Chiefs fans all over the country may be feeling uneasy today. The team is coming off an 0-4 preseason. Their promising young tight end is out for the season and now there is even speculation that Matt Cassel could miss the season opener with a rib injury. Fans are worried. Some fans are livid at the approach Chiefs coach Todd Haley has used in the preseason. It’s understandable, but all that being said, we really have no idea if the Chiefs will be any good this season. Optimists like myself have pointed out areas that we seem to have improved on from last season. Others are already in full doom and gloom mood. I’ve seen words like horrible and terrible used on a regular basis. The vibe in Chiefs Nation is starting to remind me of Haley’s first season when he was just some “idiot with a bad temper”. It’s almost like last season didn’t happen for some fans.
So who’s right? No idea. However, I for one am in a GREAT mood today.
The answer is simple. After months of lockouts, speculation, and debate we get REAL football this week. The games will now mean something and we will start to get the answers we have been looking for. That, my friends, is a great reason to get excited.
I thought about doing a preview of the matchup with the Bills this Sunday, but I’m sure they’ll be plenty of that as we get closer to kick off. Instead, I decided to take this opportunity before we start getting real proof of what this team is going to be to make one last set of 10 predictions about the 2011 Chiefs.
Check them out after the break.
Now, I’ll admit that I have been told on more then one occasion that my outlook on the Chiefs has a “sunshine and rainbows” vibe to it. I like to consider my writing to be logically optimistic. In other words, I try to stay positive but not out of touch with reality. So naturally, a lot of my predictions are positive ones. However, to try and keep SOME credibility with those KC fans of a more “questioning nature”, I did include a couple negative ones. I’ll start with those to get them out of the way.
So here are my 10 predictions for the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs.
1. Jamaal Charles will miss at least two games due to injury. NFL fans all over have been killing Todd Haley for his supposed lack of use of Charles. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Haley’s protective use of Charles will be validated this season, as Charles will miss some time with injuries. Nothing major, but it will become clear that Charles isn’t the most durable back in the NFL.
2. The Chiefs will struggle to stop the run. Last season the Chiefs finished 14th in the NFL with 110.2 rushing yards allowed per game and 17th in yards per carry allowed with 4.3. I don’t see those numbers being a lot better this season and if one looks at the preseason for proof they could even be worse. The best chance the Chiefs have is to get the offense going and rack up enough points to cause their opponents to throw the ball. Which leads me to………..
3. The Chiefs will have a top 10 pass defense in 2011. My only disclaimer to this one is that as I write this we still haven’t heard anything about Eric Berry who left the final preseason game with an undisclosed injury. If he misses significant time then that is a game changer. However, assuming he is healthy he will lead a very good young secondary and that combined with an improved pass rush will help the Chiefs make the jump up to one of the better pass defending units in the league. Speaking of pass rush……….
4. The Chiefs will be among the top 5 teams in the NFL in total sacks. Many people don’t realize that the Chiefs finished tied for 10th in the NFL in team sacks last season despite the fact that Tamba Hali was their only big threat. This year the Chiefs have two more candidates in Justin Houston and Cameron Sheffield that appear to be even better then last season’s #2 threat Wallace Gilberry (who is still on the team). Then you add rookie Allen Bailey pushing the pocket up the middle and there is no reason the Chiefs couldn’t move up another 5 spots this year and crack the top 5. The real challenge will be holding teams on first and second down to force them to throw on third down.
5. The Chiefs will not be near as run heavy in 2011. Now don’t get me wrong, I still think the Chiefs will try to establish the run every week. However, there are several factors that I think will lead to the Chiefs throwing more often this year. They include: stronger run defenses on the schedule, better WR corps to throw to, playing from behind more this season, and my prediction that Charles will miss some time with injury this year. This will also lead to……….
6. Matt Cassel earning his keep in Kansas City. Cassel made the Pro Bowl last season but still has not earned complete trust as a GOOD starting quarterback. However, even against a much stronger schedule and without Charlie Weis, Cassel will put up good numbers again this season and will earn the trust of (almost) all KC fans.
7. Dwayne Bowe will officially join the list of elite WRs in the NFL. Bowe led all WRs last season with 15 TDs. However, the Ravens showed that a good defense could take him out of the equation and KC had no answer. The additions of Baldwin and Breaston should help fix that problem. Think about this, 13 of Bowe’s 15 TDs came in a 7 game stretch last season. That means that in 9 games he only had 2 TDs. If the improved WR core allows Bowe to be more consistent then there is still room for improvement over last season. Plus, with Moeaki out, Bowe becomes that much more valuable to Cassel.
8. Dexter McCluster will be third on the team in yards from scrimmage after Charles and Bowe. I know that doesn’t seem like a very bold prediction, but keep in mind that McCluster only had 280 combined yards rushing/receiving last year. Meanwhile, Thomas Jones had over 1,000. Look for Todd Haley to be very creative in how he uses McCluster this season to take advantage of his unique skill set. Which leads me to……….
9. Todd Haley and Jim Zorn will make Chiefs fans forget all about Charlie Weis. Many KC fans think back to the first season Haley was here and use the poor offense as a reason to question Haley as a play caller. However, don’t forget that Haley was good enough at the job to call a team within a few minutes of a Super Bowl victory. Yes, his first season was bad, but with so many new players to break in and so many of Herm’s bad habits to overcome, can you really use that as a fair measuring stick? It’s my opinion that the offense last season still had Haley’s design all over it, and that is part of the reason Weis wanted out. The only real worry I had about Weis leaving was all the work he did with Cassel. Having now seen how close Cassel and Zorn already seem to be this season (including watching them work together in person at training camp) I do not think Weis’s departure will be an issue with the 2011 Chiefs.
10. The Chiefs will go 9-7 and just miss making the playoffs. I do think it is possible that the Chiefs really start to gel down the stretch and could even squeeze into the last wildcard spot. Who knows, maybe good old Norv will even find another way for his Chargers to choke yet again. However, I think that KC is probably one more year away from being a legit power in the AFC. I think a winning record with this schedule and young team would be a good season and reason to have faith in Haley and Pioli going forward.
So there you have it, my 10 predictions for the 2011 Chiefs. Where did I go wrong? What other predictions do you have? I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether they’re “sunshine and rainbow” or “doom and gloom”. Regardless, you had better get them out of your system now because come Sunday we will actually start to get some real answers. So cheer up KC fans, football season is finally here.
Random rant that has nothing to do with anything else I have written, but I wanted to say it anyway: The Chiefs announced today that they have assigned TE Anthony Becht the number 88 for the upcoming season. Really? No other number was available? I understand that they only have so many numbers they can use and TG hasn’t had his number retired (yet). It just looks wrong!
Okay, now I’m done.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!