From the FanPosts -Joel
Part of the fun of being a sports fan (apart from the usual: getting into the nitty-gritty X's and O's, arguing about the draft, playing armchair GM, etc.) is reading what various NFL commentators have to say about the Chiefs. The "inside baseball" of sports fandom, if you will. The analysis of the Chiefs this offseason has been pretty uniform: they were much more talented last season than their 2-14 record would suggest, but bombed due to poor coaching and the worst quarter back play this side of Arizona. They have improved immensely this offseason, primarily due to the coaching changes (Romeo Crennel and Brian Daboll are out, Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and Bob Sutton are in), the acquisition of Alex Smith, and the upgrades made to the defense (Sean Smith, Dunta Robinson, Nico Johnson, Akeem Jordan, and Mike DeVito, among others).
However, the question remains of how many wins those improvements will translate to. Those opinions are much more divided. I've seen some predictions say seven or eight wins, and I've seen as high as a 10-6 record and a wild card berth. Through three preseason games, we've gotten a pretty good idea of what the Chiefs' strengths and weaknesses are, and what their ceiling and floor will be.
Through three preseason games it is pretty clear the Chiefs' strengths are the defense and special teams. Virtually all of the new additions to the defense are improvements over the guys they replaced (especially Sean Smith and the Akeem Jordan/Nico Johnson duo). Berry, Smith and Brandon Flowers will give KC one of the best secondary units in football, and will be nearly as strong of a unit as the linebackers. If Flowers and Smith can be lock-down corners, it will allow Bob Sutton to throw all kinds of crazy blitz packages at opposing offenses. The DL is improving and Dontari Poe still has some massive potential (also: is anyone else terrified of Allen Bailey?). The linebackers (Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Jordan and Nico Johnson) are set to be the best in the NFL. The defense is going to be deep (especially in the back eight) with an excellent mix of veterans and young players, and has top-10 potential.
The special teams unit is looking really, really good. I don't know much about special teams X's and O's, but I do know exactly why they will be much better this year than last year: All Hail Dave Toub. Hail.
However, things do not look anywhere near as promising on offense. Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles are the only for-sure skill players the Chiefs have. Alex Smith is accurate and consistent, but not spectacular. Even though he is arguably the single biggest upgrade any team made at any position this offseason, he isn't a QB to build your offense around. Bowe and Charles are the stars of the offense and will remain so with Smith at the helm. Which, in a vacuum, is fine. Bowe is a legit No. 1 WR and Charles is a player you can design your offense around (and all signs point to Reid doing exactly that).
The Chiefs' have two problems on offense: 1) a shaky offensive line, and, 2) zero depth at the skill positions. First, let's look at the offensive line, because that holds more promise for being resolved mid-season. The line is populated with mostly young players (Jeff Allen, Jon Asamoah, Eric Fisher, Rodney Hudson, Donald Stephenson, Eric Kush) and only a couple veterans (Branden Albert and Geoff Schwartz). Their play this preseason hasn't been anything to write home about, but there may be simple reasons for that. Playing offensive line is a lot like playing defense in basketball: it takes a lot of chemistry and communication to know where the other four guys are going to be and how to do your job in conjunction with them. Fischer and Kush are rookies, and Hudson (the center) has missed significant time with injuries his career, which has not given Allen, Asamoah and Albert a lot of time to play with him. It may be a simple case of them needing time to gel. We shouldn't be overly concerned about it at this point, but it is something to keep an eye on when the season starts.
The second problem, lack of depth at the skill positions, is more serious. There are two types of position battles in the NFL: the kind that occurs when a team has too many talented players at one position (see: Nico Johnson v. Akeem Jordan), and the kind that occurs when a team has too few talented players on the roster (see: the Chiefs No. 2 WR, No. 2 RB, and any and all of the Chiefs' TE options). Everyone other than Bowe and Charles can be described as either unproven, inconsistent, or rookie question marks.
