Fourteen games in, I still don't know what to think.
The Chiefs are 10-4 and statistically seem destined for the playoffs. It would take a serious collapse of all that is good and right in the world to keep Andy Reid from guiding the Chiefs to the postseason for the third time in four seasons. It would also, however, take an act of God to feel like the Chiefs have a real chance at making noise in January.
For the casual fan, it's easy to point to the Chiefs ongoing success under Reid and assume all is well. Every team, after all, has holes. Every roster has issues, and every coaching staff is dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball. The defending Super Bowl champs have often looked like chumps. Some divisions are as exciting, top to bottom, as another season of Cop Rock. And in the end, Reid has won 20 of his last 24 regular season games. (Gotta love that quoted stat week after week.)
All of that is true. In the NFL, anyone can win on any given Sunday (especially if you have Steamin' Willie Beamen). The Chiefs have largely succeeded with the two greatest impact players on the team gone for the bulk of the season (Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles are those players, and if you have an argument with either then you've somehow forgotten what each brings to the game. There's literally contest on either side of the ball for who is the real MVP when they're back to form.) Youth development. Growth curve. Offseason attrition. Injuries. They all play a part.
But there's also something that smells funny about this year's team. I don't want to use the word "pretender" but I guess I just did. The track record for success from the front office down to the coaching staff is in place, and there's loads of talent still ready to suit up on Sundays. But the way this team has grabbed certain victories isn't enough to ease one's conscious. Is it silly to complain about a win? Perhaps. Is it silly to complain about a few iffy wins in a row? I don't think so.
The reality is that each game presents about one or two quarters of quality football. Then it's a series of turnovers, a defensive lapse or, most often, an utter collapse on offense where three-and-outs are served up as often as Jose Lima served fastballs down the middle. It's this last point that has me most confused.
Should we take heart knowing that the Chiefs are winning despite playing inconsistent football? Or is that the best they have in 2016: an inconsistent bunch who could never put it all together?
The only we will know is whether or not this team makes enough noise to push forward into the postseason. For the Chiefs, it is now possible to stumble into the playoffs and maybe that itself is an achievement. But if this team never quite puts it all together, it will be a missed opportunity in a year where the NFL looks as wide open as ever.