Lucas Niang’s Crushing Season-Ending Injury Could Be a Massive Test for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ Depth Chart
The Kansas City Chiefs lost a thrilling tilt against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17. The loss bumped Andy Reid’s squad down to the No. 2 seed in the AFC. However, Kansas City suffered a bigger blow on the injury front. Offensive tackle Lucas Niang went down early in the recent loss. His absence could have a noticeable impact on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense.
Lucas Niang is out for the season
The Kansas City Chiefs received some unsettling news on starting offensive lineman Lucas Niang. The second-year tackle suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of the loss to the Bengals.
“Lucas Niang tore his patellar tendon, is what it looks like,” Andy Reid said after the game per Chiefs Wire.
Niang got the start at left tackle after 2-time Pro Bowler Orlando Brown Jr. suffered a calf strain during pregame warmups.
While Brown’s injury doesn’t appear to be as severe, Niang’s will end his season. Offensive line depth could be a storyline to watch heading into the NFL playoffs.
Niang started nine games for the Chiefs in 2021, mostly at right tackle. The TCU product had been having an up-and-down year, much like the rest of the offensive line.
With the 2020 third-rounder out, Kansas City will likely turn to Andrew Wylie again at right tackle. The Chiefs also have Kyle Long and Prince Tega Wanogho for depth purposes at tackle.
Injuries are part of the game, but teams would obviously want to go into the postseason as healthy as possible.
Keeping Patrick Mahomes upright will be key for the Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs offense have drastically improved since the beginning of the 2021 season. The 4-time Pro Bowl quarterback was off his game early on, trying to do too much and making poor decisions.
Questions started to emerge surrounding whether or not the rest of the NFL had figured out Mahomes and company. While that might be funny to say as a joke, it’s simply not true. This offense proves time and time again that it’s capable of turning up the heat in the blink of an eye.
The Chiefs’ defense struggled in the first half of the season, and the 2018 NFL MVP tried to put the team on his back. It seemed like he wasn’t really trusting his guys at times.
Mahomes’ perceived lack of trust probably had something to do with the offensive line woes. The unit did not play well at the beginning of the season. Teams have sacked the fifth-year signal-caller 27 times, which is the most of his career.
While Kansas City is far from perfect in that department, things have improved as the season progresses.
Still, the absence of Lucas Niang could present a test for the Chiefs’ depth chart down the line. Kansas City can light up the scoreboard if the offensive line allows Patrick Mahomes time to do his thing. However, if the unit can’t keep him upright, the offense could revert to its old ways.
Can Kansas City make a deep playoff run?
The Kansas City Chiefs currently hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC. However, they have a chance to reclaim the 1-seed in the conference in Week 18.
The Chiefs would need to beat the Denver Broncos and have the Tennessee Titans lose to or tie with the Houston Texans. Whether or not Kansas City wins, there will be at least one playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium.
With fans back in full force in 2021, home-field advantage in the playoffs is once again a thing. The Chiefs have one of the better home atmospheres in the NFL, which could work to their advantage in the postseason.
Andy Reid’s crew is looking to get back to the Super Bowl again. The Chiefs have represented the AFC in each of the last two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl LIV. How realistic is it that Kansas City makes it there again?
The Chiefs have as realistic a shot as any team to come out of the AFC. Parity has been the story of the 2021 NFL season, and it’s anyone’s guess which two teams will actually reach the Super Bowl. Kansas City has that championship pedigree, though.
This team became more of a balanced attack in the second half of the season. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense couldn’t stop anyone early in the season, but the unit has been far more opportunistic in the second half.
On the other side of the ball, not many teams can get into a shootout with the Kansas City offense. When you have Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill, you’ll always have opportunities to score.
The AFC is wide open, but the Chiefs are live.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference