Oct 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) and quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) and tight end Jody Fortson (88) and running back Jerick McKinnon (1) celebrate in the end zone after Smith-Schuster s touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) have been consistent in an unpredictable NFL season. While most of the league has struggled to reach the end zone, the Chiefs have the league’s highest-scoring offense (31.9 points per game). They aren’t the best team right now. They might be by January. Bet against them at your own risk.

Kansas City may surpass the Buffalo Bills (6-1) for the top overall seed, and Patrick Mahomes may surpass Josh Allen in the NFL MVP race. That wouldn’t be surprising. The Chiefs had the second-highest AFC win total in the preseason odds, and Mahomes was second in the MVP odds. What is surprising is how the prolific offense has evolved without the most explosive player in the league — Tyreek Hill.

The brain trust of Mahomes, head coach Andy Reid, and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy faced a challenge. How do you replace the irreplaceable Hill? The Cheetah, the freakiest athlete in a league full of freaks, can bail an offense out in a blink. For salary reasons, Kansas City was forced to trade a player it didn’t want to part with. It was a shocking move, and Hill is enjoying a fantastic start with the Miami Dolphins, leading the league in catches (69) and receiving yards (961).

A drop-off from the Kansas City offense seemed inevitable. Well, that hasn’t happened. 

Yes, Travis Kelce is still there doing Travis Kelce things. No tight end has more catches (60), yards (553), or touchdowns (7) than him.

But check the rest of that roster. Look at those wide receivers. The trade of Hill left the Chiefs without a true No. 1. To compensate, they have cobbled together a unit out of a couple of No. 2 wide receivers (JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling), a No. 3 wide receiver (Mecole Hardman), and a rookie (Skyy Moore).

Coming into this year, none of those guys scared a defense. Smith-Schuster had one 1,000-yard season in his career, and he was helped by playing opposite Antonio Brown in 2018 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Valdes-Scantling was fast but occasionally frustrated Aaron Rodgers. Hardman had never fully capitalized on his raw skills. And Moore? It was asking a lot for a young player from Western Michigan to make an impact in his first year.

The Chiefs had to figure out their identity with a revamped unit. They have found a different way to be the same explosive offense. When they had Hill and Kelce, everyone knew where the ball was going. Defenses were just powerless to stop it. This version of the Kansas City offense is a lot less predictable. 

Mahomes no longer has to force the ball to satisfy Hill. He’s freer to throw to the open man. Defenses don’t know what to do. Will Smith-Schuster catch a pass in the slot? Will Valdes-Scantling go deep? Will Hardman score on a gadget play?

Everything came together beautifully in San Francisco. The Chiefs won 44-23, torching the Niners’ vaunted defense for 529 yards and averaging 9.1 yards per play. Most of the damage came after they fell behind 10-0. 

“To go out against defense like this and show that we can still be explosive and have those big plays, I think that will bode well for us as the season goes on, and people don’t know where it’s going to come from,” Mahomes said, according to the Associated Press. 

While other offenses that lost star receivers in the off-season have struggled (such as the Green Bay Packers without Davante Adams and the Dallas Cowboys without Amari Cooper), Kansas City is getting better.

They added another speedster by trading for former New York Giants first-rounder Kadarius Toney. It’s a flier with little risk and huge potential. Toney fell out of favor with New York due to his injuries. If he’s healthy, he could help take the Kansas City offense to another level.

The Chiefs aren’t missing Hill now. Let’s see if that’s still the case in January.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.