Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 KC Chiefs and AFC West Preview

With this being the opening weekend for the NFL, I thought that I'd go ahead and make my prognosis of what the Kansas City Chiefs are going to do this season.

Now... I know I lost most of you right there. And I can't say I blame ya. Most of you come here for utter nonsense or music related news...

But for those of you who want to continue to read, I am going to tell you exactly why the Chiefs should finish no less than 2nd in the AFC West.

Herm the worm
While it was very easy to find a Kansas City Chiefs fan during the miraculous '90s, it seems that most have drifted back into the wood work, or have jumped onto the band wagon of another more (recently) successful NFL team. So be it. The Chiefs haven't given us much to root for these last few years, especially with the disastrous hiring of Herman Edwards in 2006. He took a battered but good Chiefs team - They went 10-6 in 2005- and made them more battered and less good. They went 9-7 in his inaugural year, but if you believe in omens ( I do) you had a sense that things were going to deteriorate quickly. In his regular season coaching debut with the Chiefs, Quarterback Trent Green went down hard in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He suffered a serious concussion, which he never fully recovered from. The Chiefs held their own during this time through decent play from back-up quarterback Damon Huard and a good solid performance from running back Larry Johnson. But while the Chiefs were 5-3 at the half way point of the season, Herman Edwards thought that it would be a good idea to reinstate Trent Green at quarterback* despite Huard's success... And Green was never able to put it all together, and the Chiefs finished a dismal 9-7. They did manage to squeak into the playoffs, but not for any other reason than a miraculous chain of events on the final weekend of the season that had 6 AFC teams losing, crowning with a Denver loss to San Francisco.

This put the Chiefs into a virtual tie for 2nd place in the West, and subsequently due to tie-breaker rules, into the play-offs. The Chiefs were then immediately beaten by the Indianapolis Colts in a game that the Chiefs didn't manage a single first down in the first half. (That was the first time in the history of the league that this happened during a playoff game, and hasn't happened since.)

The Herman Edwards era was under way, and despite him only being there for a relatively short period of time, he unraveled the greatness that we Chiefs fans had grown to love. His firing came  in early 2009 after the Chiefs suffered their worse season in Franchise history (2-14). The Chiefs have been on the slow track since, becoming an after thought amongst most pundits who write stories for the NFL...

... Until this season. I see the improvement, even if nobody else seems to. Todd Haley is now into his 2nd year at the helm, and despite a 4-12 record last year the Chiefs have taken great strides to improve their offense. Everybody was looking when the Chiefs hired Charlie Weis as their offensive coordinator last year, but nobody seems to have noticed that the Chiefs now have two 1000 yard rushers in their backfield. Jamal Charles had 1120 yards on the ground for the Chiefs in '09, and the acquisition of Thomas Jones from the Jets brings an additional 1400 more from last season, plus 11 years of experience.

Todd Haley

Matt Cassel should be all the better at quarterback in his 2nd full year in Todd Haley's system, and with a new revamped, and relatively young offensive line that has 31 years combined under it's belt, he should have more time in the pocket and therefore time to throw the ball, coming off of a season where he was tossed to the ground 42 times. He showed what he could do when he had time to pick his targets from the pocket while he was with the Patriots, and there is no reason to think that he won't have ample time this year. Especially with targets Leonard Pope, Dwayne Bowe, and Chris Chambers.

Defensively the Chiefs are young... Really young.

But they are big and fast, and they well... Show promise. Middle Linebacker Jevon Belcher has been heavily lauded by his coaches for his preseason performance, and Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are most certainly going to improve their numbers from a  year ago. Toss in the addition of veteran Mike Vrabel to the linebacker crew, and the Chiefs 3-4 defense looks to be one that only gets better as the season goes on. Speed is a factor at the cornerback and saftey positions, and the Chiefs have it. They bring back Strong Safety Jon McGraw who should continue to hone his skills and with speedster Eric Berry from Tennessee joining him at the other saftey position, they should be able to hang with most receivers in the AFC West. The two Brandons... Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr bring size and speed to the cornerback positions, and despite the fact that each of these players only have two years under their belt in the NFL, this third year should be that pivotal season in their careers which brings them to the next level.

The Chiefs' defense should improve from last year.

