seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye with Saturday’s dominating 31-13 win. on the Raiders. The results meant more than a continuation of the status quo.

Kansas City doesn’t look quite like the same team that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in two of the previous three campaigns. Nonetheless, the Chiefs are improving with each passing week.

Mahomes is on track to win another MVP after a record-breaking performance. He did so despite the departure of three of his top four wide receivers after last season, including the game’s first deep threat in Tyreek Hill, who currently ranks second overall with 1,687 receiving yards.

Hill’s departure, in particular, forced Mahomes to broaden his game and become a more complete quarterback than he already was. The 2018 NFL Offensive Player of the Year has redefined the way everyone views the quarterback position. His ability to create and work outside the structure is now a requirement for those entering the league. Granted, Mahomes is at GOD level, but the importance of a playmaker behind the center is greater than ever.

However, the efficiency with which the 27-year-old signalman now operates makes him better as he distributes the ball to whoever is open instead of constantly looking for the big play.

“I know when to turn it off,” Mahomes told ESPN’s Louis Riddick after the game when discussing whether to shoot the field or just find the open receiver.

Due to the way the quarterback currently plays, the amount of weapons on Kansas City’s offense is staggering, with more still popping up. Kadarius Toney is the latest example.

A first-round disappointment with the New York Giants, Toney is now a chess piece for an offensive mastermind like Reid to use. 2021’s 20th Overall Pick is better when asked to create in space and after capture. He won’t be a dazzling road runner or a traditional wide receiver. He needs to have games designed just for him so he can shake things up. Chefs do just that.

As an example, the wide receiver carried the ball as many times (three) as he ran in Saturday’s first half performance, according to Pro Football Focus’ Nathan Jahnke. One of them resulted in a 11-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep.

Toney scored on the previous play when Reid dug deep into his bag of tricks and called a play with a rotating group called “Reindeer Staff, Arctic Circle, snow Ball“, quick lineout, quick snap and pass from the quarterback, despite being called up due to a holding penalty.

These plays will absolutely drive the opposing defensive coordinators the Chiefs face crazy, as they will have to prepare every time.

As such, the top-ranked Chiefs aren’t just Mahomes and All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. Now opponents have to consider guys like Toney, Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They are all capable of delivering grueling plays for the best offense in the game.

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