Kyle just wants to be loved.

The Chiefs' Race to 8-8 Begins Here

Obviously the Chiefs’ decision to pick up QB Kyle Orton off waivers shows that Scott Pioli and the Chiefs believe we are still in this muddied AFC West race.

And with every one of the Chiefs’ division rivals displaying serious inconsistency to say the least, I don’t think Pioli is wrong. In any other division in the league the Chiefs probably would be out of it, but the AFC West is still the AFC West.

There’s been a lot of discussion here at Arrowhead Addict about whether Orton is worth it, or if he is any better than Cassel to begin with. Celtks commented that, “It’s a pathetic day when taking the Bronco’s castoffs is a move up for the Chiefs at quarterback.” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said in the ESPN AFC West Blog that Orton is “certainly an improvement and very familiar with the division.”

“He fits their offense as they run first and then he can take some shots to [Dwayne] Bowe,” Williamson said. More after the jump.

To begin my two cents, I think it’s important for us all to remember what we thought about Cassel going into the 2011 season. Now I know it seems like a long time ago, but after his 27 TD 7 INT season in 2011, I dare say that many a Chiefs fan (and columnist) said Cassel was going to be the next Joe Montana.

When I wrote a column for AA in July entitled “Matt Cassel = Kyle Orton,” I was roundly told I didn’t know what I was talking about.

I wrote:

“Orton didn’t have the same ridiculously good stats, he didn’t have the W-L record that Cassel can now boast, but I don’t think he should be considered a lesser QB. Orton was playing for a much worse team with injuries to boot. He had no running game. His defense is/was a total mess, and he still managed to score three unanswered TDs on our D in the first quarter of their first meeting last year.”

I still think Orton is as good as Cassel, and by that, I mean 2010 Cassel. I don’t need to remind anyone that Cassel has faced his share of struggles since then, but I’ve been on the record for blaming that mostly on the offensive line play, which has been atrocious.

Orton was facing essentially the same problems in 2010, and was still good for 3,653 yards with 20 TD’s and 9 INT’s with a 8-8 record, which I think is the best that the Chiefs can expect this year. I also think that Orton’s skill set makes him more effective than Cassel for the injury-riddled 2011 Chiefs.

Orton’s arm-strength is comparable to Cassel’s but what he does with it is not. In 2010, he had more than double Cassel’s total number of passes for 40+ yards and significantly more passes for 20+, but that doesn’t mean he was throwing 70-yard bombs, Brandon Lloyd and Brandon Marshall are godlike in getting yards after the catch.

YAC isn’t all about the receiver, however. The QB has to put the ball in a place were the WR will be able to make some extra yards after the ball hits them. Orton excels at this. In 2009, nearly half (527) of Brandon Marshall’s 1,120 yards came after the catch. That offseason, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins, and while he still had about the same total yards for Miami in 2010 with 1,014, he had only 254 yards after the catch. Dwayne Bowe is similar in build and playing style as Marshall and could definitely improve upon his current YAC numbers, while Dexter McCluster, who is supposed to be used out of the slot as a YAC-machine, has yet to break a reception of more than 14 yards in 2011.

Orton also makes quick reads and gets the ball out fast – essential when you have Barry Richardson and Leonard Pope protecting you on the right side.

No matter how you cut it, Orton is going to be better than Palko, who Williamson described as “extremely well prepared and strong from a mental and toughness perspective,” but eventually said he didn’t think Kansas City could be competitive with him.

That is all that the Chiefs are going to ask of Orton: be competitive, because, as gnarly as the Chiefs’ remaining schedule is, Oakland also has a tough road ahead. The Oakland defense is extremely banged up this week and they face an impressive looking Chicago team, that has a dynamic running attack with Matt Forte. Let’s assume they lose this game.

Then, if we assume that Oakland and the Chiefs will both lose to the Packers and the Chiefs fall to the Steelers, which I don’t think is too hard to imagine, we will be 6-6 and 4-8 respectively. Now if the Chiefs can succeed in beating a Culter-less Chicago, a sputtering New York Jets team, plus Oakland at home and Denver away, KC will be 8-8.

Oakland also plays Detroit and Miami in this stretch, and it’s not too far-fetched to believe they lose at least one of those games. If they go 1-1 against those two and even if they beat a San Diego team that will try to play spoiler against them at Candlestick Park in Week 17, KC and Oakland will end up tied at 8-8, with the Chiefs holding the tie-breaker after having swept them this year.

This scenario also assumes that San Diego continues its artistic tradition of choking in impressively bizarre ways and that the rest of the league will start to figure out how to defend against Tebow’s silly high school offense.

I don’t think there is anything particularly fanciful about this scenario. Assuming Orton will be able to get up to speed with the offense in time for the Chicago game, he will be motivated to make a statement against the team that traded him in favor of a QB that will be sitting on their bench. Obviously the key to all of this is our second Oakland game on Christmas Eve at home, which I will do my darnedest to get to while I’m back home for the holidays presenting my fiancée to the fam.

Don’t give up hope! This division is just bad enough for the Chiefs to be able to repeat titles despite their horrendous play and devastating injuries. God, I love the AFC West.

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