From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
The Kansas City Chiefs will set out to do what no other NFL team has done in almost 16 seasons — win back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
That’s the mission for the Chiefs, who are strong favorites to duplicate the Patriots’ feat from 2004 and ’05, with QB and Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes and his fleet of gifted receivers. Mahomes, who threw for 26 TDs and five interceptions last season despite missing two games because of a dislocated kneecap, signed a contract over the offseason that will pay him $503 million over the next 12 years to become the first half-a-billion-dollar athlete in U.S. sports history.
Kansas City returns 20 of 22 starters, but the biggest marks will be a revamped offensive line with two new guards, rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire leading the ground game with Damien Williams opting out because of COVID-19, and just a so-so defense that ranked 17th out of 32 teams in 2019.
Injuries and COVID are other factors that could derail a possible second straight championship.
The NFL kickoff starts Thursday, when the Chiefs play host to the Texans, and the rest of Week 1 follows Sunday and Monday. On Sunday night, the Rams host the Cowboys, and Monday’s doubleheader features the Steelers at the Giants and the Titans at the Broncos.
Super Bowl LV will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 7, 2021.
Here’s my divisional forecast (x-wild-card qualifier):
n AFC East — Bills, x-Patriots, Dolphins, Jets.
n AFC North — Ravens, x-Steelers, Browns, Bengals.
n AFC South — Texans, Colts, Titans, Jaguars.
n AFC West — Chiefs, x-Chargers, Broncos, Raiders.
n NFC East — Cowboys, x-Eagles, Giants, Washington.
n NFC North — Packers, Vikings, Bears, Lions.
n NFC South — Saints, x-Bucs, Falcons, Panthers.
n NFC West — 49ers, x-Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams.
n AFC Championship — Chiefs over Ravens.
n NFC Championship — Saints over Cowboys.
n Super Bowl LV at Tampa, Fla. — Chiefs over Saints.
n Possible disappointment(s) — Patriots, Vikings, Rams, Seahawks.
n Possible surprise(s) — Cardinals, Lions, Chargers, Dolphins.
n Regular season Offensive MVP — Mahomes, Chiefs.
n Regular season Defensive MVP — Khalil Mack, Bears.
n Rookie of the Year — Joe Burrow, Bengals.
n Coach of the Year — Matt LaFleur, Packers.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org