Chiefs win total preview: Defense still a question for Kansas City
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The Chiefs made Patrick Mahomes the richest man in sports history this week, but it won't mean much for their title defense in 2020.

Instead, questions about regression and a vulnerable defense will define Kansas City after consecutive 12-win seasons. Can this club pull off another stellar campaign?

Here are the Chiefs' win total odds and the case for each side:

WINS ODDS
Over 11.5 -125
Under 11.5 +105

Case for the over

This team's chances of hitting the over clearly start with Mahomes, who led Kansas City to a Super Bowl title in his second year as a starter. In both campaigns, the Chiefs ranked in the top three in yards per drive and points per drive, even with Mahomes missing two games last year.

The scary part is this year's offense could be even better. All of Kansas City's relevant receivers return to bolster a passing attack built perfectly for Mahomes' cannon arm, and the team spent a first-round pick on running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who already profiles as one of the NFL's best pass-catching backs. Good luck stopping this offense.

But can the defense do its part? It certainly did to close out 2019. After allowing 28.8 points per game through Week 10, the Chiefs gave up 21.6 points per contest during their nine-game winning streak that stretched into the playoffs.

Much of that happened due to the emergence of rookie Juan Thornhill, who was arguably a top-10 safety last year, helping to stabilize Kansas City's shaky secondary over the back half of the season. If he's back and fully healthy to start 2020 after suffering an ACL injury, the Chiefs' defense could hit the ground running.

Case for the under

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Thornhill's season-ending injury occurred in Week 17 last year, and he might not return for the start of 2020. And even he's ready, there are bigger problems for this defense to address.

More than once last year, teams exploited the middle of Kansas City's defense with a punishing run game that kept Mahomes and Co. off the field. That approach will be even more effective if Chris Jones, one of the game's premier interior defenders, misses the year amid a difficult contract dispute. The Chiefs still fielded the league's worst run defense with him in the middle.

Kansas City's weak defense is particularly troubling given the rest of the division's makeup, as the AFC West projects to be markedly better this season. The Chargers are easing in a new quarterback, but they should trot out an excellent defense to compete well with the Chiefs. The Broncos' run-heavy offense is built to exploit the Chiefs' defense. The Raiders' offense is constructed similarly, and their horrific defense should look much different in 2020.

It all adds up to a tough slate for Kansas City, even if oddsmakers are skeptical of those teams' chances to make the playoffs. The Chiefs can't afford to split those six divisional matchups if they hope to win 12 games for a third straight year.

Which should you bet?

Since 2006, 60 teams have won 12-plus games, but only 19 repeated that the following season, according to Pro Football Focus. One was Kansas City last year, and head coach Andy Reid did it twice with the Eagles in the early 2000s.

We've seen how tough it is to achieve that feat, and Mahomes' 2019 injury is a reminder of how quickly things can change for top teams. Last year's champs winning 10 games feels like a lock. But 12 wins? Take the under at plus-money and bet on the defense returning to its old ways.

C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.

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Chiefs win total preview: Defense still a question for Kansas City
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