KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 12: Head coach Todd Haley of the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on August 12, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
In the final pre-season installment of this series, I'll take a glance at the outlook for this upcoming season. Now that the meaningless games are out of the way, lets take a look at what really matters.
We all know Kansas City had a soft schedule last season. They played only two squads that made the playoffs (Seahawks and Colts). The Chiefs also had the fortune of playing the NFC West in a year where that division was quite possibly the worst ever. Kansas City went 10-6 and lost in the Wild Card playoffs to Baltimore.
The Chiefs will have one of the toughest schedules in the league this year. They have a five game stretch where they face New England, Chicago, and New York on the road while they get Pittsburgh and Green Bay at home. The other 11 games aren't nearly as daunting. In fact, they only face one playoff team in all of those games (Colts). Out of those aforementioned 11 games, six of them are home games.
During the off-season the Chiefs added a lot of pieces, if not big names. We now see the likes of Le'Ron McClain, Kelly Gregg, Steve Breaston, Jared Gaither, and the draft class clad in red and yellow. Jim Zorn is the QB coach, and Bill Muir is the offensive coordinator. Outside of Shaun Smith, Kansas City lost nobody who made an impact which should bode well this season.
The qusetion about the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs is simple. Will they make the playoffs again this season?
My Verdict: Yes, they will.
While the schedule was easy last season, it was easy for everyone in our division. I constantly hear the rhetoric of how dominant San Diego is and I laugh. San Diego consistently underachieves. This season they actually got worse with losing Darren Sproles and Kevin Burnett while only adding Travis LaBoy and Takeo Spikes.
But enough about San Diego, let's talk about winners. Lets talk about the division champs.
As I said, the Chiefs lost nobody who will drastically affect them. They have escaped the pre-season with practically no injuries. I understand they haven't played well so far, but they played subpar last year at this time also. I'm not worried about it.
Do I have concerns? Absolutely. But what team doesn't? They need to address RT. Barry Richardson gets flagged more often than Eric Warfield in man coverage opposite Jerry Rice. Kansas City also needs to get a second wide receiver who can play (hopefully Jonathan Baldwin), because Urban isn't going to cut it. Right tackle will get fixed (Gaither or Richardson will step up) in my view. Our problems on the outside may not.
I look at the Chiefs and see an ultra talented team. Matt Cassel will never be the reason this team wins a championship, but he can be the starting quarterback for this team when it does. Jamaal Charles is simply the best and Dwayne Bowe can be top-tier as well. Tony Moeaki has star written all over him and Dexter McCluster looks like he can be a difference maker in a limited role. Le'Ron McClain and Steve Breaston will be welcome additions as well.
However, it's the defense that has an oppurtunity to be special. Here's my fearless prediction for Kansas City:
The Chiefs will have the best defense in the NFL.
Tyson Jackson looks like a totally different player this season and we know what Glenn Dorsey can do. Kelly Gregg is a legitmate nose tackle, and Jerrell Powe is better than Ron Edwards already. Don't forget about Wallace Gilberry either. He can flat out wreck havoc. The linebackers are excellent. Derrick Johnson is one of the best ILB's in football and Tamba Hali is the reigning AFC sack champion. Jovan Belcher is the one guy who can hurt this defense because he can't cover at all. He's solid in the run game but needs to step up elsewhere. Justin Houston looks like an animal. Kansas City rolled the dice and so far, so good. He will make an immediate impact and upgrade that OLB spot.
Of course, the secondary can't be forgotten. Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry, and Kendrick Lewis. With Mike Vrabel gone and Justin Houston/Cameron Sheffield/Andy Studebaker in his place, the opposition will have less time to throw the ball. This group can be the best in the league. The star power is overwhelming. As is the fact the oldest guys in that group (including Javier Arenas) are Carr and Flowers. They're 25. Eric Berry is 22.
The Chiefs will win the division because they're the best team in the AFC West. 10-6 feels right, so I'll go with that.
Are you ready for some football?