Obviously, power rankings are all the rage, and all of us devour every list during the season so that we can to praise, complain or shrug about the Chiefs’ position on every list. Now, as much as I would like to contribute to that tried and true cliché of sports writing (and I would love to), I would rather build a power ranking that is somehow more important, more key and better reading as the season approaches.
Therefore, I present to you the only power ranking that matters: The ranking of the Chiefs 2011 season opponents (pre-season excluded).
First, a few disclaimers: This is not which teams I think are the best out of KC’s opponents but rather who I think we will do best against, and who will be our toughest counterparts. Their ranking does not in any way reflect how I personally feel about them as a team, organization, city, or fan base, just how I think we will do against (beat) them in the 2011 season.
For the goods, check in after the jump.
1.) Patriots – I dunno about this one man. They may not be the champs, but I feel like they are the most dangerous team on the field on any given Sunday. Belichek is a renaissance man of the game and can make gold out of dogs@$&t. The key to beating the Pats will be really good linebacker play. They have two very good pass-catching tight-ends, a great run-support TE, and an RB that plays half the time like a swing WR. Also, they are masters at short throws to the middle with Wes Welker and Adelman grabbing tons of YAC yardage. Thus, our linebacking corps will have to step it up against this bunch. Unfortunately, I just don’t think they are up to the task. Two of the four positions – Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson – are solid, we all know that, but I think New England will be able to expose Belcher and Houston/Studebaker. Who knows, maybe Studie and Belcher will step it up and truly develop this season, but one thing is for sure – this will be the hardest game on our schedule.
2.) Steelers – Another solid team that should be feared. Our O-line is still a work-in-progress at best and a liability at worst. The Steelers front seven will be able to eat their lunch unless we add at least one new starter through free agency this year. Granted, we did beat them in 2009. But that was with a special teams TD (Jamaal Charles 97 yard return) and two INT’s from Studie – which may well be the best single-game stat line of his career. I don’t count on us being that lucky this year. Our best chance is to keep their dynamic offense off the field with as much magic from Charles as we can muster. But, the Steelers are a very similar team to the Ravens, and if they can squash our running game like Baltimore did in the playoffs … this will be a hard one to watch.
3.) Packers- They’re the champs, enough said. Still, I think this is a winnable game. The Redskins beat them in 2010 with a stifling pass defense, and running out the clock with their ground game. They kept it to a 13-16 game, and those are the kinds of games that the Packers can lose. In a shootout, AaRod will always win. Thus, there is true hope that the Chiefs can topple the guys that wear the belt (btw – who doesn’t love that Rodgers celebrates with a WWF reference?). If we can keep the ball in our hands and Rodgers off the field, while making him force a few mistakes due to a pass rush and a good passing D, then we have a good chance of creating what would be a masterful upset late in the season.
4.) Bears – This game will depend on one player and one player alone – Jay Cutler. At his best, he is unbeatable; at his worst he will hand the game to us in a paper bag. I feel like with our defensive backfield and their shoddy O-line, we will never be out of this game. But, they proved their mettle by getting deep into the playoffs and only got shoved out of the NFC Championship Game because their QB got injured halfway in.
5.) Chargers – You hate them, I hate them. But they are by far the toughest team in our division and they know us well. I think we have a good chance of splitting the series with them, but even as much of a KC homer as I am, I can’t guarantee two wins against a club that honestly probably has more talent overall than the Chiefs do.
6.) Jets – The Jets have the same advantages that both the Steelers and the Patriots have over us. They are great in the short-yardage passing game, and they have a scary defense versus our suspect protection. Still, if we can sign ourselves a proven NT, say Abrayo Franklin, and can legitimately shut down the run, we will put ourselves in a great position. If we can force Sanchez to win the game himself, history shows that he will choke – which means a great day for Flowers and Berry.
7.) Colts – Peyton Manning. Enough said. Our best hope is to exploit their weakening O-line. They were a liability many times in 2010 and forced Peyton look straight-up bad in certain games – and that’s hard. Still, as long as
#12 #18 is on the field, this is a team to fear.
8.) Raiders – See #5. I really just wish this team didn’t exist. As much as I hate them, they swept us last year, and proved that with tough defense and a consistent running game, they can own us. The great glimmer of hope is the fact that this was a team so badly constructed I have serious doubts they’ll be able to bring back a significant portion of their own stars, let alone add FA talent. Nnamdi will be gone, as will a lot of their other defensive standouts. We have a good chance of taking them down a peg in this coming year as we get stronger and they get weaker, but, as much as I would like to, I can’t objectively guarantee the door will swing fully in the other direction in 2011.
9.) Lions – This is an up-and-coming team that will be dangerous going into 2011. This may in fact be one of our toughest games, I’m just not ready to upgrade them yet. They showed serious improvement last year and have a franchise – if fragile – QB and a lot of weapons around him. They drafted extremely well this year and will be one of the surprises of next season in my opinion. KC, being the surprise of last season, will be ready for them.
10.) Bills – Awful team, but there’s no head coach out there more motivated to beat the Chiefs than this one. I could oddly see an upset coming here, although I have no scientific backing for it. Still, I hope it goes the way that Paddy foresaw a while ago.
11.) Dolphins – Free agency means everything for this team. It is so far really hard to judge where this team is going. All of their running backs are on the market and their QB is a question mark. Still, they have an intimidating defense and if they’re able to build a respectable offense, they may be able to put up a real fight. Still, I think we should be able to mark a “W” beside this matchup at the beginning of the season.
12.) Vikings – See #11. This team is in total disarray. They have as many question marks as any team in the league. If we can’t take advantage of that, we don’t deserve the win.
13.) Broncos – Despite being a division rival, I just see the Donkeys as being a mess this year. On top of installing a new system in a short offseason, they’re switching to an entirely new defensive scheme and still don’t know what to do with all the useless picks from the McDaniels era. I disagree with most commentators that they will keep Orton, because he is great trade bait for a rebuilding team, and everyone wants to see what Tebow has got. Plus, even if he burns out, he wasn’t a pick by the current regime, so it won’t be egg on their face. If that very likely scenario occurs, theses are easy “W’s” for a seasoned KC team rolling into the playoffs.
Predicted Record: 9-7 — I honestly think we will be lucky to pull out one win against the top four teams. We will split it against San Diego and Oakland and roll Denver. Overall, I think we’ll be impressive against the middle-of-the-pack teams but there will be some surprises.