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Can We Give the Chiefs Underdog Story a Rest, Please?


Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


The Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl champions. Big whoop.


And hey, I’m not a sore loser. They beat the Bengals. Fair and square might be a little strong, but still - they won. The Chiefs beat the Eagles too. Again, fair and square might not be the most appropriate term, but still - they won.


To be sure, it wasn’t an easy season for the Chiefs - even if they did finish with the best record in the AFC and tied for the best record in the NFL overall. As I’m sure you’re aware, they traded Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins in the offseason. It ended up not mattering. The Chiefs got enough production from their motley collection of receivers to field the NFL’s top offense, and enough draft capital in the Hill trade to replenish a depleted defense. They’re back on top.


But at no point, not even for a split-second, were the Chiefs ever, at any moment, underdogs. Let’s give that narrative a rest, okay Travis Kelce?


It’s bizarre, but a team that was almost universally considered to be preseason Super Bowl contenders, if not outright favorites, now appears to be relishing this invented underdog status. Sorry, no one’s buying it.


In fact, the only games in which the Chiefs weren’t outright favorites were their trip to Tampa Bay in Week 4 against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, their Week 6 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, and in the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s three times in twenty games. The Chiefs were no more an underdog than Genghis Khan was a humanitarian.


Don’t get me wrong: there were some Chiefs doubters out there. Some thought this was the year the Chiefs would loosen their stranglehold on the AFC West. Some nutjobs even thought the Chiefs had an outside chance at missing the playoffs. But no one seriously thought this team was about to fall off a cliff after Hill left the building. Let us not forget, losing Hill meant hello to free agent receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and additional first-, second-, and fourth-round draft picks that were promptly flipped into rookie contributors.


Let’s give credit where credit is due, though. The Chiefs found a way to win the Super Bowl in a year many expected them to take a step back. That’s not nothing. The Chiefs are here to stay, and that’s an unfortunate reality for the rest of the AFC. Andy Reid is still a high-level coach and one of the best offensive minds in the sport, Travis Kelce is still the best tight end in the game and an unrecoverable option in the middle of the field, and Patrick Mahomes is still Patrick Mahomes: a one-of-a-kind, superhero-type quarterback capable of needling a pinpoint pass through double-coverage on one play and heaving a sixty-yard bomb down the sideline on the next, with a couple left-handed shuffle-passes thrown in to boot.


The Chiefs were definitely undervalued heading into the season. But underdogs? Nah.


The 2021 Bengals were underdogs. They were pre-game favorites just nine times in twenty-one games, including both matchups against the Chiefs. “Flukey” was the word of the postseason up until the Bengals finally bowed out against the Rams in the Super Bowl - and after that the word of the offseason was “regression”. Now, compare that to the Chiefs, who not only won a Super Bowl three years ago, but have literally been to the AFC Championship Game five years running.


The Bills were the darlings of the offseason and that turned out to be a whiff. The Bengals were getting a lot of hype before the AFC Championship Game, and they fell short, too. The Eagles were thought to be the most dominant team in the NFL, and it didn’t matter. The Chiefs found a way to win (even if the refs gave them a little boost) and they deserve credit for that.


The Chiefs are back on top of the NFL, and it’s not surprising they’re relishing in their success. They earned this moment; let them have it. But next time you hear someone talk about the 2022 Chiefs underdog story, politely remind them that the Chiefs were underdogs in the same way that O.J. Simpson is a swell guy - they’re not.


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