Let's run through some questions facing the Chiefs' skill positions. Who is the Chiefs' backup RB? Knile Davis? Shaun Draughn? Cyrus Gray? Last week against the Steelers Davis played 19 offensive snaps, 4 on special teams. Draughn played 15/6, and Gray 13/7. If Andy Reid has a No. 2 RB, he sure isn't showing it in how he divvies up snaps. Davis looks like the favorite, but the only thing he has going for him is his speed; he's not a particularly good football player. If he can stay healthy he could develop into a very good backup, but there's certainly go guarantee of that. There's also that pesky ball security issue he has trouble with. Draughn and Gray aren't awful, but they certainly don't inspire a lot of confidence.
Who is playing TE? Fasano looks to be the Week 1 starer with Tony Moeaki out for God only knows how long. The most optimistic of projections would have him back after the Chiefs' Week 10 bye, but the truth is we don't really know if he'll be out the whole year or just the first few months of the season. That leaves Fasano, who isn't particularly good (he's only had more than 500 receiving yards once in his career), and Travis Kelce, who is a freak athlete but has had a rough preseason (three targets, one reception for 17 yards, sat out Steelers game due to injury). Kelce could be a difference maker for this team, but he needs to step up/
Other than Bowe, which WR can be a reliable weapon for Alex Smith? Avery has 10 targets with 7 receptions for 60 yards the entire preseason, McCluster has 2 receptions for 21 yards, and hardly anyone else (other than the RB's) have caught a pass from Alex Smith this preseason. I still believe McCluster can be a Percy Harvin/Wes Welker type weapon out of the slot, but he has yet to prove it. Avery has had drop problems the past few seasons, but even if he didn't have a case of the dropsies he still isn't a legit No. 2 WR. Everyone else is unproven.
The last thing to consider is the Chiefs' very favorable schedule this year. The Chiefs only play four playoff teams from last year: the Broncos (twice), Colts, Texans, and Washington. The will play the Broncos, Colts, and Texans at home, and only have two road games against potential playoff teams: at Denver and Washington. The Chiefs have a very easy schedule before their Week 10 bye, with only games against the Giants and Texans that seem like true tests. The last seven weeks of the season will be much harder, with all four games against Denver and San Diego, a trip to Oakland, as well as games against Indy and Washington.
So, with all that said, here are the Chiefs best and worst case scenarios this season.
Worst Case: The worst case scenario is a pretty familiar story in Chiefs Nation. Defenses stack eight guys in the box to stop Charles and force Alex Smith to beat him with his arm, which he can't do because Bowe is constantly double- and triple-teamed and Smith has no one else to throw to with Moeaki out for the whole year. The offensive line never gels, the lack of depth at the skill positions is exposed as none of the young players (McCluster, Kelce) turn into legitimate threats. The Chiefs offense can't stay on the field (or score more than 13 points a game) and the defense can't stay off it. The defense puts up a valiant effort every game, but is gassed by the fourth quarter. The Chiefs excellent special teams scores a few touchdowns here and there to keep them in a few games, but ultimately can't win the field position battle when the offense goes three-and-out in their own territory nearly every other possession. The Chiefs go 5-11, and pray Andy Reid can add depth to an offense that desperately needs it.
Best Case: The offensive line gels early on against a couple terrible defenses (Jacksonville, Tennessee, Philly, Oakland), allowing Andy Reid to unleash Charles on helpless defensive coordinators. Alex Smith does just enough under center with his arm and football IQ to keep teams honest, and his accuracy allows Avery, McCluster and Kelce to step up in a big way to become weapons in the passing game. The Chiefs, while not a particularly high scoring offense, move the chains enough to give their top-10 defense ample rest, and allow the special teams to put the offense and defense in great field position. A couple key TD's by Dave Toub's group throughout the season swing a few games the Chiefs' way. KC feats on a very favorable early schedule and gets to celebrate a 7-2 record during the bye week. Moeaki returns in the second half of the season, the Chiefs sweep San Diego and Oakland, and pick up another second-half win to go 10-6 and win a Wild Card berth.
Those are the extremes of the Chiefs' potential. As with all things in life, the extremes are not very likely. It is more probable the Chiefs end up going anywhere between 7-9 to 9-7, depending on how quickly the the offense can get things together.