Projected Record: 9-7
AFC West Rank: 2nd
The AFC West is one of the few divisions in the league that has an obvious winner. The Denver Broncos are far more talented than the Chiefs, Chargers, and Raiders. But, the competition is for the 2nd spot in the AFC West, which could potentially lock up a wild card berth. In the entire NFL, the Chiefs will have the largest turnout in terms of wins from a season ago. They went 2-14 last season, but they’ll improve that mark by 7 wins and make the postseason. The Chiefs have made the playoffs only three times since the year 1997. Plus, this season, they’ll hold a 4-2 mark in the AFC West, both losses coming at the hands of the Broncos. They have had a fantastic offseason with crucial added elements that make the offense a threat in the less competitive AFC.
Newly hired HC Andy Reid spent 14 seasons in Philadelphia guiding them to four NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. He brings an offensive minded philosophy that will favor the west coast offense. That means QB Alex Smith, who was traded for this offseason, will be given many opportunities in this offense. Smith was having a fantastic season in San Francisco last year, completing 70.2% of his passes until he suffered a concussion. Once QB Colin Kaepernick wowed as his replacement, Smith never received his starting job back. The former #1 overall pick, Alex Smith, will be able to thrive in this new pass first offense alongside an athletic receiving corp highlighted by WR Dwayne Bowe. Last year with a mediocre QB Matt Cassel, Bowe was the leading Chiefs receiver with 59 receptions for 801 yards. This season, I expect those numbers to jump up to 85 receptions with 1,250 receiving yards. To round out this receiving crew is newly acquired WR Donnie Avery (60 receptions with Colts) and WR Dexter McCluster (52 receptions with Chiefs). Barring any injury, Alex Smith will be able to lead this aerial game with the best season of his career in an offense that fits him perfectly.
For the last five seasons, the Chiefs have come to rely on RB Jamaal Charles. Unfortunately for him and the Chiefs, he’s had injury concerns, which included him missing the entire 2011 season except 2 games because of a torn ACL. But, when he’s healthy, which he was last season, he’s a top tier running back in the league. His production was at an all time high last season when he tallied 1,509 rushing yards (4th in the NFL). The problem the Chiefs have faced in recent seasons, is their reliance on him to produce. Since they haven’t had a decent passing game for a while, the Chiefs place the burden of offensive output on Charles each season. However, that will clearly change this season with the aforementioned enhanced aerial attack. This has the possibility of making Charles even more of a threat because of an added element of surprise. Defenses can’t assume that Charles will be the centerpiece of the offense and won’t be able to plan their defense accordingly with an inclination towards the defensive line and rushing defense.
Another tremendous improvement this offseason was the offensive line. This April, Kansas City drafted OT Eric Fisher with the #1 overall pick. They lost a couple lineman ( OT Eric Winston and G Ryan Lilja), but added G Geoff Schwartz, who can play very well in a backup capacity. This bolstered offensive line means that Alex Smith will get to spend more time in the pocket, which he’ll flourish in. Judging from his time as a 49er, his pocket presence is superb. Furthermore, rhis line will now allow Charles to have more outside running plays. If this line can manage to seal the edges, the athletic Jamaal Charles will have some huge runs throughout the course of the season.
The Chief’s D has also improved mightily for this upcoming season. Their secondary made some great acquisitions with CB Sean Smith and CB Dunta Robinson, who will elevate this secondary in a new adapted man to man coverage. These corners are incorporated into a secondary that already includes Pro Bowl SS Eric Berry. The passing defense was already run-of-the-mill, giving up the 11th least amount of passing yards all of last year. Yet, this defense allowed the eight most total points in the league last season (26.6 points per game). This will improve though with the better secondary and pass coverage. The linebacker corp and defensive line remain relatively intact with no major departures. Their run defense was mediocre all of last season giving up the 6th most total yards. Since, they didn’t make any noteworthy additions to the line, that won’t likely change, which will be a cause for concern.
Clearly, this team has offensive weapons, but the defense will turn in another lackluster performance. The majority of their match ups will turn into high scoring affairs. Some people would definitely say that a projection above .500 for this Chiefs team is very optimistic. But, this offense is set to explode this year. The only thing holding them back from a postseason berth is that horrendous rushing defense. Once that is resolved though, this team will be a second seed in the AFC West and a playoff contender in future years.