Entering November, the Kansas City Chiefs looked to be the favorites to knock off the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC as bona fide title contenders.
After all, the Chiefs were a solid 5-2 after the first two months of the NFL season with wins over the Patriots and the NFC leading Philadelphia Eagles on their resume. With those wins and a dominant offense clicking with head coach Andy Reid at the controls, there was no reason not to view Kansas City as a team that could exorcise its playoff demons and make a long-awaited trip to the Super Bowl.
In fact, I proclaimed the Chiefs to be Super Bowl favorites on this very website early in the season when the KC hype was at an all-time high.
Now that we are in December, however, the narrative that surrounds the Chiefs is drastically different than when the NFL masses were singing the praises of a team that was running roughshod over the league.
The Chiefs have now lost four straight games, the most recent a 38-31 defeat against the Jets that marked rock-bottom on those decline — so far.
Kansas City’s defense put in its worst performance of the season in a game against an assortment of aging NFL castoffs such like Josh McCown, Jermaine Kearse, and Matt Forte.
Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters made matters worse by showing his obvious frustration on a day where the defense allowed 38 points by throwing a flag on the field into the stands of MetLife Stadium.
SOURCE: Marcus Peters did not agree with this penalty call pic.twitter.com/AWgbhSWpYF
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 3, 2017
Peters also reportedly left the field during the game before returning, but his performance in the second half on Sunday was disinterested at best.
Former NFL player and analyst Brian Baldinger accused Peters of quitting on his team on Sunday. Baldinger showcased a play from the loss to the Jets where Peters shows a clear lack of effort as evidence of the Chiefs current issues.
.@Chiefs: if you don't believe it can get a whole lot worse, I am here to tell you it can and it will. Only the players in that locker room can fix this team #BaldyBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/PrvKusJU5m
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 5, 2017
On Wednesday afternoon, the Chiefs agreed with the feeling that their cornerback quit on his team and decided to suspend Marcus Peters for Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders.
The move from head coach Andy Reid is a risky one and a tough decision to bench his most talented cornerback in what is now the biggest game of the year for his team.
Now at 6-6 and in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West with the Raiders, Reid and the Chiefs coaching staff are placing the importance of sending a message to their young cornerback over having one of their most talented defensive players on the field.
It is a risk that the Chiefs feel they need to make to get Peters back on track. But the move to suspend Peters speaks to the implosion of a team that had everything going for them at the midway point of the year.
The four straight bad losses have clearly gotten into the minds of the Chiefs and now there is a new controversy to deal with at the worst possible time. As suspending Peters for an important matchup against Michael Crabtree only increases the odds of the Chiefs continuing to struggle on defense.
With a loss to the Raiders, Reid would be put firmly on the hot seat after a fifth straight loss to complete the full collapse of their early division lead.
It is hard to fathom a world where Andy Reid could be fired after this season based on his regular season success. However, if things don’t turn around soon it is a possible scenario if the Chiefs are to throw away a 5-0 start to their season and miss the playoffs.
If Reid wants to right the ship, it will have to start with a drastically more inspired performance on Sunday at home against a Raiders team that is starting to pick up momentum.
Oakland holds a 3-1 record during the Chiefs four-game skid and has built confidence thanks to a weaker portion of their 2017 schedule. Wins over the lowly Dolphins, Broncos, and Giants combined with the collapse of their division rivals have allowed the Raiders back into the AFC West race.
It is an opportunity that the likes of Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Marshawn Lynch and company won’t want to see slip through their hands in a game that should be an old-fashioned AFC West grudge match. A game in which the Raiders suddenly hold a mental upper hand in despite a recent history of struggles at Arrowhead Stadium thanks to the suspension news.
Again, it will be a tough task for the Chiefs to knock off a team that is flying high with confidence and has already beaten them this season. Without their best cornerback and the distraction of a displeased Marcus Peters, expect the Chiefs implosion to burn for just a little longer in what could mark the end of the Reid era in Kansas City.