I mentioned the Chiefs' defense was young, but this can be a benefit as long as they buy into the defensive schemes that Todd Haley presents them with. I like the direction that Haley is taking this team. I do not have that gloomy feeling I had when Herm Edwards took over. It seems that Haley is doing the right things in order to get the Chiefs back into the habit of winning games and if the Chiefs defense can continue to improve and make some timely plays, the Chiefs offense should be able to carry most of the weight. The problems will come in when the young defense doesn't react to the always changing NFL offensive schemes... (This problem should take care of itself as time goes on) And if they are constantly getting pushed backward down the field they will no doubt react with frustration. If they can keep their heads, and force a turnover once in awhile, the Chiefs offense should be able to hold it's own. A tired defense is a bad defense... A young defense is less likely to grow tired, but more likely to be easily aggravated which could lead to the same silly mistakes.

I do not see the Denver Broncos having a good year. Coach Josh McDaniels has already proven to be a volatile leader who seems to cause more riffs within his team as opposed to being the glue which brings his crew together. The acquisition of Kyle Orton is laughable, and should be even more so this year with the departure of Brandon Marshall at Wide Receiver. Tim Tebow isn't quite NFL ready, though I would certainly welcome his presence. Brady Quinn has talent, but not enough to compete at a consistent high level in the AFC. Defensively the Broncos have Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey. Otherwise they are in the same boat the Chiefs are, with a young defense that has a lot to learn... If they are going to give up 24 points each week as they did today against a less than stellar Jacksonville team, then I like the Chiefs chances divisionally against this foe. They will win their home game against Denver when it comes up on December 5th, and should make a good challenge when playing in Denver a few weeks earlier.

Oakland gave up 38 points to the Titans today while only scoring 13, which seems pretty typical. While the Titans have the best running back in the league, Chris Johnson only accounted for 12 of those points with most of the damage coming from Titans passer Vince Young. He literally chewed the Oakland defense to shreds throwing 13 for17 and  for 2 touchdowns. It seems that the Raiders never get any better, and this certainly doesn't seem to be their year... And until they win at least half of their games, I will say this every single season. I look for the Chiefs to sweep the Raiders this year, and to grow fundamentally while the Raiders etch themselves a nice little room in the AFC West basement. Maybe they should hang some balsa wood to remind them of their glory days in the '70s.

The Devil himself

The Chargers are the only team in the West that has shown the ability to improve on a yearly basis this past decade. Still though, the Chiefs have the ability to surprise them this year when they come into Arrowhead. The Chargers thrashed the Chiefs twice last year... Could it be that they are overlooking the Chiefs this year on the road and concentrating more on their first home game next week against the Jaguars? Toss in the fact that the Chargers are without future hall of famer LaDainian Tomlinson for the first time in 10 years and have virtually nobody that looks promising to fill his shoes. Tight End Antonio Gates is yet another year older, and the Chargers have even a younger offensive line than the Chiefs do, with three guys who have 4 years of experience or less in the league. If one of the offensive guards goes down with an injury, at this point the Chargers have nobody in line on their depth chart... Which is quite interesting at this juncture of the schedule. 

And with the absence of a strong running game, there will be more pressure for Phillip Rivers who threw 9 interceptions last year (and took 25 sacks) to throw the ball. I can see both of these numbers getting worse this year, because while L.T. was a great runner, he was also a great blocker who knew the offense very well and could fill that tangible when needed. This isn't the offensive San Diego team of last year, and I feel that they have something to prove. I have the Chiefs winning on opening day, surprising everybody and going into week 2 with the only victory within the division. I have the Chiefs winning at home against the Chargers, and losing when they go into San Diego in mid December. But who knows... If the Chargers offense stutters like I believe it will, then the Chiefs have a fighting chance.

Rivers will have to avoid the sack this year.

My prediction is this: The Chargers should win the AFC West... But the Chiefs will finish no less than 2nd at 9-7.

You read it here first, my friends.

*You would think that the Chiefs would have learned their lesson. The same quarterback injury scenario happened in 1997 when QB Elvis Grbac became injured early in the season, and Rich Gannon led the Chiefs to a 13-3 season record, the best in the NFL. Despite Gannon's success, Coach Marty Schottenheimer decided to start Grbac against the Denver Broncos in the first week of the playoffs. The Broncos won 14-10. Like Edwards, Schottenheimer was gone within a year of this awful decision.



CVEckian said...

I really enjoyed your synopsis, Troy. You point out several solid reasons as to why the Chiefs may indeed surprise a lot of people this season. I completely agree that their defensive structure, albeit slightly inexperienced, could be a game changer in some key games this season. I would actually like to see the Chiefs do really well and make it far this year. I am getting more than a little tired of the usual suspects hogging the limelight.