The Chiefs in the Playoffs?
I know it may seem a little far-fetched. 2-14 to the playoffs? Seems absurd. Yes, the Dolphins made a brilliant turn around last year but then again, their schedule was softer than my gut after a night of drinking. We are Chiefs fans. Of course we are going to be overly optimistic by nature. Otherwise, how could we take the pain?
Some seem to think that a quick turn around for the Chiefs could be a bad thing. I would agree that the Chiefs shouldn’t become a one-year, Wild Card Round exit wonder. This seems to happen so often in the NFL. A team is in the basement, suddenly finishes 10-6 the following year, as if on a vacation, returning directly to the basement. I predict this could happen to the Dolphins this year. Will they hit the basement again? I don’t think so. Solid QB play helped them be competitive but I think Pennington will fall off this year. The Fins may be competitive early but I predict they finish up around the middle of the pack. Their division is simply too tough. I look for the Bills to be the division darling this year, while the Patriots slap everyone else around.
I use the Dolphins as an example because I think they are at a crossroad. They can become the next worst to first and back to worst team or they can continue to improve. Too often I think these worst to first teams get overly excited. The decide that they need just a player or two to get them over the Super Bowl hump and they let that cloud their decision making. A perfect example of this way of thinking is what recently happened with the Cleveland Browns. They finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs after becoming successful with Derrick Anderson and a fairly soft schedule. There were red flags along the way. They blew a game they should have won in Cincinnati, costing them the playoffs. The still couldn’t beat the Steelers. The Cleveland brass ignored these signs however. They plopped down a ton of their draft picks on sexy free agent pickups convinced they could win now. The mortgaged their future to try to win big, to buy a championship for a city that badly needs one.
Things did not have to turn out that way for Cleveland. They had a young and talented team full of first day draft picks. Yet poor coaching and player management lead to fights in the locker room and a general culture of disorder. Players were being infected with Staff Infection and it was being covered up. Players were told to keep their mouths shut. It was a complete managerial disaster. Perhaps if Phil Savage had focused more on making sure his coach had a grip on the team instead of trying to win GM of the year the Browns wouldn’t be back in rebuilding mode. All bets are now off in Cleveland. They are talking of trading away their best players to recoup the draft picks they so unwisely gave away. A once potent offense has lost its swagger. No one knows who the quarterback is. They have lost their slot guy. They traded away a potential mega star tight end. They are left with a first round draft pick at receiver who can’t catch the ball. They are even thinking of trading him away instead of encouraging him to be a team leader and coaching up his fundamentals. Foolish management will sink a team faster than the Titanic and people from Cleveland, such as myself, know it.
The Browns should have realized why they finished 10-6. They should have continued to build the core of their team. They didn’t need Dante Stallworth! They scored plenty of points with out him. What they needed was to build the character of their roster. They needed key guys in the trenches. They should have made the tough management decision and traded one of their QB’s for the incredible value they could have gotten from them. They should have realized they had a bit of a soft schedule, that despite their record, they had work to do. They may have ended up with a better team and a better record last year if they had. They might not have beaten the Steelers, they might not have made the playoffs, but they might have a much brighter future.
If the Dolphins learn from Cleveland’s mistakes they may take a step backward this year while preparing to take 3 steps forward. They have a core of young players just like Cleveland had. It is important that they set the right attitude, add the right pieces and make sure their eyes don’t get bigger than their stomachs. The Pittsburgh Steelers never panic. When they have a bad season they always bounce back. They don’t ship off the entire roster, as Cleveland is doing and they don’t blow all their money on high priced, useless free agents. They home grow their talent, ship it off when it is time and add key pieces when they need then. Just like the Patriots.
Football is a team game. You have to be able to play together as a team. I think Herm understood that. Say what you want about his coaching abilities but he could motivate. About the only thing he did well last year was motivate a team, who had no hope of making the playoffs by week 6. They played hard until the Cincinnati game when the knocks of a 2-14 season finally broke their spirit. Unfortunately for Herm, teams don’t win games with spirit. If they did, the cheerleaders could put on helmets and win games.
