Hello Chiefs fans. I hope the summer is treating you well. I should probably apologize for not being around as much lately. Being a teacher I have my summers off and all that time away from my desk has really cut into my AP time. However, in between trips to the park with the kids and working outside on the lawn I've been thinking a lot about the Chiefs and specifically the AFC West. Now I won't go so far as to predict the Chiefs will win the AFC West, I still think we are probably a year away. However, if you look at the other AFC West teams I think I can serve up a pretty realistic glass of Kool Aid as to why each of those teams may struggle this year. So for those of you craving a little summertime glass of Kool Aid, I give you your 2010 AFC West Glass of Kool Aid.
Let's start with the Oakland Raiders. Some have said this has been Al Davis's best off season since these days:
Let me concede two things right off the bat. Rolando McClain was a great pick and Jason Campbell is an upgrade over JaMarcus Russell. That having been said, let me state my one major case against all those that are predicting that Campbell is the missing piece that the Raiders needed to jump from annual loser to playoff contender. Campbell hasn't proved he can be a winning QB. The last two seasons he is 12-20. Now I understand that that reflects the entire Redskins team, not just Campbell. However, in those two seasons combined the Redskins defense averaged 304.25 YPG allowed which averaged 7th best in the league and 19.75 PPG allowed which averaged 12th in the league. During those same two seasons the Oakland defense gave up an average of 361.4 YPG (good for an average ranking of 23.5) and 23.95 PPG (also good for an average ranking of 23.5). My point being that Campbell had a lot better defense backing him up in Washington then Oakland has had the last two years and only lead the Skins to 2 more wins then the Raiders had in those two seasons with the fat bum at QB. Now Oakland did have a better line and run game then Washington last year, but not by that much. Oakland was 21st in the league last year at 106.3 and Washington was 27th with 94.4. I would argue that the slight edge in run game doesn't account for the bigger gap in defense. So in my opinion, if Oakland wants to really improve they need to look at more then just upgrading from Russell to Campbell.
So have they improved elsewhere? Well the other question on offense is the WR position where they have had very erratic play. Out is major bust Javon Walker and in is rookie burner Jacoby Ford. Ford is fast but is VERY raw and I don't think you can call the position upgraded at this point. On defense, out are Kirk Morrison, Greg Ellis, and Gerard Warren, in are Quentin Groves, Kamerion Wimbley, and rookies McClain and LaMarr Houston. That is probably an upgrade but the one major addition of McClain is slightly off set by the loss of a very productive LB in Morrison.
The official 2010 anti-Raider Kool Aid is that there are not enough serious upgrades on this roster for this team to make the playoffs. Campbell has to prove he is a winner and McClain although good will not make a defense that was 26th in the league in yards allowed suddenly become great. This team is still beatable.
Now let's go to everyone's favorite off season drama queens, the Denver Broncos. Hey Josh McDaniels, how many guys on your defense can stop Charles from running all over you again this season?
Yep, that's what I think too. Apparently Josh was only looking at the overall defense numbers this off-season. They don't look that bad. On paper, Denver had the best defense in the AFC West last year. They were 7th in the league in yards allowed and 12th in points. However, as anyone who watched JC run all over them in the final game of the season knows, those numbers don't tell the whole story. After a fantastic start that helped Denver start 6-0 the defense showed major problems as the team finished 2-8. In those eight loses they allowed almost 30 points per game. The Donks canned Mike Nolan their DC who installed the 3-4 for them. Nolan lead a great D in Baltimore as the DC and helped turn around the SF defense while the head coach there so this move can definitely be questioned. Personnel wise the addition of Jamal Williams is the only real upgrade. The loss of Andra Davis and Kenny Peterson and the additions of Akin Ayodele and Jarvis Green are probably pretty even. Here's my take on Jamal Williams, either way the Chiefs win. If Williams still has "it" then he will be a real loss to SD the current division champs. If Williams is washed up then the Donks have no real upgrades to a defense we ran all over.
Then there's the offense. Out are Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler, Peyton Hillis, Casey Wiegmann, and Chris Simms. In are rookies Demaryius Thomas, Tim Tebow, JD Walton and Eric Decker along with veterans Brady Quinn and JJ Arrington. Basically, they got rid of a whole lot of proven players and are gambling on rookies to replace their production. Could there players be great? Yes. Does this team have some serious question marks on offense? Yes.
Your official 2010 glass of anti-Donk Kool Aid is that there are so many question marks on this team that even if half of these questions turn out to be major wins for Denver there will still be way to many holes for them to be a playoff team this season.
Finally, let's look at the team everyone and their mother has already penciled in as the division winners, the Chargers. Hey Norv, how are you feeling about your GM's "screw you guys, we don't need you" attitude about Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil?
Heh heh heh.... Seriously, if there is a Chiefs fan out there with a SD Chargers voodoo doll that you've been hexing and cursing this off season, keep up the good work my friend. It is really starting to look like the Chargers may be without their #1 WR and franchise LT for possibly the majority of the season if not all of it. Best case scenario at this point would be they sign and come in right before the regular season. In which case, they may be rusty and not in game shape for week one. Now who do they play that week? Oh yeah, that's right, they have to go into the new Arrowhead on Monday Night Football and face a packed house of screaming maniacs that will be just waiting for some fresh meat. (On a side note, it now looks like I will be one of those screaming maniacs. WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!)
Let's look at their other off season moves. Out are LaDanian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie, and Williams. In are CBs Nathan Vasher and Donald Strickland who will try to help fill the void left by Cromartie, along with rookies Ryan Matthews, Donald Butler, Darrell Stuckey, and Cam Thomas. Vasher is okay, but coverage wise he will be a downgrade from Cromartie (but may at least attempt to tackle people). I already addressed Williams. Other then Thomas they didn't try to replace Williams. Butler and Stuckey each have a chance to be upgrades. Merriman has also not signed his tender yet, but thus far things have not turned as ugly with him as it has with the other two. The Chargers' run D is probably their weakness ranking 20th in the league last year. That bodes well for us. On offense Matthews will probably be an upgrade over the aging Tomlinson. However, his addition can in no way make up for the loss of Jackson and McNeil if they sit out.
Your official 2010 anti-Bolts Kool Aid is that they have not made enough upgrades to off set the loss of Jackson and McNeil if that comes to be. If those two kiss and make up with GM AJ Smith then this team should win the division. However, if those two sit out this team is beatable.
So the question is, could we be sporting hats like these this winter?
Like I said in the intro, I'm not going to go there. However, your 2010 AFC West Glass of Kool Aid is that this season the division is setting up so that you don't have to win 12 games to take it. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if 9-10 wins got it done. Could the Chiefs win 9-10 games this year? Yes, they COULD. I still think 7-8 is probably more realistic. For me it comes down to three main questions.
1. Can the front seven of the defense improve? If some of our high draft picks step up and Crennel can make some improvements coaching wise then I think we could at least be average up front.
2. Can Matt Cassel be a solid NFL QB? I'm not talking pro bowl, just a solid QB who avoids mistakes and distributes the ball to the play makers. Hopefully, a full off-season with the system and his WRs and the addition of Weis at OC will make the difference.
3. Can the team stay healthy? I feel a lot better about some of our play makers now. However, we are not deep enough yet to survive several key injuries. Hopefully Haley's "be in shape or die" attitude will help keep us healthy.
If all three of those points go in our favor then I think we have a legit shot at the division this season. So there you have it AP, some summertime Kool Aid for you. Drink Up!