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NFL Commentary: A Look At the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs, and Whether They Can Contend For the AFC West Top Spot.
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs.
For the past two seasons, the NFL's AFC Western Division has been controlled by the Denver Broncos. The general consensus among fans and analysts alike is that trend will continue this upcoming season as well. Among the three other teams besides the Broncos competing for the AFC West Division title, the Kansas City Chiefs are probably the only team that made significant upgrades and moves to their team. At the moment, both the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are not considered to be relevant challengers.
Despite adding critical pieces to their franchise, there is still uncertainty surrounding the Chiefs and to be frankly honest - that uncertainty is justifiable. In the past six seasons, the Chiefs have only had one winning record. The brunt of this criticism came in 2012 when the Chiefs finished with a 2-14 record, which matched the worst record in the franchise's history. The painful truth for Chief fans is that the past few seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs haven't been anything worth mentioning. I'm fairly positive that most fans of the Chiefs probably want to forget about those less than stellar years.
The tides with the Kansas City Chiefs may be changing. and although many people don't consider Kansas City to be a threat to the Broncos either, there are certain factors surrounding the Chiefs that just can't be ignored. Those factors include some key additions to the Chiefs that have given their fans a fresh start, and cautious optimism for moving in the right direction. The question now is how realistic of a shot do the Chiefs have at clinching their first AFC West title since 2010?
Andy Reid Is the New Chief In Town.
2012 Woes, Firings, and Hiring's.
As I mentioned earlier, The Kansas City Chiefs ended the 2012 NFL season with a 2-14 record. Although their record matched that of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chiefs finished statistically as the worst team in the NFL during the 2012 season. Following their beyond disappointing season coupled with their anemic win/loss record, Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel was fired after just one full season as the head coach. Since the Chiefs finished with the leagues worst record, they were granted the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Days after the firing of Romeo Crennel, Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli was let go as well. On January 4, 2013, the Chiefs signed former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, who had been let go by the Eagles organization days earlier. In March of 2013, Kansas City acquired quarterback Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers in a trade. The acquisition of Smith was the Chief's first big signing for the 2013 season.
Days after signing Alex Smith, the organization signed offensive tackle Geoff Schwartz, who played with the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. The Chiefs later selected offensive tackle Eric Fisher first in the 2013 NFL Draft. Fisher played collegiality at Central Michigan, and was regarded as the best overall player in the draft by several draft experts. While most analysts are viewing the 2013 season as a rebuilding phase for the Chiefs, Kansas City fans and the players on the team consider themselves to be a legitimate threat to the Denver Broncos.
Alex Smith Will Be An Upgrade For the Chiefs at QB.
Quarterback Play and Coaching.
It is indeed true that the Kansas City Chiefs have upgraded in several areas of their team. For one, the acquisition of veteran quarterback Alex Smith was big for them. The Chiefs have been unstable at the quarterback position for a few years now, and signing Smith should help with that. For the past few seasons, Matt Cassel - who was acquired by the Chiefs in 2009 was expected to be the Chiefs quarterback of the future. However, Cassel constantly battled injuries during his four years with the Chiefs, and was a turnover machine in his last two seasons with the Chiefs. Cassel had a 10-9 TD/Int ratio in 2011, and a 6-12 ratio in 2012. He was ultimately benched and replaced by Brady Quinn, who didn't fare much better.
With Alex Smith, the Chiefs now have gained a quarterback that protects the football, and also has experience in big games. It's true that Smith was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick during his last season in San Francisco, however, Smith was playing quite well before his injury - which ultimately led to him being replaced. Smith completed 70.2% of his pass attempts, maintained a 104.1 QB Rating, and finished the year with a 13-5 TD/INT ratio. Smith was the victim of bad circumstances, which he more than likely won't face with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs also obtained a previously successful head coach in Andy Reid. Reid came over from the Philadelphia Eagles, and has a 140-102-1(.578) career record as a head coach. Although Reid failed to produce a Super Bowl Championship during his 14 year tenure with the Eagles, he led the Eagles to 9 playoff appearances, one of which resulted in a trip to the Super Bowl in 2004. Reid has a history of being loyal to his quarterbacks, so it's unlikely that Smith will have to worry about being bench anytime soon.
