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Mailbag: Chiefs biggest strength, worst playoff matchup

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The Chiefs are division champs, and I’m doing part two of a humongous mailbag (here is part one) to celebrate and to pass the time until the game starts. Let’s just roll right into it, shall we?

I think drafting a QB is way more likely than re-signing Foles. Look at his contract. Next season he’d be a $10.75 million cap hit. You don’t pay that to a backup, and he’s really got no incentive to sign some kind of extension that pays him way less money when he could do well in the open market as a competent backup quarterback.

I’ve said it before, I think Andy Reid really does like Alex Smith a great deal and doesn’t have plans to move on from him immediately. Because of that, there’s no reason to keep Nick around instead of drafting a guy who can be the guy in a few years.

I think Foles was an insurance signing. Reid and Dorsey saw the roster, liked their chances to make a run and didn’t want an Alex injury to utterly derail the team for multiple games. So they gave Foles a contract with a hefty raise in the second year (basically saying, if you light it up you’ll get paid here, but you’re probably only here for a year) as a way to make sure they weren’t an injury away from being completely underwater. Ask Oakland how important it is to have a competent backup if you have serious Super Bowl aspirations.

So yeah, I think Foles is probably gone next year. Which means almost $11 million off the books, those of you who believe the Chiefs are in cap hell.

Oof, two quarterback questions in a row. People are gonna be MAD at me ...

I don’t think Alex’s job depends on getting to the AFC Championship game, no. Nor do I think that his job depends on him even playing all that well against Pittsburgh. Again, based solely on what I believe Andy Reid’s opinion is of Alex, I think he’s completely safe for next season.

Now, do I AGREE with that? Well, it’s complicated. Alex didn’t take the step forward (at least consistently) this season many (including myself) were hoping he would. Now, he’s played well for a few games in a row, and a few games before that prior to a pretty rough game against Houston. But given the improvement in the weapons around him and the pass protection, I can understand why some people are discouraged they haven’t seen more from Alex. The playoffs would be a perfect time for him to show that.

My opinion on Alex is what it’s always been. He’s a decent quarterback with a unique skill set and some unique weaknesses. He is definitely a guy you can win a lot of games with and can help do so. But I’m always looking for improvement on any position, including quarterback. Which leads me to the Tyrod Taylor question...

I’ll be honest, I’m probably higher on Taylor than others. He throws a good deep ball, can pass well on the run, has fantastic athleticism, and is good at keeping plays alive in the pocket. Where it appears he struggles is making reads and dissecting what defenses are thrown at him. Given his natural gifts, I strongly believe that if you put him in a good offensive system that can limit QB’s reads and has multiple deep threats and a good bailout option, you’d see some really high production out of him. Like, more than most QB’s could get out of that situation.

Hey, does that situation sound familiar?

And THAT’S my issue. I like Alex, and moving on from him would be extremely dangerous because of what he provides. Additionally, his ability to play well against blitzes and read coverages is a big part of the offense, so it’s not a given that things would run remotely as smoothly with a less “gigabytes” drive quarterback. BUT... it’s pretty tempting to think of Tyrod tossing 10-15 deep passes a game to Tyreek Hill, Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce and using him as a REALLY dangerous read option threat. The ceiling, at least on paper, gets quite a bit higher for the offense.

So would I pursue Tyrod if I were the Chiefs (if he gets let go)? Well... only if I’d already made a decision to move on from Alex. Because once you go down that road, you’d better get him. And in a market where a decent QB is going to make bank, there’s no guarantee some fool team doesn’t toss 25 million dollars a year at him.

To be honest, if I were TYROD I would actively pursue becoming a Chief. Because again, I can’t think of a better offense and playmaker group for his skillset.

If the Steelers go the route teams have recently gone on the Chiefs, Travis Kelce will get the most attention in coverage, with Tyreek Hill seeing some rolling coverage as well. Maclin wasn’t ignored, but he was placed in one-on-one situations a fair amount against the Chargers. Of course, he exploited those, even against a very good coverage corner in Verrett. So I’m not sure if that’s really a great option for the Steelers.

Frankly, I don’t think Pittsburgh has anyone who can remotely cover Maclin, so that puts them in a tough spot. Kelce can’t be covered, and Hill requires deep help or he’ll either roast a CB deep OR (if the corners cheat deep) catch a series of 7-8 yard gainers that could eventually turn into a touchdown.

Honestly, people have spent so much time talking about the matchup issues the Steelers offense presents (and for good reason, Bell and Brown are studs), that what’s getting lost in the conversation is that the Chiefs have 3 extremely dangerous playmakers of their own (and a host of decent complementary players in Ware, Conley, DAT and Wilson). If Alex is at all decent I expect them to put points on the board against the Steelers.

