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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2024 Opponent Preview: Kansas City Chiefs, Week 9

The Chiefs became the first back-to-back NFL champions in two decades in 2023 and will try to achieve the first-ever three-peat with mostly the same cast around Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are wrapping up their offseason-capping minicamp on Thursday, after which it's vacation time for the players and coaches, and well deserved. After about six weeks off, those men will reconvene at the AdventHealth Training Center to get the 2024 season rolling. As we wait for the return of Bucs football, we're taking a look at each team Tampa Bay is going to face during the regular season. From how those teams fared last year, to what they've done with the roster since, to some as-yet-unanswered questions – we want to get a better feel for what the Bucs will be up against this fall. Today's focus is on the only team that reached its ultimate goal in 2024: the Super Bowl LVIII-winning Kansas City Chiefs.

2023 Results

The Chiefs went all the way in 2023, becoming the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004. It was third title in the past five seasons for the Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs, and the fourth time in that span they made the Super Bowl. (Bucs fans fondly remember the one Super Bowl in those four tries Kansas City didn't win.)

The Chiefs weren't quite as dominant during much of the regular season as the end result would suggest, though they did win their eighth straight AFC West crown. The team's 11-6 record actually represented its lowest win total since 2017, which was the last season that didn't feature Mahomes as the starting quarterback. Still, the Chiefs started out hot and finished strong, rendering a 3-5 stretch from October to December moot.

Kansas City actually lost in the NFL's annual Kickoff Game, dropping an entertaining 21-20 decision to the upstart Detroit Lions when David Montgomery ran for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. After that, the Chiefs ripped off six straight wins, including a 41-10 demolition of the Chicago Bears in Week Three. Mahomes threw three touchdown passes and no picks against the Bears and both Isaiah Pacheco and Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for scores. Kansas City also manhandled the division rival Chargers in Week Six, 31-17, behind four Mahomes touchdown tosses and interceptions by Bryan Cook and L'Jarius Sneed.

The aforementioned lull began with a shocking 24-9 loss at Denver, snapping Kansas City's 16-game winning streak in that head-to-head series. The Chiefs committed five turnovers in that contest and gained only 274 yards of offense. After an impressive win over Miami the next week, followed by a bye, the Chiefs lost to the Eagles, 21-17 then rebounded with a two-touchdown win over the Raiders. The only back-to-back losses for the Chiefs in 2023 followed, beginning with a 21-17 defeat at Lambeau Field in which young Packers quarterback Jordan Love out-dueled Mahomes with three touchdown passes. The next week brought what some thought could be an AFC Championship Game Preview with the Buffalo Bills visiting Arrowhead Stadium. However, neither Mahomes nor Josh Allen had a particularly strong outing and the Bills won on a Tyler Bass field goal, 20-17, in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs won three of their last four to lock up the West but ended up as the third seed in the conference playoffs due to that head-to-head loss to Buffalo. The highlight of that final stretch, such as it was, was a 25-17 downing of the Cincinnati Bengals in which the Chiefs came back from a 10-point deficit on six straight Harrison Butker field goals.

The Chiefs started the playoffs at home and had a distinct atmospheric advantage over the visiting Miami Dolphins, as the wind chill temperature at kickoff was -27. Rashee Rice still caught eight passes for 130 yards and a touchdown and the Chiefs outgained the Dolphins, 409 yards to 264, in a 26-7 decision. The Chiefs and Bills did, in fact, then meet in the playoffs, though not in the conference championship game and not in Kansas City. Like most Chiefs-Bills games of the past half-dozen years, it was a classic, with Travis Kelce finding the end zone twice and Pacheco winning it in the fourth quarter with a four-yard touchdown run for a 27-24 final score.

