In his first year as the starting quarterback in Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes made it look easy. Mahomes, through no fault of his own, might find this season’s sequel to be much more difficult.
When the Westgate SuperBook posted NFL regularseason win totals on Sunday, it was no surprise the Patriots topped the list at 11. The rest of last season’s final four — Chiefs, Rams and Saints — each were tagged with a total of 10½.
Mahomes was voted MVP after leading the league with 50 touchdown passes and ranking second with 5,097 yards. He was a penalty flag and a coin flip from beating Tom Brady and leading the Chiefs to the Super Bowl. But the next step on Kansas City’s obstacle course presents more challenges.
Mahomes’ fastest and favorite target, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, has been suspended from teamrelated activities while a domestic violence case is investigated, and oddsmakers are counting Hill out for at least half of the 2019 season.
“We figure Hill will miss at least eight games, if not the whole year,” said Westgate vice president of risk management Ed Salmons, who made a half-win adjustment on the Chiefs because of Hill’s status.
Still, SuperBook director John Murray said he’s so enamored with Mahomes that he remains unfazed by the troubling news surrounding Hill.
“To me, Kansas City is still the best team in the NFL even without Tyreek Hill,” Murray said. “There’s no doubt that could be a big loss for the Chiefs because he’s so explosive in the passing game. Mahomes is just such a terrific player. I actually think the Chiefs are going to be fine.”
Hill blazed his way to 1,479 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns to rank fourth in the league in both categories last season. The Kansas City offense took a hit in November when the team released running back Kareem Hunt as fallout from a domestic violence issue.
A first-place schedule is another obstacle for the Chiefs, who finished 12-4 to win the AFC West. Based on opponents’ 2018 win percentage, Kansas City will face the fifthtoughest schedule in the league, including a total of seven games against six teams that made the playoffs.
Betting lines inspire differences in opinion, but Michael Lombardi said a win total of 10½ is “the perfect number” for the Chiefs.
“I think Hill’s gone for the year,” said Lombardi, a VSiN analyst and former NFL executive. “The Chiefs will get to 10, but I don’t know if they can get to 11 with that schedule.” The SuperBook’s win-total adjustment for Hill’s likely absence might seem minor, but nothing that happened in last week’s draft had as much of an impact on any team’s total.
Few rookie quarterbacks make a major difference in the NFL. Mahomes, the 10th overall pick in 2017, stood on the sideline for most of his rookie year. Three quarterbacks were selected in last week’s first round — Kyler Murray (Cardinals), Daniel Jones (Giants) and Dwayne Haskins (Redskins) — and oddsmakers anticipate immediate greatness from none of them.
Arizona and Miami share the league’s lowest win total at 5. The Cardinals, who drafted Murray No. 1 overall, are priced slightly higher than the Dolphins, who acquired quarterback Josh Rosen, the 10th pick in 2018, in a trade with Arizona.
Eleven teams in the NFL won 10 or more games last season. The Rams and Saints tied for the best record at 13-3. The Patriots’ 11-5 record was their worst since 2009. The top three teams in point differential were the Saints ( 151), Chiefs ( 144) and Rams ( 143).
Based on the 2018 standings, New England (fiveway tie for 27th) and Washington (32nd) face the league’s easiest schedules this season. The Redskins’ win total of 6½ is higher than only the Giants (6) in the NFC East.
Oakland faces the toughest schedule based on the same 2018 formula. The Raiders, 4-12 last season, will play seven games against teams that reached the playoffs. Jon Gruden’s team is tagged with a win total of 6, the lowest in the AFC West.
“The Chiefs are in a tough division,” Murray said. “One of the reasons the Patriots’ win total is always so high is their division is so weak.”