Patrick Mahomes injury: Can Kansas City Chiefs survive without MVP?

DENVER, COLORADO - OCTOBER 17: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs is escorted off the field after an injury in the first half against the Denver Broncos in the game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on October 17, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - OCTOBER 17: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs is escorted off the field after an injury in the first half against the Denver Broncos in the game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on October 17, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The Patrick Mahomes injury undeniably worsens the Kansas City Chiefs but can they survive without the reigning NFL MVP at quarterback?

Disaster seemingly struck the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football in Week 7. Yes, they were able to pick up a 30-6 win over an AFC West foe, the Denver Broncos. However, they lost quarterback and reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes to injury in the process.

Early in the second quarter with the Chiefs deep in Broncos territory, Andy Reid dialed up a quarterback sneak for Mahomes on fourth down. Mahomes got the first down but didn’t get up from the pile, pointing to his knee as the trainers rushed out to him. A graphic video of him being treated on the field seemed to show his kneecap being popped back into place.

Mahomes waived off the cart and limped off of the field and into the locker room with some limited help but was ruled out for the rest of the game almost immediately. The situation looked dire but things have been looking up in a relative sense after that.

As reported by NFL Network’s James Palmer, Mahomes suffered a dislocated kneecap but there was no break. That doesn’t mean the team and quarterback are out of the woods entirely as he will have an MRI on Friday to determine if there’s ligament damage. Having said that, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Mahomes will miss at least three weeks but the team is optimistic that he can fight through after that timetable.

For what it’s worth, Mahomes added to that optimism as well with his tweet late Thursday night:

Until the results of the MRI, we have to operate under that three-week timetable. At 5-2, though, the question that is on everyone’s minds is if the Chiefs can survive without Patrick Mahomes on the field.

Matt Moore filled in for Mahomes on Thursday night and, presumably, will continue to be the backup that takes the field. He performed admirably in relief against Denver, going 10-of-19 for 117 yards and one touchdown with no interception. He certainly wasn’t great but he wasn’t costly by any means.

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Though Moore is a tremendous step back from Mahomes, the good news in Kansas City is that the pieces in place on offense are conducive to a backup quarterback being able to have success. Strong checkdown options like LeSean McCoy, Damien Williams and Travis Kelce and big-play players that can take short throws a long way like Kelce and Tyreek Hill help out a quarterback that doesn’t have the gifts that Mahomes is blessed with.

What can’t be counted on, though, is the defense to help out Moore as they did against a bad Broncos team. The Chiefs defense amassed nine sacks, including one that forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, against Denver. For a defense that has been one of the worst in the NFL, that’s an albatross performance, not the norm that can be expected.

Even still, if the defense could step up to even 50 percent of that performance and with the weapons on offense, the 5-2 Chiefs could be fine enough without Mahomes until he returns. The issue, though, is that Kansas City’s upcoming schedule is far from friendly.

On Sunday Night Football in Week 8, the Chiefs face a Green Bay Packers team that looks like a contender. They follow that up with a Week 9 tilt against an inconsistent but talented Minnesota Vikings team. A road trip to face the Tennessee Titans in Week 10 isn’t too worrisome but it’s not a given with Mahomes out of the lineup — especially if Ryan Tannehill sparks the offense.

There’s a legitimate chance that, even with the pieces to help a backup quarterback in place, the Chiefs could go 0-3 in that stretch, putting them at 5-5 on the year. And that’s if Patrick Mahomes only misses the minimum three games. He could well be sitting in Week 11 at the Chargers before the Week 12 bye to give him a bit more rest if Kansas City chooses to go that route.

While losing Mahomes given their upcoming schedule will sink the Chiefs’ chances of being the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the fortunate news for them is that the AFC West should still be theirs for the taking.

Assuming that the reigning MVP returns sooner rather than later, the Oakland Raiders are currently 3-2 but feel more like fool’s gold than anything. Meanwhile, the Chargers have been a disaster despite lofty expectations and the Broncos have largely been worse, as they showed on Thursday.

Even if the Chiefs went 0-3 over their next three games and dropped to 5-5, they could still comfortably win the division and make the playoffs. In that regard — again, assuming Mahomes’ MRI comes back positively — Kansas City should survive.

Having said that, Moore and the defense stepping up and winning a game against a team like the Titans or even upsetting the Packers or Vikings would be massively important for this team’s postseason hopes. It would take things from “they should still be able to make it” to “they’re going to make it” without much doubt at all.

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There’s no escaping the fact that losing Patrick Mahomes is going to make the Kansas City Chiefs a worse football team. While that may be true, they are in a position where they can indeed survive without him, for a brief time at least. However, if Mahomes misses more than the minimum three weeks with his injury, things could get much dicier in KC.