The Kansas City Chiefs were hit with unfortunate news in advance of the team's season opener against the Detroit Lions. Star tight end Travis Kelce hyperextended his knee at practice on Tuesday, placing his availability for Thursday night's game in doubt, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Kelce is a foundational piece of the Chiefs' offense and his absence for any period of time would have a profound effect on Kansas City's ability to function. Patrick Mahomes gets most of the credit for the Chiefs' recent dominance, and deservedly so, but the offense does not reach the same heights without Kelce's suction-cup hands in the passing game.
Per Schefter, Chiefs coach Andy Reid phrased Kelce's status as "uncertain," which leaves room for optimism. If anything, it doesn't sound like a serious problem and Kelce should be viewed as day-to-day, or week-to-week at the very worst.
Kansas City Chiefs could be without Travis Kelce for season opener vs. Detroit Lions
The Chiefs finished last season on the mountaintop, with Kelce earning his second Super Bowl ring. He led the Chiefs in receptions (110), receiving yards (1,338), and touchdowns (12) from the tight end position. There isn't a single more productive tight end in football right now. Kelce is Mahomes' favorite target in the middle of the field or in the red zone. At 6-foot-5 and 256 pounds, the 33-year-old blends brute physical force with surprisingly soft hands. He can make every catch.
Kansas City has spent considerable resources to maintain its current status as title contender, but with Chris Jones' holdout lingering into Week 1 and Mahomes facing a severely depleted wide receiver room following the free agent exodus of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, it's hard to overstate the importance of the current core — and especially Kelce — staying healthy.
Mahomes can create magic under the most severe quarterbacking conditions, but even the legendary QBs need quality receivers. The Chiefs' current WR corps does not feature many established options, with a lot of fans hoping for a breakout from second-year WR Skyy Moore to offset the summer's talent depletion. A few quality runners occupy the RB room — Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire — but the Chiefs aren't going to win games on the ground.
It's impossible to count out Mahomes in any context, but the Lions put forth one of the most explosive NFL offenses in 2022. Jared Goff has a nice collection of receivers at his disposal and there's a lot of faith in first-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs in the backfield. If the Chiefs can't put their best foot forward, the Lions are a prime upset candidate in Week 1.
A lot of concerns about the receiving corps go away with a healthy Kelce, but a Week 1 absence could have severe short-term consequences for the Chiefs.