If I’m Pittsburgh, I’m focusing on Kelce to start the game. The Chiefs have shown they’re willing to run gameplans completely through him (see the second Denver game) and that when they do so, they SHRED opponents. Force Maclin and Hill to beat you.

I don’t know how “off the beaten path” it is (seems like plenty of people know about it, but “Better Off Ted” is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever watched. It’s about... well, it’s maybe best described as a comedy about corporations? I don’t know if that’s adequate (maybe someone in the comments can do better), but just know your life will be better for having Lem and Phil in it. It just will.

Besides that, I can’t really help you. I’m unfortunately not a guy with enough spare time to Netflix and chill. Again, I’m guessing you can get some help in the comments with recommendations. Help this man out, folks!

First console for me was an original Nintendo. Obviously I loved the classics. Mario 2 is incredible, and Mario 3 just might be the greatest game of all time (in my opinion a lot of games are just imitating what Mario 3 started). Nice call on marble madness (though you’d get CRAZY blisters playing that, no?).

One game I really enjoyed was Bubble Bobble. That game was just the right combination of difficult but playable for a young kid to where you definitely felt accomplished when you beat it, but you didn’t end up feeling like a failure as a human being due to it being impossible (like Ninja Gaiden, a great but wildly difficult game).

But if I want to really go with an all time favorite (that isn’t a given like Tecmo Bowl), I’ve gotta go with RBI Baseball 3. Everything about that game is just oddly fun. The unique look, the ridiculously poor arms of the outfielders, the sounds (how rewarding is the whistle/cheering sound every time you score a run? On a scale of 1 to 10, it ranks somewhere in the infinity zone), the way you can hit 600-foot homers if you get things just right. But the best part is (obviously) figuring out how to become a monster pitcher. No human can throw curves like the ones a good RBI Baseball 3 player can make happen, and few things felt better than striking out the side playing a buddy who COULD NOT HIT your best stuff. Love that game.

This isn’t technically two non-football questions in a row, so we’ll do this. To figure out the bigger impact, all you have to do is gauge the consequences involved.

Alex Smith remembering how to run

This development will likely result in the Chiefs’ offense being better, which is essential in their effort to win some playoff games and, ultimately, a Super Bowl. It will also impact the personal life of Alex Smith, as if he (in theory) leads a good offense through a playoff run it will likely result in a lot less heat on him from the fanbase (if he cares about such things, that is).

Additionally, the impact a more successful offense would have on other players (if it leads to a playoff run) can’t be undersold. It’s well known that if you’re on a team that goes deep in the playoffs you’re more likely to get paid. So there’s the potential financial impact on other players, which could have a ripple effect. Finally, many peoples’ lives will be much happier for a short period of time and slightly happier for a long period of time if the Chiefs, in fact, win a Super Bowl due to said improved offense.

So you’ve got some potential for winning three games in a sport, making one man’s life easier, getting a few dozen others paid more, and making some fans happy. Not bad.

The Walking Dead Tribes Banding Together to Fight Negan

This has the potential to prevent the continued murder of (relatively) innocent people at the hands of a butcher and his absolutely savage followers. It additionally means that many more people will certainly die in the short run than would otherwise die (given the necessity of immediate battle over long, protracted killings by Negan’s group). And ultimately it could well mean the survival of hundreds (if not thousands, in the end) of people who would otherwise be killed by Negan’s group. And seeing as we have no idea how the rest of the world is faring, one could argue that the fate of humanity could ultimately depend on ensuring that Negan’s brutal reign is brought to an end.

So we’ve go preventing multiple murders, many other people dying in combat, saving hundreds or even thousands of lives, and perhaps preserving a free world.

OK, fine, when you phrase it that way this really isn’t as close as we thought it might be. TWD wins running away. UNLESS... you factor in that that TWD isn’t, you know, real, and that Alex Smith running more could have an impact in the real world. Then Alex wins. Man, all that guy does is win (ducks).

I haven’t heard anything indicating that Sutton is thinking about retirement. However, if he were to go I think Andy could at least take a look at Rex Ryan.

Yes, I know, Rex is an awful head coach. But he’s a phenomenal defensive coordinator, and a guy who Reid could give the reins to and not think about the defense at all (which is when he’s at his best). I wouldn’t hate it at all, as with Reid/Dorsey/Hunt around it would never be a question of Rex’s ego getting in the way (there’s something to be said for strong leadership at the top).

