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The Chiefs are the latest team to learn that life comes at you fast when you’re the Super Bowl champs

The NFL kicked off its 2023 regular season on Thursday night when the up-and-coming Detroit Lions took on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

While it’s a little weird to refer to the normally lowly Lions as “up-and-coming,” it’s certainly no novelty that the NFL would pit a talented team–and there is no denying Detroit’s talent–against the defending Super Bowl champions to launch its latest campaign.

You might say it’s the league’s way of reminding the defending champion that it shouldn’t get too comfortable atop that mountain because there’s always a lion nipping at its heels (no pun intended). The Chiefs obviously don’t have to be reminded of that, though, right? After all, Kansas City has been to three of the past four Super Bowls and has captured two Lombardi trophies.

The Chiefs have taken on all comers over the past five years and are still atop the mountain.

Capturing the AFC West Division has become old hat for the Chiefs. They’ve been to the AFC title game five straight times.

Speaking of animals that are often associated with mountains, the Rams, winners of Super Bowl LVI, opened the 2022 regular season against the Bills, a team that was hungry for its own championship success. Buffalo shellacked the Rams, 31-10.

Things went downhill fast for the Super Bowl champions, as Los Angeles went on to post a forgettable 5-12 record. You might say the Rams’ quick fall wasn’t a total shocker, considering they spent the previous few years going all-in in an attempt to capture a championship.

Such a slide would be a total shock for the 2023 Chiefs, however, as they came into the regular season as one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LVIII.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they went into Thursday night’s game without superstar tight end, Travis Kelce, who suffered a hyperextended knee in practice just two days before. Kansas City also went into the game with a hodgepodge of nothingness at receiver–including Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Tony and Skyy Moore.

In all fairness, Tony, a first-round pick by the Giants in 2021, and Moore, a second-round pick by the Chiefs in 2022, certainly have potential.

But the Chiefs’ receiving corps sure does seem like a shell of what it was just a few years ago when Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins were atop the depth chart. Despite Hill being one of the most dangerous weapons in football, Kansas City was forced to trade him to the Dolphins in the spring of 2022. Why? Because Hill was due for a huge payday. Why didn’t the Chiefs just give their potent receiver a rich, new deal? Probably because they already signed Patrick Mahomes, their superstar quarterback, to a 10-year, $503 million contract extension just two years prior.

The Chiefs once had a skill-position arsenal that was the who’s who of the NFL, but thanks to the price of employing a mega superstar quarterback, you can now call Kansas City’s offensive attack Mahomes and Co.

Speaking of money, Chris Jones, Kansas City’s best defender, missed Thursday’s game due to an ongoing contract dispute. Jones is one of the best defensive tackles in football and is coming off a 2022 campaign in which he recorded 15.5 sacks.

Jones is looking for a lucrative extension, which, as I already indicated, is going to be hard for the Chiefs to do with Mahomes’ mega deal on the bills.

The Chiefs defense is okay with Jones in the lineup, but it might be bottom-five without him.

To repeat a theme: It’s hard to build a well-rounded defense while employing a super-rich quarterback.

It’s also harder to build a roster on either side of the ball when you’re constantly drafting near the bottom of every round, which the Chiefs have been for quite some time.

That brings me back to Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Lions prevailed, 21-20. The Chiefs didn’t look helpless, and they may have won the game if not for several key drops by Tony and Co.

On the surface, starting off 0-1 is nothing for the Chiefs to be nervous about. They still have Mahomes. He’s the current face of the NFL. But Mahomes is also quickly becoming the only superstar Kansas City can trot out to the field every week.

Kelce, who will turn 34 on October 5, is clearly in the twilight of his career. When he does retire, I doubt the Chiefs will replace him with another Travis Kelce.

The NFL is known for its parity. In fact, no league makes it more obvious to its top squads that their time at the head of the table is fleeting.

The Chiefs have had a great run over the past half-decade.

Am I saying Kansas City’s reign is over? No, but it looks like it’s going to get harder for them to stay at the top of the NFL mountain.

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