The Chiefs had to hit the road again for the AFC Championship game, meeting NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in Baltimore. Defense reigned as Deon Bush picked off Jackson, who was also sacked four times and limited to "only" 54 rushing yards. Kansas City punched its ticket to the Super Bowl with a 17-10 win, then met San Francisco in another instant classic. Butker's 29-yard field goal at the end of regulation sent the game to overtime, and after San Francisco's opening drive ended in a field goal the Chiefs had a chance to win it with a touchdown. Mahomes directed a 13-play, 75-yard drive ending in a three-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman on the same play design that resulted in two touchdowns against Philadelphia in Super Bowl LVII.

Mahomes was selected to his sixth Pro Bowl in as many seasons as an NFL starter, as he threw for 4,183 yards and 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. Kelce was his favorite target, as the star tight end caught 93 passes, though he missed two games and failed to surpass 1,000 yards for the first time in eight years. Rice, the rookie second-rounder, gradually emerged as the top option among Chiefs wideouts and finished with 79 grabs for 938 yards and seven scores. Pacheco was the lead back, carrying 205 times for 935 yards and seven touchdowns for the Chiefs' ninth-ranked offense.

While Kansas City's offense wasn't as prolific as it had been in its three previous runs to the Super Bowl, the defense more than picked up the slack, finishing second in the league in both yards and points allowed. Both defensive tackle Chris Jones and defensive end George Karlaftis recorded 10.5 sacks for a defense that generated 57 of them and led the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.

2024 Arrivals

After struggling to pinpoint reliable pass-catchers for Mahomes, and with the ascending Rice potentially missing games in 2024 due to legal troubles, the Chiefs made a point of allocating more resources to the receiver position this offseason. And the name of the game was speed. First, the team dipped into free agency to grab former Cardinal speedster Marquise Brown, whose best season so far was a 91-catch, 1,008-yard campaign for the Ravens in 2021. Then Kansas City doubled down in the draft, trading up four spots in the first round to nab Texas wideout Xavier Worthy, who set a Scouting Combine record with a 4.21-second 40-yard dash. The Chiefs also fleshed out their tight end depth chart behind Kelce, signing the Bengals' Irv Smith in free agency and using a fourth-round draft pick on TCU's Jared Wiley.

The Chiefs used their second draft pick on BYU tackle Kingsley Suamataia, who could need a little time to develop but will probably end up as the team's starting left tackle at some point. With Donovan Smith no longer with the team, that spot is currently occupied by 2023 third-round pick Wanya Morris. Later in the draft the team added interior O-Line depth with Penn State center Hunter Nourzad and Holy Cross guard C.J. Hanson. The Chiefs also brought in a new primary backup quarterback to Mahomes in the well-traveled Carson Wentz, most recently of the Rams.

Kansas City did little their defensive depth chart, focusing on retaining some of their own key players (or trading them in one case). The third day of the draft brought some depth for the secondary in fourth-round safety Jaden Hicks of Washington State and sixth-round cornerback Kamal Hadden of Tennessee.

The Chiefs also made a significant change on special teams, signing free agent punter Matt Araiza, who was originally a sixth-round draft pick by the Bills in 2022. Araiza was cut by Buffalo four months after the draft due to charges of sexual assault, which have since been dropped.

2024 Departures

The Chiefs' relatively quiet dive into free agency was balanced by an equally low level of defections. The most significant departure came via trade, as the team first put the franchise tag on star cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, then traded him to the Titans for, essentially, a 2025 third-round pick.

Kansas City also cut wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling in late February, after which he signed with the Bills. Two months later, after the draft, the Chiefs also released running back La'Mical Perine, who went on to land in Pittsburgh.

Guard Nick Allegretti signed a three-year deal with Washington in free agency; while Allegretti was mainly a backup in Kansas City he did start 13 games over five years. Tommy Townsend, the Chiefs' punter for the last four seasons, took a two-year deal to sign with the Texans.

Other free agent departures for Kansas City included linebacker Willie Gay (Saints), safety Mike Edwards (Bills) and tight end Jody Fortson (Dolphins).

