With OTA's underway and the fans starting to look forward at the 2012 season, predictions are running rampant. There are always obvious contenders and cellar dwellers that take up about half of the league. Then you have the x-factors. The Kansas City Chiefs for many are one of those teams.It's tough for most pundits to handicap a team that won only seven games last year coming off of a playoff appearance in 2010. Of course injuries are a big reason for the drop-off and Todd Haley being fired certainly didn't help, but still seven wins are the final total.
However, forget about all the outside stuff. None of it matters whether it's a glowing review or a damning remark. Kansas City's success will start and potentially end with how it fares in the AFC West. The NFL regular season is basically a four-team tournament, with the winner guaranteed a trip to the playoffs.
The Chiefs have to battle with the Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. No other team matters until January and that's only if Kansas City makes the big tournament. At that point the injuries have happened, the breakout stars have arrived and the older stars have hit the proverbial wall.
A lot will be made of Peyton Manning joining John Elway in Denver and the Chargers trying to rebound from two disappointing campaigns. The mainstream media will fawn all over both squads and proclaim them the favorites to take the AFC West crown.
Put my money on the Chiefs. No disrespect to the Broncos, but who knows how well Manning will play after missing a full season and coming off of multiple neck surgeries. Even if he's back to the same old form, the rest of the roster is lacking.
The receivers will absolutely benefit from having Manning, but that doesn't fix the offensive line issues not to mention a lackluster running game and a very suspect linebacker core. The Denver rushing attack was only ranked number one because of the amount of attempts due to having Tim Tebow at quarterback.
Moving on to San Diego, the Chargers have some serious issues. It's easy to see why people would pick the Broncos, but selling Philip Rivers and company is a very tough position to defend.
As long as Norv Turner is the head coach, that team has no chance of making the most of its potential. The good news for Norv? This group doesn't have much of it in the first place.
Rivers is a great player but the supporting cast is seriously questionable. It's been said that San Diego had a good offseason. It's an interesting statement when you look at the facts. The Chargers lost their top two red zone threats in Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert. Who were they replaced with? Robert Meachem and Le'Ron McClain. If you were running the Chargers, would you make that trade?
Jarret Johnson is a nice pickup, but he hasn't ever shown an ability to rush the passer. Melvin Ingram might turn into that guy, but he needs to prove it first as a rookie.
Kansas City by far has the most complete roster in the division. Even with Matt Cassel, the Chiefs should win 11 games or so with the bevy of talent on both sides of the ball. Nobody is expecting the AFC West to be a runaway with Manning in town, but Kansas City should be hosting a playoff game or two.
Neither of those teams has players like Eric Berry, Brandon Flowers, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali on defense. In fact, you could make a very legitimate argument that those four are the best defensive players in the entire division.
Offensively, it's been well documented how many weapons the Chiefs have between Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Tony Moeaki and others. Cassel doesn't need an exceptional season for this team to make a deep run into January and perhaps February.
It should be a fun year at One Arrowhead Drive.