For the first time in a long time, the expectations for the Kansas City Chiefs are high.
For the most part, the good vibes are coming from within Chiefs Nation. There have also been a few nods of approval from national outlets since the NFL Draft. I’ve been covering the Chiefs for long enough to know that even the smallest bit of recognition from the greater NFL world is devoured by Chiefs fans like a piece of prime rib placed on the plate of a starving man.
We provide the kindling, they provide the spark.
The Kansas City fan base can’t be blamed for seeking out a little attention. The national media outlets seem to do their very best not to talk about teams in smaller cities unless those cities somehow managed to acquire a player that requires attention. See LeBron James in Cleveland and Tim Tebow/Peyton Manning in Denver.
The Chiefs have been largely ignored nationally since Scott Pioli arrived from New England. Sure, the team won the division in 2010 but the chorus of doubters were there all season long. The fans went from being angry about their team never getting any attention to being angry about their team never getting any respect.
Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, the team proved the doubters right by suffering yet another one and done playoff appearance. They then followed up on that letdown by finishing in last place in the AFC West in 2011.
This year feels different though and the fans are wise to notice it.
Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki are coming back from injury. Dontari Poe could be the long-awaited NT the fans have been clamoring for since the team moved to a 3-4 defense. Eric Winston will make the Barry Richardson era seem like just a bad dream. Peyton Hillis will be the thunder to JC’s lightening. Bowe, Breaston, Baldwin, Wylie and Hemingway will give Matt Cassel the best core of receivers he’s had since he was throwing to Randy Moss and Wes Welker in New England. The offensive line has been re-tooled. The defensive line, too! The team has more depth than ever before. They are finally ready.
It sounds great when you put it like that. In fact, none of what is stated above is false. This is most certainly the best team, talent-wise, Scott Pioli has assembled.
But the road to the Super Bowl isn’t paved with expectations.
The Chiefs still have a lot of question marks. Berry and Moeaki, for instance, along with coming back from serious injuries, are only entering their second NFL season after a year off. Veteran players often come back from injuries and do just fine but how will the long layoff impact two of KC’s most important young players?
Jamaal Charles says he feels great and that he is at 80 percent and that he’ll be ready for the season. Still, Jamaal’s game is his speed and elusiveness and the injury he suffered was not minor. Will he be the same back he was before going down? In the NFL, losing even the slightest bit of speed can mean the difference between getting through the hole and getting tackled for a one-yard gain.
Then there are the questions at QB. Matt Cassel has been good, bad, good and then bad again in his career. He’s proven he can help a team win if surrounded by enough talent. What he hasn’t proven is that he can lead those talented teams to wins over the league’s tougher competition. Cassel’s record against teams with winning records is not very good. Does he finally have enough talent around him to beat the likes of the Ravens and Patriots? If the Chiefs want to win a playoff game this year, Matt Cassel will have to do something he has never done before.
What will the Chiefs’ defense be like without Brandon Carr? Will Stanford Routt flourish playing opposite Brandon Flowers or will he continue to struggle with penalties?
Will Dontari Poe go down as the biggest draft bust in Chiefs history or will he turn Romeo Crennel’s defense into one of the best units in the NFL?
Speaking of Crennel, will he be able to shake off the bad karma from his time in Cleveland to become the first Chiefs coach to win a playoff game since Marty Schottenheimer?
The talent is present in Kansas City. There is no doubt.
But so are the questions.
People are fond of saying that having low expectations means one can never be disappointed but always pleasantly surprised.
That may be true but by being better, the Chief can raise what we consider to be low expectations.
So I’m going to go ahead and set my 2012 low expectations for the Chiefs at a Super Bowl appearance and I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.