Look at any NFL Power Rankings right now, and you'll see one consistent placement across the board: the Chiefs at No. 1.
The defending Super Bowl champs definitively answered an early-season challenge on the road at Baltimore with an impressive 34-20 win, proving -- at least for now -- that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs remain the team to beat.
And the next team who has that opportunity? The Patriots, who travel to Kansas City for a late afternoon kickoff in Week 4. It'll mark the teams' fourth meeting in the last two years, with New England owning a 2-1 advantage.
But this time around, Kansas City enters as the heavy 7-point favorite, and Bill Belichick knows his team has a tough challenge ahead.
"That’s a good football team. They’re a very explosive group," Belichick said during his Tuesday morning media availability. "They played the Ravens well defensively. So, they’re a good football team, very talented, well-coached, played with a lot of poise and discipline, so we know we’re going to have our work cut out for us in Kansas City. It’s a championship football team and we’re going to have to play our best game and coach it."
The obvious test facing the Patriots defense is finding a way to slow down Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 385 yards and accounted for five touchdowns in Monday's victory over the Ravens. But if you expected Belichick to wax poetic about the reigning Super Bowl MVP, think again.
"I mean, all the superlatives that have been said about him, I’d just be repeating them all."
Got that? Thanks, Bill.
What makes Mahomes so dangerous -- in addition to his athleticism and play-making ability -- is the arsenal of offensive weapons around him, including wideouts Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins, tight end Travis Kelce, and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
For a Patriots defense that gave up a total of 31 points in two home games, but also 35 points in a road loss at Seattle, the challenge of defending all those speedy weapons is a formidable one.
"They can out leverage you in a hurry, and once they get behind you, there’s not too many guys on that offense that you can catch. We’re going to have to do a great job of maintaining our leverage and our discipline and respect them," Belichick explained. "We play against fast guys every week, but I would say they have a lot of them on the field at the same time, and that just puts more stress on the defense and the quarterback is very good at getting them the ball.
"And, the offensive coordinator and Andy does a great job of stressing the defense and putting them in spaces that force the defense to stretch and create openings for other guys if you don’t let them get behind you. They do all those things well. They’re very well-balanced and the execution is outstanding. They really know what they’re doing and they have a lot of good players and good coaches that can put the defense in a lot of compromising spots."
And while the Chiefs offense is the unit that gets most of the headlines, the Patriots can't overlook the Kansas City defense, which boasts the fourth-stingiest pass defense in the league and held MVP Lamar Jackson to just 97 passing yards on Monday night.
"They mix a combination of man, zone, blitz-zone and some man blitzes, pressure blitzes. They’re not afraid to call them," Belichick said. "They make you offensively deal with everything, so they really test your execution and, again, have some pretty experienced and savvy players back there – the linebackers, of course, [Tyrann] Mathieu, [Chris] Jones is a very disruptive player up front, along with [Frank] Clark. So, they have guys at every level that are a problem and they have a pretty extensive scheme, kind of like they have on offense, so they give us a lot to prepare for."
As Belichick referenced Monday during his press conference, he has some familiarity preparing for the Chiefs -- "this is one of these games where it’s not quite a division game, but it’s pretty close” -- but it'll take more than familiarity to scheme up a win at Arrowhead Stadium.
The question is whether the Patriots will be able to execute well enough to get an actual win, and not just a moral victory by keeping it close against the defending champs.