Much Of Kansas City's Success Will Lie In the Hands of Jamal Charles.
2013 Points of Interest.
So what do the Kansas City Chiefs need to do in order to have a successful 2013 NFL campaign? The potential success of the Chiefs will lie in a few of their key players, along with their offensive line. Lets take a look at what I believe the Chiefs will need to do in order to improve upon their woes from 2012.
- Jamaal Charles: If there was any bright spot on the Chiefs in 2012, it was their running back Jamaal Charles. After being injured for the bulk of the 2011 season, Charles bounced back big in 2012 running for a little over 1500 rushing yards, and averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Charles is very underrated. He has averaged 5.8 yards per rush for his career, which is one of the highest averages among NFL running backs ever. He should benefit from having an improved offensive line from 2012, along with Alex Smith at the helm. The only worry that Chief fans should have regarding Charles is related to his durability. Despite being a very talented back, Charles has been prone to injuries. His health and durability throughout an entire season is always in question.
- Dwayne Bowe: Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is entering his seventh season as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Bowe's numbers in 2012 were sub-par, as he caught only 59 passes for 801 yards and three touchdowns. Bowe has always had exceptional talent, and has been one of the Chiefs play makers. However, Bowe seems to lack in having discipline. He has came to previous training camps out of shape, and even missed 4 games in 2009 for testing positive for a diuretic. If Bowe can develop chemistry with Alex Smith, then there's a possibly that he may get back to his numbers of 2010 where he caught 72 passes, and scored 15 touchdowns.
- The Offensive Line: One of the reasons why the Chiefs offense were so inconsistent last season was their offensive line. Their quarterbacks were hit much too often, and had no time to get the ball out. It's obvious that the organization wanted to address this issue, which is a point they made by selecting Eric Fisher as the first overall draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Offensive tackle Branden Albert's role will be critical as he will be the veteran on the line. Talent wise the Chiefs O-line has the ability to do well. However, it may take some time for their chemistry to come together. They have already been struggling during the preseason.
- Defense: The Chiefs will have to improve their defensive numbers from last season in order to have success this season. The Chiefs defense last season gave up 17.3 points per game last season, and they were 28th in the league giving up 263 yards per game. They also were unable to create turnovers regularly. The Chiefs defense has a new defensive coordinator in Bob Sutton, who will be bringing a new system to the team. The Chiefs have a few play makers on defense. They include strong safety Eric Berry, and outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali - all of which were pro bowlers in 2012. The Chiefs will be strong up front with NT Dontari Poe and DL Jerrell Powe, but whether or not the offense can keep the defense off the field will be another question.
Which Team Will Finish First In the AFC West?
After it's all said and done, I can see the Kansas City Chiefs improving from their dismal efforts last season. They most likely will not be throwing the ball deep, as Alex Smith is more of a check down play it safe type of quarterback. In order for this to be effective, the Chiefs will need solid production from running back Jamaal Charles, which is something they should get if he stays healthy.
Although the players and fans of the Chiefs don't see this as a rebuilding season, I personally see it as a year of reorganizing. There's a new head coach in town, a new defensive coordinator, and a new quarterback. It may take more than one season for everyone to become acclimated together, and getting all the pieces to come into place.
I'm predicting the Kansas City Chiefs to finish with a 7-9 record this season, and miss out on the postseason. However, even if they finish at 7-9, it will be a definite improvement, and a step in the right direction from the past few seasons. Unfortunately for Kansas City fans, I don't see them being able to conquer the AFC West. I think they will finish second in the division behind the Denver Broncos. There may some questions surrounding the Broncos heading into this season, but I think they should be able to win the AFC West fairly easy.