Now starting off the eighth and final division in the NFL, and (as the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos are the last team I’m doing a preview for), I’m saving the best and most exciting for last. I have the AFC West, leading off with my personal preseason favorite, the Kansas City Chiefs, led by Andy Reid as the head coach. Since Reid has arrived, GM John Dorsey has put together a very good, sound and consistent team, that has yet to make real noise in the playoffs. With the retirement of Peyton Manning, and a lot of Broncos going elsewhere, this division is as much up for grabs as ever, as all for teams have a reasonable shot to win it, or lose it. I’ll start off with the team I think will win it, the Kansas City Chiefs, and they should definitely have Super Bowl aspirations.
The Chiefs do not have a lot of needs on their team, and they also did not select until the second round where they took DT Chris Jones from Mississippi State. The Chiefs have a great defensive front, so he will most likely just be a rotational player, but Chris Jones is a great player for financial flexibility as well as situational roles. The Chiefs also took two corners in the draft, Kei’Varae Russell from Notre Dame and Eric Murray from Minnesota. I would be surprised if either started across from Marcus Peters, but there is a big drop off in talent after him, and it really is a five way battle for the second through sixth corner positions. Also, taking quarterback Kevin Hogan from Stanford reminds me, for some reason, of taking a late round version of current starter Alex Smith, and don’t be surprised if the QB guru head coach Andy Reid works his magic.
The Chiefs were a highly non-active team in free agency, only taking right tackle Mitchell Schwartz from the Cleveland Browns in an attempt to shore up the offensive line. Outside of Schwartz, the only other move was taking ex-Green Bay Packers OLB Andy Mulumba and making him a depth player at best.
Maybe safety Hussain Abdullah will turn out to be a bigger loss than imagined, or maybe receiver Jason Avant has a breakout year in him, but the Chiefs were willing to let both of them walk. And, by the way, both are still available, so it seems like they made the right decision. However, cornerback Sean Smith going to the upcoming (division rival) Oakland Raiders of all places has to hurt, just because it’s the Raiders. The Chiefs are deep at corner, but they are deep with players who are, at the moment, nickel or dime corners, not starters. Guard Jeff Allen went to Houston as well, and that leaves a bit of a hole at left guard. They also let backup quarterback Chase Daniel walk for $7 million a year, but unless you want Tom Brady as your backup, there is no reason to sign any backup at any position in any sport $7 million (talking to you, National Basketball association), so they let him go like any reasonable team would.
The Chiefs’ three defensive line starters might be the best in the NFL combined, but I want to talk about the four-headed monster that is the running back position. To start, you have Jamaal Charles, who in my opinion, if he did not have an injury last season would be my No. 1 fantasy pick (which, as you fantasy players know, is a huge complement). Then, you have the duo that stepped in for him in Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, who combined for about 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns. Finally, now primarily a returner, Knile Davis was supposed to be the guy who would get Charles to take less to stay with the Chiefs or go elsewhere, because he was supposedly that good. He’s now fourth on the depth chart, but has the explosion to score on any play.
I just don’t get why the Chiefs are bad at finding receivers. Even when Dwayne Bowe was in his prime, they never had someone else to go alongside of him. Jeremy Maclin is a nice option, but he needs some help at his position. Albert Wilson and Rod Streater have shown flashes in the past, but they’ll need better receivers. They even could have drafted Sterling Shepard this year, but they went for more defense instead. I guess, just don’t plan on throwing to anybody besides Maclin or tight end Travis Kelce.
Five Most Important Players to the Chiefs’ Success
QB Alex Smith
RB Jamaal Charles
DT Dontari Poe
OLB Justin Houston
CB Marcus Peters
This Chiefs’ defense is full of studs, even without the three players I just mentioned. Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson is a beast, outside linebacker Tamba Hali is almost a universally-known player, defensive end Jaye Howard is one of the best in football, and both safeties are well above average. But Poe, Houston and Peters represent the three guys that make this defense from good to great. Poe is the middle man, and his pressure up the middle breaks plays up before they start. Cornerback Marcus Peters is a star, and his 8 picks as a rookie bring high expectations. Houston missed quite a few games last year after coming off a mega season the year before, and they need that from him again this year. Same with All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles, and it will take pressure off of quarterback Alex Smith, and the lack of depth at wide receivers the team has.
I said that this division is the one that is most literally “up for grabs,” but despite Denver winning the Super Bowl last season, I think this is the Chiefs’ division finally. And don’t be surprised if they get the No. 1 seed, either. This team has been really hot to start the season, then really cold to finish and vice versa. In Reid’s fourth season, this is the year they put it together and make a real run at something special.
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