Barring that ... well, I keep hearing rumors that Wade Phillips might not stay with the Broncos (though those are generally related to him going to Washington, but still). Man, if that guy is free, you GO GET HIM. I don’t know if anyone else remembers, but prior to Wade that Denver defense was good, but hardly dominant. He turned them into something special, and I think with the pieces in KC he could do the same.

The biggest strength strength is the ability to make big plays (yeah, I know, it felt weird to type that) with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill WHILE still being a team that doesn’t generally make mistakes. Most teams that rely on big plays have to take risks to get those big plays. Because of the unique talents of Kelce and Hill, the Chiefs don’t have to take risks to get huge chunks of yardage.

On defense, right now I think it’s the ability of the secondary to make quarterbacks and receivers pay for any mistake. Mixups, bad communication, and inaccurate throws are inevitable in the NFL. Every quarterback has those moments in every game (some much fewer than others, to be sure). If you, as a defense, can make them pay for those moments at a higher rate than other teams, that’s a huge advantage. The pass rush MAY become the biggest strength down the stretch with Houston, Hali, Ford, Jones and Poe. But that remains to be seen.

On offense the biggest weakness is consistency. They’ll march up and down the field one quarter then look out of sorts and completely incapable the next. They need to clean that up.

On defense? Let’s be real, everyone knows the run defense is a problem. How much of one, after a few weeks to prepare, remains to be seen.

Eh ... I don’t think so. The only quarterback in the draft I’m fired up about is Deshaun Watson (though I don’t know much about college football, to be fair), and he’s going to be long gone by No. 12 in my opinion. You also don’t get enough ammo moving up to that spot to trade up high enough to snag the QB without giving away the farm. It’s just not good enough for me.

Like I talked about above, the thing with getting rid of Alex Smith is that you’re losing a competent quarterback, so you’d better have a competent quarterback ready to roll if you’re going to go that route. This scenario doesn’t give me that.

The short answer is I’m not sure. The longer answer is that I’ve seen Ford get pressure on plenty of snaps, he’s just not QUITE getting there as often as he was before and he isn’t finishing the way he was.

I do think that the hamstring may have been an issue. Much like with Jeremy Maclin earlier in the season, Ford could well be trying to play through a bit of a nagging injury (as hamstrings tend to be) that’s hindering his explosion (as hamstrings tend to do). When you’ve got a player who is so reliant on an explosive first step, that’s going to cause you real problems.

If I were a betting man, I’d say Ford has been playing a bit nicked up. Hopefully the bye week helped with that and we see a fully healthy Ford, Hali, and Houston on the field for what will feel like one of the few times ever.

If the Chiefs make it to the Super Bowl and play well enough to win it, there are any number of guys who could have been driving forces. However, I’m GUESSING it would happen on the back of at least one big turnover. And if I were a betting man, I’d put money on Eric Berry to be the guy who got that turnover.

Berry has been on fire this season with regards to making big plays in big moments. The Chiefs would arguably have lost two more games without him around at the very least. He’s a guy who generally plays better in situations that have higher impact, and I think he would be absolutely dialed in.

My next guess? Alex Smith. Now before everyone jumps on me, just consider a few things. Alex Smith has consistently over the last half decade been a better quarterback in the playoffs than he has in the regular season. He’s a guy who doesn’t freeze up and tends to do well with more on the line. He also was one of maybe 2-3 players on the offense to not completely fold against New England last season. IF the Chiefs win a Super Bowl, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it were on the back of one of those “where did that come from” Smith games.

HERESY!

Kidding aside, I get where you’re coming from. Colquitt gets paid pretty good money for a punter and people would like to see it spent elsewhere. That said, I don’t see it. Colquitt is still an exceptional punter and consistently puts teams in bad situations in big moments. I have no stats to back that up, only anecdotal evidence of saying “MAN, they needed that” roughly 1.4 million times after a punt by ol’ Dusty pinned a team back at the 10-yard-line, or worse.

We’re in the home stretch here, time for a couple of quick hitters.

Steelers are the easy answer due to the game earlier this season (though that was a lot more the Chiefs playing crappy than anything else), but I have to go with the Patriots.

For starters, they’re the best team. They’ve got the best coach (which neutralizes the usual advantage the Chiefs have with Andy Reid). They’ve got the best quarterback. And they’re perfectly capable of running the ball on you 35 times with the human jackhammer Blount. The road to the Super Bowl goes through them, and they’re a tough, tough team to beat.

I have a football autographed by Joe Montana that my wife gave to me on my first birthday that we were a married couple. I cried, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

That should do it for now. I’ll see you guys at Arrowhead, hopefully it’s to watch some revenge on Big Ben and the Steelers.