Along with his rah rah attitude I also believe Herm was also pretty good at evaluating talent. Although being a nice guy and being smart about football doesn’t always make you a good coach, for the sake of our Herm Edwards build youth core, let’s hope I’m right.
I mention all this because I believe the Chiefs can no only win a substantial number of games this year, but I believe they can make the playoffs. I believe that the Chiefs are very similar to the teams I mentioned above; young, talented and hungry. They have plenty of first day draft picks on their roster. Now, with Pioli, they have added some solid veteran leadership to help bridge the team to becoming the dynasty we all dream of. When the Chiefs hoist the Lombardi trophy high above the streets of Kansas City for their victory parade Zach Thomas won’t be with them. Bobby Engram has a better chance of watching the parade from his couch than he does riding the float. However, these grizzled NFL veterans will be telling their friends that they helped build that team. That they were the guys that helped the Chiefs get back to the playoffs and reinstall a winning culture. They will hopefully be proud as they watch the guys the mentored become stars. This is if all goes as planned.
Unlike Phil Savage, Scott Pioli knows that the Zach Thomas’s of the world aren’t the long-term answer. They will due however, while Tyson Jackson develops. While Todd Haley makes D-Bowe accountable and Cassel develops a rhythm with his offense. If this young team starts to play to its potential this year everyone will quickly forget about the 2-14 season and the Herm Edwards era. I believe that a very solid foundation has been laid. I believe Pioli has strengthened that foundation by building his roster from the bottom up. I think with the right attitude and the right coaching that the Chiefs can make the playoffs this season. I don’t think Pioli and company will overreact if they do. If the right choices are made, whether the draft pick or the free agent pickup is sexy or not, the Chiefs will succeed.
I actually think it will be a fairly easy task for the Chiefs to be in the playoff hunt if they take care of business. I have heard some folks groan about the tough early schedule. I agree it is groan worthy. I also think it will be character building. The team is going to have to be tough and be tough early. The Chiefs can beat any of the teams on their schedule, except maybe the Giants and Steelers. They can beat the Cowboys and they can beat the Eagles. Remember, they weren’t supposed to have a chance against teams like the Jets, Bucs and Chargers last year. That 2-14 team with rookies, no veteran leadership and Herm Edwards steering the ship pushed those teams to the limit. Why not this new outfit?
If you don’t believe the Chiefs can make the playoffs take a look at the Arizona Cardinals of 2008. Take a look at their record versus their division and versus their conference. They were 6-0 versus teams in their division. Their conference record? 7-5. Other than the teams in their division they only beat one other conference team. They finished 9-7. They were supposed to get whipped in the playoffs. After all, their regular season record said so. As we all know however, once you get to the dance you can always ditch your date to neck with the prom queen. That is exactly what the Cardinals did.
I’m not talking about the Chiefs making the Super Bowl here. I’m just talking about them making the playoffs. Let’s face it; if it wasn’t for their weak division the Cardinals may not have even made the post season. However, by taking care of business in their division they nearly won the Super Bow.
The Chiefs are playing in a weak division this season. The Broncos and Chargers each finished 8-8 last year. They wouldn’t have done so well if the Chiefs were just a little better last year. If the Chiefs were better they might have swept the Chargers. They might have beaten the Broncos at Mile High. If the Chiefs were just a little better, someone might have won the division last year with a losing record. I think we can all agree that the Chiefs are better this year. We may also agree that the Broncos are worse and that the Chargers are the same…while still being coached by Norv Turner. Oh yeah, and the Raiders.
Below I present to you my Kansas City Chiefs Road to the Playoffs. I may not be right about any of this but it is certainly all VERY possible.
Here we go:
Week 1 Chiefs at Ravens
This is a brutal opener for new team. But you know what? Clancy and Todd have a little experience playing against and preparing for teams with a great defense and a ho hum offense. They nearly beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl. With an improved defense the Chiefs have a chance even on the road. They just have to keep themselves in the game and limit their turnovers. I think Joe F. falters and the Chiefs score an upset in a squeaker.
