The wounds are still fresh in the wake of the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl 55 loss, a decisive 31-9 setback at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and failed bid to become the first repeat champions in 16 years.
But it's never too early to start looking ahead – K.C. is already being widely installed on the betting lines as the early favorite to win Super Bowl 56 next year in Los Angeles.
But first, taking a holistic look at the organization and its next set of challenges, here are five questions facing the Chiefs heading into the 2021 season:
1. Is Patrick Mahomes OK?
Everyone has a bad day at the office – we'd just never really seen one from Mahomes prior to Sunday's debacle. He was constantly dogged by Tampa's pass rush, forced to press on broken plays – and matters didn't improve as the Chiefs' hole grew.
The end result wasn't surprising as the 2018 league MVP and Super Bowl 54 MVP suffered his worst showing as a professional, posting a career-worst 52.3 passer rating, failing to lead Kansas City to double-digit points for the first time and suffering his most lopsided loss since he was at Texas Tech. He's also debating whether to have surgery on his injured toe. Every reason to believe Mahomes will bounce back, but he'll have a long offseason to consider what went wrong physically and mentally.
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was under constant fire from the Buccaneers in Super Bowl 55. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)
2. How will the belt be tightened?
The Chiefs go into the offseason about $18 million overspent, per Over The Cap. That doesn't bode well for pending free agents like C Austin Reiter, OT Mike Remmers, OL Daniel Kilgore, WR Demarcus Robinson, RB Le'Veon Bell, CB Bashaud Breeland, S Daniel Sorensen and DE Alex Okafor. K.C. can survive without them, despite the quality depth they provide collectively. But as things stand currently, GM Brett Veach will have to move some money around, if not cut other players heading into free agency next month.
3. What to do about the offensive line?
The blocking was clearly Kansas City's downfall in the Super Bowl, Mahomes relentlessly pressured behind a patchwork group that could be further gutted if Reiter, a starter the past two seasons, and Remmers, the right tackle for most of 2020, leave. Regular RT Mitchell Schwartz played in only six games due to a back injury, and LT Eric Fisher blew out an Achilles in the AFC title game, leaving his availability to start the 2021 season in doubt. Looks like the 31st pick of the draft may be earmarked for the front five.
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The COVID-19 pandemic cost the 2019 champions two key players. RB Damien Williams has 11 TDs in six career playoff games for Kansas City, including the final two of Super Bowl 54, completing the Chiefs' furious comeback in their 31-20 victory against the 49ers. Williams, who chose not to play due to family considerations, would bolster a running game that had fits and starts in 2020 on the way to a decidedly average performance.
RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who doubles as a medical doctor and chose to fight coronavirus from the front lines near his native Montreal, could certainly stabilize the problematic O-line. According to NFL Network, both players currently plan to return for the 2021 campaign.
5. Whither Britt Reid?
It's sure to be an ongoing story well into this offseason, perhaps beyond. The son of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and the team's outside linebackers coach, Britt Reid missed the Super Bowl after being involved in a three-car crash that put two children in the hospital, one a 5-year-old girl who remains in critical condition, and forced him to undergo surgery for his own injuries.
Kansas City authorities continue to investigate, multiple reports stating Britt Reid admitted to police at the scene that he'd been drinking prior to the collision. "My heart goes out to all those who were involved in the accident, in particular the family with the little girl who's fighting for her life,'' Andy Reid said Sunday.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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