2013 NFL Preview: Kansas City Chiefs

Are Chiefs a Dark Horse AFC Playoff Contender?

Can the Chiefs go from 2-14 in 2012 to the 2013 NFL playoffs? It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Can the Chiefs go from 2-14 in 2012 to the 2013 NFL playoffs?(Credit Opertinicy)

There’s no way the Kansas City Chiefs could make the NFL playoffs in 2013, right? After all, they finished an abysmal 2-14 in the 2012 NFL season, with a 24th ranked offense and 20th ranked defense. They finished a disgusting -24 in turnover ratio, tied for worst in the NFL. And they play in the same division as Peyton Manning and the vaunted Broncos.

There’s no way the Chiefs could make the 2013 playoffs… or could they?

Take the 2011 Indianapolis Colts as an example. They also went 2-14, were next-to-last in the AFC in turnover ratio, and ranked 30th in offense and 25th in defense (both worse than the Chiefs). And they played int he same division as Arian Foster and the vaunted Texans. All they did was get a new quarterback, new head coach, and made the 2012 playoffs with an 11-5 record.

All the Kansas City Chiefs did this offseason was get a new quarterback and new head coach. and bring back an altogether more talented core of players than the Colts did last season. We’re not saying it’s a sure thing that the Chiefs are going to make a run at the playoffs this year.

We’re just saying this all looks really, really similar.

Kansas City Chiefs: 2012 team stats

Team record: 2-14 (4th in AFC West)

Total offensive rank: 24th (32nd pass, 5th rush)

Total defensive rank: 20th (12th pass, 27th rush)

2013 Kansas City Chiefs: offensive preview

Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith make their Kansas City debuts in 2013, and both bring plenty of promise with them. While Smith isn’t going to kill you downfield with his arm, he has developed into a QB that doesn’t make mistakes (just 10 INTs in his last 2 seasons, over 663 attempts). Meanwhile, Andy Reid is a head coach that showed offensive versatility with the Philadelphia Eagles, making lethal dual-threat RBs out of players like Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley and LeSean McCoy. And that bodes well for one particular RB.

As woeful as the Chiefs were last year, Jamaal Charles was spectacular. For the better part of the 2012 NFL season, everyone the Chiefs played knew that Charles was the only true offensive weapon they had – and he still couldn’t be stopped. 1,509 yards rushing, 5.3 yards per carry, another 236 yards receiving, and 12 total plays of 20+ yards.  All that ranked Charles 5th in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (only behind a few guys named Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch). Whatever the KC offense is in 2013, Jamaal Charles will be a huge part of it.

The WR corp looks pretty new this season. Jon Baldwin, who was traded in the preseason to the 49ers for WR A.J. Jenkins. Both will look for fresh starts with new teams. Dwayne Bowe, who claimed he could lead the league in receiving in Reid’s system, returns along with Dexter McCluster. Donnie Avery joins the team from Indianapolis.

The #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, tackle Eric Fisher, opens the season at RT, as LT Branden Albert stayed put over the offseason.

2013 Kansas City Chiefs: defensive preview

It’s hard to really judge the Chiefs defense on its 2012 performance; the unit was forced to stay on the field for exhausting stretches of time thanks to the constant turnovers by Matt Cassel and the offense. The secondary was above average against the pass, holding 12 quarterbacks to under 250 yards passing and 4 under 200 yards. 3/4ths of that starting secondary return (Brandon Flowers, Kendrick Lewis and Eric Berry), while CB Sean Smith joins the team after 4 seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

The 4 linebackers in the Chiefs’ 3-4 scheme can make the claim they are one of the very best LB units in the NFL. In 2012, Justin Houston recorded 10 sacks, Derrick Johnson led the team with 125 tackles (11 for loss), and Tamba Hali (9 sacks) established his reputation as one of the finest disruptive players in the game. Veteran Akeem Jordan will play the other ILB position next to Johnson, moving from the Eagles in free agency.

The front 3 of Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe and former Jet Mike DeVito are young and athletically gifted, but must play stouter defense against the run in 2013. With running backs like Arian Foster, Trent Richardson, Maurice Jones-Drew, C.J. Spiller, Chris Johnson, Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden on the schedule, rush defense cannot be an Achilles heel.

2013 Kansas City Chiefs: a very winnable road schedule

Looking at the Chiefs schedule for the 2013 NFL season, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the road schedule is far easier than the home schedule. Need proof? Take a look at the Kansas City home schedule, and then their away games:

Home: Dallas, NY Giants, Oakland, Houston, Cleveland, San Diego, Denver, Indianapolis

Away: Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Buffalo, Denver, Washington, Oakland, San Diego

In all, the schedule isn’t so brutal; only 4 home games are against teams with +.500 records from 2012. But the Chiefs only have 2 road games at teams with winning records last season; outside the Broncos and Redskins, their other 6 road opponents went a combined 29-67 in 2012.

The focus for Kansas City this year shouldn’t be winning the AFC West; it should be taking advantage of a weak schedule and a relatively “down year” in the AFC. If KC can manage to go 3-3 in the AFC West, there are 6-7 winnable games on the remainder of their schedule. And that – just maybe – will be good enough.

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