Result: 14-13 Chiefs.
Week 2 Chiefs vs. Raiders
Matt Cassel gets his groove on in the home opener. Russel is a bust. He throws 2 picks. The Chiefs win going away.
Result: 27-10 Chiefs.
Week 3 Chiefs at Eagles
This game intrigues me. I really think they can win it. I really do. I am also trying to be realistic. I think Haley will emphasize the importance of a quick start, which is why I think the Chiefs can squeak by the Ravens. If they lose that game, however, I think they will win this one. Realistically though, I think they have to lose one of them.
Result: 27-17 Eagles
Week 4 Chiefs vs Giants
The Giants aren’t invincible. They almost lost to the Bengals early last year and the could certainly lose to this Chiefs team. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, even at home, they just aren’t ready yet. The game won’t be as close as the score.
Result: 24-17 Giants
Week 5 Chiefs (2-2) vs. Cowboys
Two brutal games in a row but the Chiefs learn a thing or two from their game against the Giants. The game is at Arrowhead and Romo misses TO. Upset special.
Result: 17-14 Chiefs
Week 6 Chiefs (3-2) at Redskins
The Redskins just don’t get it. The Chiefs are emboldened by their home win against the Cowboys and they have a much better quarterback. They keep it going, even on the road.
Result: 27-13 Chiefs
Week 7 Chiefs (4-2) vs. Chargers
One of the things that impressed me about Cassel’s play for the Patriots last year was that he always took care of business in the games he needed to. This is one of those games.
Result: 24-21 Chiefs
Week 8 (Bye Week) Chiefs are 5-2.
The Chiefs get a well-deserved break after exceeding expectations in their first 7 games. Pioli is quickly becoming a God in Kansas City. The impossible seems possible. The division title is within reach.
Week 9 Chiefs (5-2) at Jaguars
The Chiefs simply have a bad game. It happens. Especially after a Bye Week filled with high expectations.
Result: 21-10 Jaguars.
Week 10 Chiefs (5-3) at Oakland
Haley lets the team have it about losing winnable games like the one in Jacksonville. It might happen again, but not this week.
Result: 16-7 Chiefs
Week 11 Chiefs (6-3) vs Steelers
The Chiefs return home to face the defending Super Bowl Champions glad they are 6-3. Haley, who would like to get some revenge has the team fired up but the Chiefs aren’t ready.
Result: 27-13 Steelers
Week 12 Chiefs (6-4) at Chargers
The Chiefs need to win this game but the Chargers play tough it home. It is a heartbreaker for the Chiefs. They lose on a last second field goal.
Result: 13-12 Chargers
Week 13 Chiefs (6-5) vs. Denver
The Chiefs begin their final push. Things are not going well for Josh McDaniels. Cassel shows him what he is missing.
Result: 33-17 Chiefs
Week 14 Chiefs (7-5) vs. Bills
The Bills are playing well in 2009. They manage to nip the Chiefs at home. This game could go either way.
Result: 21-19 Bills
Week 15 Chiefs (7-6) vs. Browns
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Another rough season in Cleveland. See Browns content above.
Result: 24-9 Chiefs
Week 16 Chiefs (8-6) at Bengals
Haley reminds the team about their phone in performance against a bad Bengal’s team last season. They don’t let it happen again.
Result: 17-6 Chiefs
Week 17 Chiefs (9-6) at Denver
The Chiefs control their own destiny. Win and the division is theirs. 9-7 won’t get it done this year. Cassel and company go into Mile High and get the money off the Chiefs back. All is not well in Denver. The Chiefs take the drama out of it.
Result: 28-16 Chiefs
There you have it. The Chiefs finish 10-6 and win the division. All they had to do was take care of the Raiders and Donkey’s, split with the Chargers and they already had five wins. Games against the Bengals and the Browns help as well as a couple of upsets. Obviously the season could go a million different ways. This is just one way I think it could play out.
I won’t go into the playoffs but I doubt they would make it very far but who knows? The Cardinals were supposed to be an early exit too.
I know this is a beast of a post but I hope you enjoyed reading it anyway.