Mahomes takes over in star-studded Chiefs offense

But Kansas City Chiefs defense will have many new faces

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2018 win total: 8.5

2017 ATS record: 10-6

Optimist view

They added WR Sammy Watkins to a skill-position crew that already included 1,000-yard producers RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce, so 2017 first-round QB Patrick Mahomes will have a full arsenal of weapons as he takes over from Alex Smith. Watkins has never averaged less than 15.1 yards per catch in any of his previous four seasons and scored eight touchdowns last year on just 39 catches.

The defense, which was awful last season, should get a huge boost from the return of Pro Bowl S Eric Berry, who suffered a season-ending Achilles’ injury in Week One last year. The Chiefs dumped divisive but talented CB Marcus Peters, but they acquired starting-caliber CBs David Amerson and Kendall Fuller, so they could be better and deeper.

Pessimist view:

It’s possible the Chiefs jumped the gun by giving Mahomes the keys to the family car after just one game as a rookie, and the decision to move on from Smith after a career year, in which he led the NFL with a 104.7 passer rating, could come back to haunt them if Mahomes struggles.

The only thing the Chiefs’ defense did well last year was intercept passes, but they decided they’d be better off without Peters, who picked off 19 passes in his first three seasons, including five last year. More than half of the defensive starters could be new this season, and there don’t appear to be any difference-makers to step up where departed LBs Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson excelled for so long before succumbing to age.

On schedule:

The early portion is a killer with three of the first four games and four of the first six on the road. That includes trips to play the Chargers (9-7 last year), the Steelers (13-3), the Broncos (5-11) and the Patriots (13-3). After a late bye in Week 12, three of the final four are at home, against the Ravens (9-7), Chargers and Raiders (6-10), who they play twice in the final five weeks. Having five games in prime time, four of them against teams that had winning records in 2017, is hardly an advantage.

Prediction: Under.

It’s unrealistic to believe that Mahomes, as talented as he is, will not struggle, even though he’s surrounded by a bevy of playmakers, and the interior of the offensive line has health and depth concerns. RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif missed five games last year, C Mitch Morse missed nine and the LG position is expected to be an open competition. Versatile Zach Fulton started 46 games over the previous four seasons at four different positions but left for the Texans in free agency.

The secondary should be solid with Berry back, but the front seven lacks a proven pass rusher aside from OLB Justin Houston, who had 9.5 sacks last season, and the run defense doesn’t appear appreciably better after finishing 25th last year in yards allowed.

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