Kickoff: Sunday, September 11th, 4:25 PM ET
Location: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Betting Odds: Chiefs -6, 53.5 total via PFF.com
Writer: Chris Sanzo (@Doombot12_FF on Twitter)
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes (Start, QB1)
Patrick Mahomes is the best QB in the NFL. The Cardinals have an average, at best, defense. This is just one of those times when things don’t need to be difficult. Last season, Mahomes was QB4. This is the same year that was considered a “down year” because of a lull they faced mid-season when in 6 games, Mahomes thrice failed to reach 210 yards. There may have been a game in the middle of that where he dropped 400 and 5 TDs on the Raiders, but when you’re Pat Mahomes, that’s just how slumps work. He’ll be a lock to start all season, outside his bye of course. Not even he is that good.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Start, RB2), Jerick McKinnon (Sit) Isiah Pacheco (Sit), Ronald Jones (Sit)
With the risk of sounding naive, I am hopeful for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I want to believe that he can stay on the field and demand a 60% share of the carries. Last season, CEH was RB28 by points per game at 11.8, just .3 behind Javonte Williams, an RB being drafted in the second round this season. Problem is, post-hype breakouts are difficult to trust. Most teams in the NFL have very little patience in terms of player development, especially at such a replaceable position as running back. Shockingly, by all accounts, he should get every chance to continue to prove himself and that will start against a middle-of-the-pack Cardinals run defense.
Jerick McKinnon is currently listed as the Chiefs RB2 on the unofficial depth chart and after the impressive postseason he had, leading the RB room in both rushing (150) and receiving (165) yards, he is sure to eat into CEH’s workload. It won’t be enough to make him relevant, but enough in the passing game to frustrate CEH managers. Ronald Jones seems to be the odd man out of the rotation and Isiah Pacheco has stepped in with an impressive camp. He’ll be someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Sit, Flex), Juju Smith-Schuster (Start, WR2), Skyy Moore (Sit), Mecole Hardman (Sit), Justin Watson (Sit), Travis Kelce (Start, TE1)
Travis Kelce is the consensus TE1 and for good reason. Though he may be a tight end, he is also the number one target for the Chiefs’ passing offense. Kelce has topped out at 139 targets, but if he can stay healthy all year, he’ll surpass 150 targets. If you paid up for Kelce, you also planned on playing him in every game that he played. This game is no different, enjoy the rewards. It will be a true testament to Mahomes’ greatness if he can get anything from Marquez Valdes-Scantling this year. MVS is not a natural route runner, can’t separate or win routes, and his hands are suspect. If he is game planned open or if Mahomes is feeling gutsy then maybe MVS and his sub-10th percentile success rates in both Man and Zone don’t get in the way, he could become a start-worthy player. As of right now, sit him and wait to see how the Chiefs offense flows.
In sharp contrast, Juju Smith-Schuster is the one WR that should give managers the warm and fuzzies early in the year. Juju is one of the better slot receivers in the league but he is somewhat limited elsewise. In this game, it should not matter. The Cardinals cannot cover the short to intermediary middle of the field despite the first-round draft capital they’ve freely spent on the linebacker position. This is a great matchup in which to start his tenure with the Chiefs. Skyy Moore has the ability to bounce around the formation and that may prove to be invaluable as most of these WRs struggle with man coverage. Only four WRs in the 2022 draft class received a grade above 80 against man coverage and maintained a YPRR (Yards per route run) above 3.0, Treylon Burks, Drake London, Wan’Dale Robinson, and Skyy Moore. He will eventually be a force for this team, but while he sits behind Juju on the depth chart you have to wait it out, sadly.
Kyler Murray (Start, QB1)
The drama Kyler Murray has surrounded himself with has clouded the reality that he is an incredible QB when he is healthy. He started both of the last two seasons with a shot at overall QB1 but injuries derailed those hopes in both years. While he finished 10th in overall scoring last season, he was 4th in PPG behind only Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Tom Brady. The Kansas City secondary, and defense as a whole, has been rebuilt and reinforced by a masterful draft. But counting on rookies in game one of a fresh season against one of the best offenses in football is a bit of a stretch. This game may start slow, but as each offense gains its footing this could become a 2nd half shootout, and Kyler ending the week as the overall QB1 is possible.
James Conner (Start, RB1), Eno Benjamin (Sit), Darrell Williams (Sit)
It’s not often that a team’s RB2 generates so much interest, but this has been a difficult room to predict with the addition of Darrell Williams and the sudden oncoming of incumbent backup Eno Benjamin. Until the Cardinals show us otherwise, both are currently sits. There will be room for that to improve if they have one of the pair control a 3rd down role, or at least designate a place in the passing game for either. James Conner has no such restriction and is a safe bet to dominate touches in week 1. With how versatile he proved to be last year after Chase Edmonds went down with an injury he could make both backs temporarily irrelevant. If Conner can remain near his 4.5 target average from the 2nd half of last season, he’s a potential top 5 play this week.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
DeAndre Hopkins (Sit), Marquise Brown (Start, WR1), A.J. Green (Sit, Flex), Rondale Moore (Start, Flex), Greg Dortch (sit), Zach Ertz (Sit), Trey McBride (Sit)
DeAndre Hopkins will be suspended for the first six games of the season for a failed PED test. The Cardinals were proactive on the matter and traded for WR Marquise Brown from Baltimore. There has also been a lot of talk from the coaching staff about getting Rondale Moore involved in the offense… more. They also drafted TE Trey McBride in the 2nd round to pair with an aging Zach Ertz. All said, there have been a lot of moving pieces for the Cardinals, and the Chiefs are one of the best possible opponents to start the season against. Both teams will be looking to establish their identities and see their pieces gel. It’s why, although A.J. Green is listed as a sit, if you have other fringe WRs you’re considering for deeper teams he would be the preferred start.
Ertz’s injury status has both his and McBride’s value suppressed for now. Should Ertz suit up without limitations, he would become a TE1 start. If he is unable to go, McBride becomes a TE2 but it’s more likely the targets are just absorbed by the entire group. Moore needs to show he can be used as a real wide receiver. A 1.2 aDOT on 64 targets is not going to get it done. If he can’t prove early that he can raise it over at least five while staying on the field, it will be time to scrap the Rondale Moore experience. Greg Dortch is a player to watch. This week would be quite the bold play, but if you have room at the end of your bench, he’s worth the stash. Marquise Brown is the simplest of the group. You will be starting him every week, including when Hopkins comes back because he will not have a reason to leave the field. He can play any receiver position but excels against zone, where he won’t get bullied by physical backs. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Rondale suppressed in his gimmick role if Brown takes over the slot.