Insiders

Chiefs Are Real Contenders In the AFC

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Before the season, the Kansas City Chiefs were tapped with lofty expectations and for good reason.

First of all, head coach, Andy Reid, was entering his third season as the man in charge. Secondly, Eric Berry and Derrick Johnson were returning to an already good defensive unit. Last but not least, the acquisition of Jeremy Maclin gave hope to an offense that failed to total one single receiving touchdown a season ago.

Kansas City got off on the right foot, after defeating the Houston Texans in Week 1, but things went sour in a hurry. The Chiefs went on to lose their next five games and to make matters worse, star running back, Jamaal Charles, went down with a season-ending ACL injury.

After six games, Kansas City had a 1-5 record with their best offensive player out for season.

On their way to disaster, Reid’s group rebounded, circled the proverbial wagons and haven’t lost since.

In their first five games with Charles, they failed to score 30 points in every contest.  Without him, the offense has scored 30 or more points four times, including a 45-point outburst against the Detroit Lions in London.

Offensive coordinator, Doug Pederson, broke down how they’ve found success without their 4-time Pro Bowl back.

“They can’t pick on one guy,” Pederson stressed. “Because the Raiders, for instance, would basically try and eliminate Jamaal Charles (before his injury). They would blitz him and cover with (Woodson). Well, now we’ve got two or three backs that are rotating, so what are you going to do? Who are you going to double? You can go after Kelce or Jeremy, but you can’t double both, and we’re aware of that.”

Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have been asked to carry the load on the ground and they’ve produced in a major way. The duo has combined for 774 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns.

“(Jamaal’s) such a dynamic player, he’s such a unique matchup, that for me, it was always easy just to, like, go back to that,” quarterback Alex Smith stated. “Like if you’ve got man (coverage), the best matchup on the field is Jamaal. So I think (his injury) made us have to be a little more, I don’t know, maybe a little more well-rounded?

“I mean, it was so easy to just always fall back to him because he was so good. We’ve had to spread all that around a little bit more now.”

Smith has been impressive in his own right. His numbers won’t blow you away by any means, but he’s been the best in the league at protecting the ball. On the season, he’s only thrown four interceptions and before this past Sunday, he didn’t throw a single pick in nearly three months.

As impressive as the offense has been, the turnaround on the other side of the ball may be more jaw-dropping. In early October, Kansas City’s defense ranked 28th against the pass and was second to last in points allowed. Now, they rank 16th and 4th in each category respectively.

During the midst of their struggles, defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, never panicked.

“You know the old saying: Treat victory and defeat for the imposters they are?’’ Sutton said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I always try to separate the feeling you get after winning or losing a game from what’s really going on.’’

With the Denver Broncos losing this past Sunday, the Chiefs still have an outside chance at winning the AFC West. Although they’re two games back, it’s more realistic than you may think.

When comparing the two schedules, it’s clear Kansas City has it much easier. They have the Ravens, Browns and Raiders left, while Denver has Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and San Diego to go through.

Looking ahead, with the Cincinnati Bengals losing Andy Dalton for the season and no real answer at quarterback in Denver, this could be the season for the hottest team in the AFC to make some noise in January.

Outside of New England, who the Chiefs beat handily a season ago, name an AFC team that’s considerably better than Kansas City.

It’s not insane to think that the Chiefs could be playing deep into January with a chance at playing in February.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.