If you did one of those pro and con lists for the Chiefs right now, the side with the positives would be longer by several magnitudes.
They won their fifth straight game, this time 22-9 over the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football.
They are a significant statistical favorite to win a sixth consecutive AFC West championship.
Their defense is on a five-week heater now, this week highlighted by Dan Sorensen’s pick-6.
Their offensive line overhaul has been a clear success, giving Patrick Mahomes the best protection he’s had as a pro and the run game consistent chances for success.
Melvin Ingram appears to be the rare midseason pickup to make a huge difference, injecting the pass rush with some much-needed juice.
We could go on.
So why does this season still feel … vulnerable?
Because the offense is still locked, and the mojo around this team — around it, not necessarily within it — has risen and dipped with the offense ever since Mahomes became QB1.
And this is now six of the last seven games in which the offense has underwhelmed.
Before we get too much deeper on this, we should acknowledge that the wind was a menace toward any airborne football. You could see that on every kickoff and field-goal attempt, and at times it appeared Mahomes was turning up the velocity to diminish the wind’s effect. At various points, the uprights were visibly shaking.
But doesn’t that sound at least a little bit like the latest iteration of one-off explanations?
We’ve wondered about Mahomes’ adjustment to a new line; balancing more responsibilities in his life; whether he’s still pressing mentally after the Super Bowl loss; and we’ve pretended that Cover-2 is not only a magical strategy of defense, but one the Chiefs never saw before this season.
The Broncos aren’t a good team, but they do have a good defense. This is the type and caliber of defense the Chiefs could face in the playoffs, except in the playoffs the team with this level of defense is going to have enough offense to make sure Mahomes needs to score more than 16 points.
We saw some familiar problems against the Broncos. The Chiefs were good early, then flat. They got in their own way throughout, not just with penalties but inaccurate throws by Mahomes and at least five drops. One went off Tyreek Hill’s hands to become at least the sixth pass from Mahomes this season that hit a receiver before being intercepted.
This is beyond bizarre. This should be the league’s best offense — it has been the league’s best offense — but they have these consistent bursts when it looks like amateur hour.
The drops would suggest a dip in focus, and Mahomes’ spotty decisions and accuracy might point to an inability to lift the broader operation.
We know those brilliant moments are still here. We saw them in Las Vegas. We know what this group is capable of.
They have five games remaining, including two against teams currently in the AFC playoff picture and none against teams that currently have losing records.
This group has tended to be at its best late, and when its best is required. “Late” is here, and this is the part of the schedule where they’ll need to meet the moment to build a Super Bowl push.
Or, perhaps, this is the part of the schedule where we’ll find out if any of that is realistic.