Are The Kansas City Chiefs Contenders Or Pretenders?

DENVER - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs as a discussion on the bench with center Casey Wiegman #62 and fullback Mike Cox #42 against the Denver Bronco at INVESCO Field at Mile High on November 14 2010 in Denver Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Cheifs 49-29. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

I'm a Kansas City Chiefs fan which means there's always going to be a level of optimism with me. It also means these questions are difficult for me: Are the Kansas City Chiefs pretenders? Was 3-0 a fluke? Are the Week 9 and 10 Chiefs the real Chiefs?

I'm not quite sure where I stand on those questions. As I write this I'm on a flight back from Denver, where I witnessed....well, we all know what happened. Part of me thinks the 5-2 Chiefs are the real Chiefs and part of me thinks the last two weeks are better indicators of who this team is.

To help me answer the question, I looked at both sides of the issues.

They're pretenders….

In the Chiefs last six games, they've lost four and won another in overtime against a winless team. Reality is crashing in for this team. Teams now have half a season of tape on these guys and they're figuring them out.

At a time when good teams begin to turn it on for the home stretch (see: Chargers), the Chiefs are getting exposed. Good teams don't care if the opponent has all the tape in the world. They know they're better and they're going to run the plays they always run and just do it better than you. The Chiefs can't do that consistently.

The last two weeks, significant flaws have been exposed. Defensively, opponents shut down the run game and make the Chiefs pass early. Offensively, they attack the safeties. It worked when Jason Campbell hit Jacoby Ford for what was essentially the game-winner in Oakland and it worked when Kyle Orton hit [Name any Broncos receiver] for a big pass in Denver.

We're entering the second half of the season and for the Chiefs it's a problem. They have very little depth anywhere so once an inevitable injury hits, or guys just simply get worn down, they'll crumble.

The AFC West may be the second weakest division in football and the Chiefs are 1-2 in those games. They won early when no one was expecting it but once teams take them seriously, they collapse. The ride was fun but the formula to beat the Chiefs is in and they're done.

They're contenders….

The Chiefs do a few things well that good teams should be doing -- play solid defense and run the ball well. The Chiefs defense is still a good unit, despite the Broncos 49-point outburst. I'd rather look at eight games of tape than one game to determine what type of defense this is. The Chiefs play up to the level of their competition -- San Diego, Indianapolis, Houston and Oakland, which are possible playoff teams.

Jamaal Charles leads the NFL in yards per carry, Thomas Jones' leadership does matter and Dwayne Bowe is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions.

The fact is that we're entering Week 11 and the Chiefs are in a tie for first place in the AFC West with 5-4 Oakland. You don't hold that spot through 10 weeks without demonstrating you're for real. The Chiefs still control their destiny with three division games coming up, including trips to Arrowhead for Oakland and Denver.

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