Several contenders were active around the 2023 NFL Trade Deadline. The Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Buffalo Bills all made moves to strengthen their rosters. — moves with the goal of dethroning the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
After a second championship in four seasons, the Chiefs have looked vulnerable at times, even though they are tied for the best record in the AFC. They would be alone atop the conference if not for playing like the football was greased in a 24-9 loss to the Denver Broncos and their worst defense in the NFL.
It is arguable that the Chiefs’ strongest unit in 2023 has been the defense. They are fourth in the NFL in total pressures, fifth in Defensive DVOA and have not surrendered even 25 points in a single game. However, the featured attraction for Chiefs — other than Travis Kelce’s luxury box — is the offense. Many times this season, that unit has looked disconcerted. The young wide receiver corps has shown speed, but limited playmaking. A slight upgrade in that position could have been the lift the Chiefs needed to be the NFL’s first repeat champions since 2003-04 New England Patriots.
As of Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST, the Chiefs let the trade deadline expire without making a move. That means Rashee Rice, Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Justin Watson, Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman will be relied upon to carry their share of the load in the passing game.
Even with Patrick Mahomes and Kelce, the offense has only broken 30 points twice this season. In 2022, the Chiefs led the NFL in points per game at 29.2. Their 2023 point totals might be cause for alarm at first glance, but closer look reveals that the offense is in prime position to repeat.
The Chiefs’ offense is currently fifth in Offensive DVOA. For all of the good they have gotten from their defense, the two units occupy the same spot in their respective rankings. That makes the Chiefs one of only two teams whose offensive and defensive are both top-rated in their respective DVOAs. The other is the Baltimore Ravens, and the Detroit Lions .
A look at advanced stats also shows the Chiefs sitting pretty. They are top five in yards per play, points per play, yards per drive and scoring percentage. The Chiefs are also fourth-best in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage.
While not lighting up the scoreboard the way that they did last year, or in 2018, the offense is still one of the best in the NFL. It is led by three future Hall of Famers in Kelce, Mahomes and Andy Reid. The youth in the backfield and receiving corps are making just enough plays to apply as much pressure on opposing defenses as any of the other top NFL offenses.
Dominance looks different on the Chiefs these days. There will not be as many 40-point totals this season, but they are still a feared unit. Sure, they could have pushed for an addition at the deadline to try to keep pace with the Eagles, 49ers and Bills.
Or, maybe those teams made those moves because they still were not confident that they had enough talent to outpace the defending champs.
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