"Totally new coaching staff and a revamped defense, but still a few too many missing pieces. Give Scott Pioli a couple of years and this team will be back in the playoffs every year like it was in the late '90s. They're just not there yet."
Of course, I disagree. And not because I am a Chiefs fan or because I write for a Chiefs site or because I'm prepping this for a Chiefs-related audience. I think Schrager's misunderstanding - and what a lot of us can forget - is that your surroundings can be as important as anything. And the Chiefs might find this to be absolutely true in '09.
Consider this: I realize why Schrager wrote what he did. His points could be spot-on. The problem is that he's considering the entirety of the NFL. He's treating all teams the same - with the same schedule, same division, same overarching factors. And this is his fatal flaw.
The Chiefs don't play in a bubble. They play in the AFC West, which, last time I checked, was easily the worst division in its conference and perhaps the NFL. The Raiders, Broncos and Chiefs are all picked to be cellar-dwellers and that was before the internal combustion happening among the coaching staff in Oakland and between players and personnel in Denver.
The Chargers are already dealing with injuries and their two best players seem fragile (LT and Shawne Merriman). Of course, they're the most talented team in the division. But I'll take my chances with Norv Turner, with the possibility of injuries, with a Darren Sproles who is NOT playing for a fat contract and see what the Chiefs can do it with it. After all, the Broncos and Raiders don't seem remotely interested in getting better.
The Chiefs don't have to beat every team in the NFL. They just have to beat the other three around them. An 8-8 record was good enough last year and there's no reason to think that can't happen again. And while I'm not saying the Chiefs are a playoff lock by any means, it's within reasonable terms that the Chiefs could indeed finish with 7 to 9 wins. And in a messed up conference like the AFC West, that just might be enough.