A few months ago the thought was juggled around but never really taken seriously. Most experts agree the new Kansas City Chiefs would play much better than the team in 2012 that earned the first overall pick, but reaching the playoffs, much less winning the AFC West division, wasn’t taken seriously. Things have changed.
Andy Reid and Alex Smith lead a balanced offense
How much can a new coach and a new quarterback really change a team in one season? Well, John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco didn’t do half bad in 2008, reaching the AFC championship. For more recent historians, how about Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano? The point is new things aren’t always bad things in the NFL. Kansas City has a fresh start with two veterans at the helm in head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith. Reid comes off a disappointing end to a highly successful run with the Philadelphia Eagles that included six division titles, ten playoff victories, an NFC championship and a Super Bowl berth. To say Reid has done all that and is only 55-years old is remarkable. Now he has a fresh start with the Chiefs and a young roster eager to listen to him.
Smith meanwhile is eager for new beginnings as well. After enduring so many painful hiccups with the San Francisco 49ers, he finally proved what he could do by getting the team to the 2011 NFC title game. Last season he appeared on track for another great year, posting a record of 6-2-1 with 13 touchdowns to five interceptions. Unfortunately an untimely concussion pushed him to the sideline, and the 49ers ushered in the Colin Kaepernick era. Eager to prove he has what it takes, Smith takes over a talented but as yet inconsistent offense. He should have good protection first overall pick Eric Fisher joining the offensive line, while Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe bring playmaking balance on the ground and in the air. Smith isn’t a world beater on the stat sheet, but his track record under solid offensive coaches like Reid says he will make plays.
Tamba Hali and Sean Smith invigorate the defense
The real talk of the preseason so far is the Kansas City Chiefs defense. Piece by piece the team has assembled a diverse group with talent at every level. Leading the way is pass rusher Tamba Hali, coming off a season where he had nine sacks. In the secondary sits perhaps the most underrated corner tandem in the NFL in Sean Smith and Brandon Flowers. Smith is a free agent from the Miami Dolphins who played solid coverage for them despite not always getting the interception numbers. Flowers meanwhile is of the same type. He gets his hands on a lot of passes but can’t always intercept them. Either way the two have made life miserable for the receivers they’ve played thus far in the preseason. Throw in the surprise pass rush ability of linebacker Akeem Jordan and the guidance of star safety Eric Berry and Kansas City has good reason to feel excited about their athletic, young defense.
Yet the real story behind the new optimism rests elsewhere. With Oakland an San Diego having their own problems still left unresolved, it was clear from the outset that the Kansas City Chiefs season would rest on catching the Denver Broncos. Back in March that was considered impossible what with Peyton Manning and the 2012 third ranked defense up there. In that space of time, the early AFC Super Bowl favorites saw their three best pass rushers go off the board. Elvis Dumervil left in free agency, Von Miller was handed a lengthy six-game suspension while second-year lineman Derek Wolfe injured his neck. Manning has a history of carrying teams with bad defenses, but at age 36 he isn’t quite that player anymore. If ever there was a window open for the Chiefs to act, this is it. They can, and they will.