Kansas City Chiefs 2019 season preview: More Patrick Mahomes magic to come

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The Kansas City Chiefs are ranked No. 1 in ESPN's preseason Football Power Index. Here's everything you need to know about the Chiefs heading into the 2019 NFL season:

The big question: Has the defense improved?

The Chiefs did as close to a complete overhaul of their defense as possible in one year, but nobody is quite sure how it will go. The Chiefs saw some encouraging signs in training camp, most notably the play of end Frank Clark, who was acquired in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, and safety Juan Thornhill, a second-round draft pick. But the Chiefs still need to prove they've improved on defense. -- Adam Teicher

Offseason in a nutshell

The Chiefs turned over their defensive coaching staff, installed a new system and acquired as many as seven new regulars who could play a significant role this season. That's a lot of new. It's not a surprise given how the defense let the Chiefs down repeatedly last season, including in overtime of the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. So the Chiefs brought in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and four new defensive assistants, switched to a 4-3 base defense and shelled out big money for safety Tyrann Mathieu, defensive end Clark and others. -- Teicher

Inside the Chiefs schedule

Most important game: The Chiefs play the Patriots in New England in Week 14, a game that could determine home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Beyond that, the Chiefs could use a victory over the three-time defending AFC champions. The Chiefs lost to the Patriots twice last season, both times in walk-off fashion after a New England score. A December win over the Patriots would mean more than just a boost with regard to a tiebreaker in the standings.

Toughest stretch: A three-game run in October should prove to be a minefield for the Chiefs. They start in Week 6 with what promises to be a physical game against the Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. What follows is a short week and a Thursday night game against the Broncos in Denver. The Chiefs have lost their past three short-week Thursday night road games and four of their past five overall. The stretch finishes with a Sunday night game against the Packers at Arrowhead. The Chiefs need to emerge with at least two wins in the three games.

Over or under 10.4 wins? Over. The Chiefs have a difficult schedule but played a tough slate last season and won 12 games. That was with one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The Chiefs won't be dominant defensively this year, but they will be improved to the point they won't lose games in which the offense scores 40 and 51 points, as happened in 2018. The Chiefs are good enough to get to 11 wins and perhaps more. -- Teicher

Schedule ranking: No. 12

Kansas City opens with three of four games on the road, but their only other set of consecutive games away from home includes the Mexico City game against the Chargers in Week 11 -- you know, assuming they can actually play on the field this time. Kansas City's schedule gets much harder in the second half of the season and the Chiefs end with all three of their divisional home games in the month of December along with trips to the Patriots and Bears. That Patriots game, compared to the Chargers getting the Dolphins, could end up making the difference in the AFC West. -- Football Outsiders | See the full 1-32 ranking

Breakout fantasy star: WR Mecole Hardman

The Chiefs selected Hardman in the second round of April's draft, and the Georgia product immediately drew comparisons to teammate Tyreek Hill. Hardman is small (5-foot-10, 187 pounds), but fast (4.33 40-yard dash), tough (17 bench reps) and explosive (8.7 yards after catch in 2018). If he can overcome drop and fumble woes, Hardman could quickly emerge as the No. 3 wide receiver in the Chiefs' elite, Patrick Mahomes-led offense. -- Mike Clay | More fantasy coverage

The view from Vegas

Super Bowl odds: 6-1 (opened 6-1)
Over/under: 10.5 (O -130/U +110)
Playoff odds: Yes -350, No +285

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook as of Sept. 2.

Most interesting player prop

Over/under 37.5 passing touchdowns for Mahomes:

  • Teicher: Over. Mahomes has too many strong receiving threats to think his numbers will take a big tumble from 2018, when he threw 50 TD passes.

Bold prediction: Chiefs will score more than last year

Last season, the Chiefs led the NFL with 565 points. Not only is Mahomes a veteran relative to where he was at this point last season, but the Chiefs have added to their strong collection of skill players with a pair of rookies in Hardman and running back Darwin Thompson. Both players used their considerable speed to score a touchdown in the preseason. Neither figures to be a regular, but the Chiefs will find ways to put their skills to use. The Chiefs, with Hill and Sammy Watkins, were already a fast offensive team, but this year they can double down on that. -- Teicher

Where the Chiefs landed in NFLRank

Speed reads before the opener