Football Is Back: The Kansas City Chiefs are once again underrated by the national pundits and experts. Last year, they proved to be wrong as the Chiefs won 10 games and hosted a playoff game. This year, the pundits might be right and I might agree with them. Without trying to predict exactly what they think, they see the schedule, the quarterback and the seeming lack of improvement in the Chiefs.
On the first point, there is no denying that the Chiefs will have a harder road to hoe this year. To me, that is the most prohibitive factor for improving upon last season. The second point, I see their doubt of Matt Cassel and his prospects for taking his game to the next level. I think he can improve upon last year though losing Tony Moeaki throws a big wrench into things. On the third point, I think there will be a lot of guys growing and improving and that should prevent the Chiefs from a drastic downturn in this season compared to last.
The Chiefs have to take care of the division and they have to take care of things at home. I think this team will be a good football team. I don’t think that this team will be competitive in January though. I’m not saying it is impossible but a lot will have to happen. Here are a few things that are necessary for a Chiefs Super Bowl run:
Matt Cassel has to win some games on his own: Especially on the road against some of the tough opponents on the Chiefs’ schedule. The best teams have their QB who can win the game with little time remaining. I do not think we as fans are at the point where we know how good of a QB Matt Cassel is. Last year, he impressed us and another season may have him jumping up another tier and that is necessary for success in this league. Watch for improvement this season and how he uses the weapons at his disposal.
The defense must be a turnover creating machine: Remember when the Chiefs led the league in the turnover total? It’s time to get back to that. It seems as if the Chiefs offense has the turnover minimization down. Now, the defense has to be a turnover creating machine. I think the secondary will create a lot of problems for opposing offenses. I also think the linebacker corps will create some havoc for opposing offenses as well. As for the front three, they are going to have to do more than stop the run – they also need to demolish the inside gaps and force the offense on the other side to pass so the Chiefs have the chance to create more turnovers. I am not worried about the defense. It just might need to be better to play in the big game.
The O-Line must be above-average: This isn’t for Charles’ benefit. This is for Matt Cassel and for the Chiefs’ third down, goal line and red zone game as well. The front five that starts the season may not be the five that ends it but whatever combination we see out there on Sundays must effectively pass block and run block as well as we can presume that Jamaal Charles will not be carrying the ball 30 times a game. Just once, I would like to see that but I know that isn’t a smart long-term strategy for utilizing a running back of his size. The line has to allow time and space for the Chiefs offense to move the chains and get good shots to score touchdowns.
Last year’s line was good and they weren’t the only reason why the Chiefs did not do well on third down and in the red zone. This year, they can’t be the main reason why they continue to struggle, however. I think this line can be good but they are going to have to give Matt Cassel time and they are going to have to give the backs room to move the chains when they need short yardage.
With the Chiefs making the playoffs last year, the expectations for the Chiefs must be higher than just getting in this year. This team should be expected to improve upon last year despite the more difficult schedule and itis not unreasonable to have expectations for them to do so. Anything less than a Super Bowl win is a disappointment for the Chiefs this year.
The Not-So-Obvious Five Bad NFL Teams: Last year, I wrote about five teams who were no:t considered the worst but would be among the worst in the league. Those teams were the Denver Broncos, the Carolina Panthers, the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears. I was right on three, kind of right on one (Seahawks were bad but still somehow made playoffs) and wrong on one (Bears). This year, I am picking all over again. My only rule is no repeats so I have five new teams that may collapse.
First, I have to declare who the worst teams are going to be. The Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars will be in the toilet this year. Here are my five teams that will also be swirling that may surprise you:
San Francisco 49ers: New coach, same bad QB, lingering philosophies of kooky Mike Singletary – a recipe for disaster. I know they have Patrick Willis and Frank Gore but both might just feign injury and defer to a season where the team might actually be good. Toilet.
Miami Dolphins: I thought good things would come of Chad Henne. I doubt it now. This team doesn’t seem to display any sort of ability to rise above the titans of the AFC East. They might just slip below the Bills. Toilet.
Tennessee Titans: No more Jeff Fisher and Jake Locker waiting in the wings – this transition might just take some time. Chris Johnson might be the only element that will keep this team from slipping to the bottom. Toilet.
Oakland Raiders: New coach and same delusional owner means this team may not be too fast out of the gate. No Nnamdi Asomugha means teams will be able to pass on both sides of the field. The team that was undefeated in the AFC West and 2-8 outside of it will not sustain success in the former and should continue to struggle in the latter. They are the Raiders (that implies toilet).
Minnesota Vikings: Yes, I realize that I am saying that no more Brett Favre means that this team will be bad. It pains me to say it but it might be true. I don’t think Christian Ponder will be all that good when it is his turn and the defensive line is getting older. This team will be hard-pressed to have any success in a division with two teams that played for the NFC Championship and the impressive and rising Detroit Lions. Toilet.
Finally, real football!: With the whole preaseason leading up to this home game against the Bills. What did we learn from the preseason? The Chiefs tried to do nothing in the first three games and, in the fourth, they should have done the same as Matt Cassel and Tony Moeaki went down. God, I hate preseason football.
It was all bad and we come away knowing very little. Buffalo nearly beat the Chiefs last year and should be even better this year in their second year running the 3-4 under head coach Chan Gailey. The Bills will fear the Chiefs’ pass rush and will take their chances with the run. Watch Tyson Jackson and see if he is in regular season shape and mode. On defense, the Bills should be up to speed with the 3-4 defense but may not be in the first game.
The Chiefs will be a run-first defense but will have to do what they didn’t last year – take advantage of opportunities and put a lead on the board. They are going to have to convert in the red zone and on third down. I will be watching the tackles Brandon Albert and Barry Richardson on passing downs.
I will also keep an eye on Eric Berry, especially when he steps up to the line and rushes the passer. There isn’t an aspect of his game that is bad and he will be one of the Chiefs key players that can take a step forward and have that improvement make a difference for the Chiefs’ chances.
Matt Cassel will most likely be on the field today. We saw how he bounced back after his appendectomy last season so it should not be a factor in his performance. This game will come down to how the Chiefs take the opportunities given to them. The Bills may be improved but they are still going to make mistakes the Chiefs must capitalize and they will enough to win today.
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs 24, Buffalo Bills 17
Another Prediction: America 10, Terrorists 0
Update (10:42 CT) Apologies for the formatting snafu.