Over the past several weeks, my colleagues here at CBSSports.com have been working on a series of stories detailing the reasons specific teams will emerge as Super Bowl LV champions. 

Bryan DeArdo made the case for last season’s runner-up, the 49ers. Jordan Dajani laid out the blueprint for the Ravens, who finished last season with the best record in football. Ryan Wilson set the path for the Buccaneers, who added the best quarterback of all time this offseason. Tyler Sullivan went in the other direction, detailing how Bill Belichick and the Patriots would capture another Lombardi Trophy. Jeff Kerr made arguments for both the Seahawks and the Eagles, Patrik Walker put forward the case for the Cowboys, and Cody Benjamin hyped up the Saints.

I say this with all due respect: they’re all wrong. The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs are winning their second consecutive title. Here’s why.

They have Patrick Mahomes

This man has played two full NFL seasons, and he has an MVP and a Super Bowl MVP. 

He has completed 66 percent of his passes at an average of 8.6 yards per attempt, with 76 touchdowns and only 17 interceptions. He has taken a sack on only 4 percent of his drop backs, while throwing a touchdown on 7 percent of them. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, Mahomes ranks second in career touchdown rate, third in interception rate, and seventh in sack rate among the 299 players who have attempted at least 500 passes. He ranks first in passer rating by a mile. 

He is the best player in football, capable of things nobody else in the NFL can do. He can make every throw that exists and some that don’t exist until the moment he conjures them out of thin air. Imagine picking somebody other than this guy to win the Super Bowl. Couldn’t be me. 

They have Andy Reid

In addition to having the best player in football, the Chiefs also benefit from having one of its best coaches. Reid’s schemes have long been able to elevate players, and particularly quarterbacks. As we wrote in our story on what teams can learn from the Chiefs and 49ers: 

Patrick Mahomes threw only 12.2 percent of his passes this season into tight coverage, the third-lowest rate among 39 qualifying quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo threw just 15.3 percent of his passes into tight coverage, ranking 15th-lowest among that same group. Meanwhile, only 8.11 percent of Damien Williams’ carries came against eight-plus men in the box, the fourth-lowest rate among 48 qualifying backs. The same was true of only 10.89 percent of LeSean McCoy’s carries, which was the sixth-lowest rate among that same group of players. 

Scheming Mahomes into easy throws is almost unfair, especially given the cadre of weapons he has at his disposal. (More on them in a minute.) But spreading the field with multiple pass-catching threats also allows the team’s running backs more room to roam between the tackles than other backs in the league are afforded. 

Reid also just pursues optimal strategies far more often than other coaches. As we wrote ahead of their Super Bowl victory: 

The best NFL offenses convert on third down by avoiding third down in the first place, and how they choose to approach that challenge when the result is up in the air tells you a lot about what they want their identity to be. This season, no NFL team called for a pass in those situations more often than the Kansas City Chiefs, who did so 65 percent of the time on first or second down in the first three quarters of a game that was within two scores at the time. That 65 percent pass rate was not just the highest in the NFL this year, but the highest of any team in the past four years.  

That 65 percent pass rate was 7 percentage points higher than that of the next-closest team, per Sharp Football Stats, and Kansas City’s 55 percent success rate on those pass plays was tied with the Cowboys for second-best in the NFL behind only the Saints. With Mahomes still under center, there is no reason to expect the Chiefs to suddenly backslide from their pass-heavy ways, which means they should remain among the best teams in the league at avoiding third downs, which is the key to extending drives. 

They have Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire

As if having the best quarterback and arguably the best offensive mind in the league on their side weren’t enough, Mahomes and Reid also have an embarrassment of riches to work with at the offensive skill positions. 

Kelce is arguably the best tight end in the league, and he’s almost certainly the most consistent. Hill is absolutely the most explosive receiver in football, and his chemistry with Mahomes is marvelous. Nobody would ever refer to Watkins as a model of consistency, but he’s capable of completely taking over a game, as he did in Week 1 of last season, or contributing huge plays, as he did during the Super Bowl run. Hardman is a 70-yard touchdown waiting to happen every time he steps on the field. And Edwards-Helaire is the perfect fit for this offseason, the best pass-catching back in the draft dropped into the best passing offense in football. 

If there’s anyone who really thinks they have an answer for all of these guys, I would love to know what it is. 

They have defensive continuity

The Chiefs will return 10 of the 11 starters from last year’s Super Bowl: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Frank Clark, Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Charvarius Ward, Daniel Sorenson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Bashaud Breeland. Breeland will miss the first four weeks of the year, but Rashad Fenton, who emerged as a quality contributor last season, is back, and Juan Thornhill should return from his ACL tear. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is also back, as are Alex Okafor and Khalen Saunders. 

In all, 16 of the 23 players who were on the field for at least 100 defensive snaps last season are back in the fold, and those 16 players accounted for 85 percent of those defensive snaps. Considering this is a team that only needs its defense to approach league average in order to find success at the highest level, that’s a really good sign.


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