Other Noteworthy Developments

As noted above, top wideout Rashee Rice may be unavailable for some of the upcoming season after he caused a six-vehicle accident while drag racing in Dallas that left seven people with injuries. Rice could face a suspension from the NFL.

Though the Chiefs traded Sneed, they were able to retain their biggest defensive star, signing defensive tackle Chris Jones to a five-year deal that makes him the highest paid player in the NFL at his position. That contract was finalized before free agency, allowing the Chiefs to use their franchise tag on Sneed. The Chiefs also re-signed four other members of their defensive line, most notably Michael Danna, who got a three-year, $24 million deal. Danna has 17.0 sacks over the past four seasons, including 6.5 last year. Also returning to that group are Tershawn Wharton, Derrick Nnadi and Mike Pennel.

In April, the Chiefs and Kelce agreed to a new two-year contract extension that gives him the top average annual salary for a tight end in the NFL.

Other potential free agents who signed back with the Chiefs included Edwards-Helaire, Bush, and linebackers Jack Cochrane and Cole Christiansen. However, the team has to date not re-signed Hardman, Smith or former backup QB Blaine Gabbert.

The Chiefs were able to retain all of their coordinators under Reid but did see Outside Linebackers Coach Ken Flajole retire. Rod Wilson, formerly a defensive assistant, was promoted to that role. Reid also added former Ohio State assistant Louie Addazio to his staff as a defensive quality control coach.

Pressing Questions

Will the Chiefs find the right combination at their two tackle spots to provide Patrick Mahomes with adequate protection?

The Chiefs have a very talented roster, obviously, and after adding several key pieces to the receiving corps have very few questions on the depth chart. Apart from the availability of Rice, the biggest remaining question is who will protect Mahomes' blind side.

Kansas City has one of the best interior-line trios in the NFL with center Creed Humphrey and guards Joe Thuney and Trey Smith. However, the offensive tackle positions have been a significant concern dating all the way back to the Chiefs' loss to the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. Last year, the team swapped out both tackle spots, first signing former Jaguar Jawaan Taylor and then adding Smith after he was released by Tampa Bay. Taylor was thought to be ticketed for a switch to left tackle when he was signed but was then slotted in his usual spot on the right side after the addition of Smith. Taylor remains on the roster but Smith is currently an unsigned free agent.

Assuming the Chiefs do not bring Smith back at some point, the two leading candidates for left tackle, as noted above are Morris and Suamataia, a pair of Day Two picks from the past two drafts. Morris did log four starts near the end of his rookie season, and while he struggled mightily in a Week 16 loss to the Raiders he mostly held his own. Suamataia was the 11th offensive tackle selected in a loaded class at that position in April, going 63rd overall after the Chiefs traded up one spot near the end of the second round. The BYU product is huge and nimble on his feet but is considered a bit of a project and may not be ready to start in Week One.

If neither Morris nor Suamataia grabs the starting job with authority, the Chiefs could once again consider moving Taylor to the left side. Taylor's performance in his first season in Kansas City was most notable for the league-leading number of penalties he incurred. And, as noted, the Chiefs could still bring back Smith.

Will a studied commitment to continuity be the key in the Chiefs making NFL history?

The Chiefs have admirable stability in their leadership, with Reid still flanked by coordinators Matt Nagy (offense), Steve Spagnuolo (defense) and Dave Toub (special teams). And, of course, they have Mahomes under contract through the 2031 season and will surely strive to make him a Chief for life. That group alone would be enough to make any team a contender, but the Chiefs have also locked down a top-notch interior line, a star safety in Kelce and almost every starter on last year's second-ranked defense.

That stability was a hallmark of the 2023 Chiefs, who became the first back-to-back NFL champions in two decades. Will that be enough to keep them on the top of the NFL hill in 2024? If so, Kansas City could become the first team ever to win three Super Bowls in a row. With three Lombardi Trophies earned in the last five years, the Chiefs have wrung about as much as they could out of the duo of Reid and Mahomes. If they can get the three-peat, that would cement the team as one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history.

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