QB Alex Smith was one of 10 players the Chiefs sent to the Pro Bowl in 2013.
At No. 21 in the fanatix NFL power ranking are the Kansas City Chiefs. With Pro Bowlers in every phase of the defense, the Chiefs have perhaps more raw talent than any other team in the league, but as the rest of the division has improved, the Chiefs remained surprisingly inactive.
Recap of 2013
After going 2-14 in a tragic 2012 season and firing the entire front office and coaching staff, the Chiefs hired Andy Reid to coach the team and quickly experienced a remarkable turnaround, winning 11 games and clinching a playoff berth.
The Chiefs were in the top 10 in the NFL for rushing yards, points scored, kick/punt return yards, points allowed, interceptions, sacks and turnover differential, allowing them to start 9-0 but went 2-5 the rest of the way and lost a heartbreaker to the Colts in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.
Recap of 2014 Offseason
The Chiefs allowed several key contributors to leave the team and made very little effort to replace them. Pro Bowlers LT Branden Albert, WR/RB Dexter McCluster and CB Brandon Flowers all left.
No one of note was added in free agency but the draft yielded several high-upside players in pass rusher Dee Ford, CB Phillip Gaines and versatile offensive weapon De’Anthony Thomas.
The team also suspended WR Dwayne Bowe for the opener against the Titans for marijuana violations.
Position of Strength: Linebacker
With three starting LBs returning from the Pro Bowl, the unit of OLB Tamba Hali, ILB Derrick Johnson and OLB Justin Houston are arguably the best in the league. Hali and Houston each had 11 sacks in 2013, while Johnson led the Chiefs in tackles. Even though the Chiefs have Pro Bowlers at QB, RB, DL, and DB returning to the team, the strength of the team clearly lies with the LBs.
Position of Weakness: Offensive Line
The loss of Branden Albert and Jon Asamoah clearly weakened the team, and former No. 1 overall pick OT Eric Fisher struggled mightily in his rookie season but will now protect the blindside as an NFL sophomore. While the team has more than enough raw talent to make up for the O-Line’s deficiencies, the same cannot be said for QB Alex Smith, who has only started a full 16-game season twice in his 9-year NFL career. If the offensive line can’t keep Smith upright, the team is done for.
Best Case Scenario
With only four games on the schedule against a top 10 defense, the Chiefs incredible offense could have a field day against some of their 2014 opponents. With a second half of the schedule that is much easier than the first half against teams like the Jets, Bills, Raiders twice and the Steelers, the Chiefs could easily slip into the playoffs if they can overcome the somewhat easier December schedule against the Cardinals, Steelers, Raiders and Chargers.
Worst Case Scenario
Having to play against the powerhouse Broncos twice as well as the ascending Chargers twice will be a task. As the Chiefs lost Pro Bowl players and failed to replenish the roster, the Broncos, Chargers and even the Raiders have stockpiled players to make themselves into contenders or, in Denver’s case, a near unstoppable juggernaut. Throw in the entire NFC West and a gritty AFC East and the Chiefs have a recipe for disaster. Kansas City has 8 games against teams that had a winning record in 2013, and play 4 of them in the first two months. If the Chiefs can’t build momentum to start the season the way they were last year, it may be too late for them to save their playoff hopes when the schedule gets slightly easier.
Prediction: 3rd place in AFC West, no playoffs