The season has ended and guess who’s invited to the ball? Our Kansas City Chiefs that’s who! Now, it’s time to take a look at just who, or whom, it is that we eternal Chiefs fans will be shouting encouragements for as we enter the golden inner circle reserved for the leagues best: the 2013-14 NFL Playoffs.
The Almighty Manning
First of all, we all know which team is the record breaking team: the Denver Broncos. However, using the record breaking regular season as a predictor for post season success… doesn’t mean much. In 2011, Drew Brees had a record breaking season (the one Manning has broken this year) and in the post season the Saints lost to San Francisco (and Alex Smith) in the second round and didn’t make it to the conference championship game. Then there’s the “perfect” and record breaking Tom Brady and Randy Moss led Patriots of 2007 who lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. So, setting records in the regular season, doesn’t prove anything in the post season. Winning is the measure.
Division v. Division
When you look at each division and find the category marked DIFF it reflects the total number of points “scored” and “scored against” added together. If you’re a winning team it should show that your team is on the plus side of the ledger. If you evaluate whole divisions this way, the AFC West is clearly the second best division in all of the NFL right behind the NFC West. These two divisions both have three teams all on the plus side of DIFF. In the AFC West you have, Denver +207, K.C. +125 and S.D. + 48 equaling +380 (for just the top 3). In the NFC West you have Seattle +186, San Fran. +134 and Arizona +55 equaling +375. However, upon taking the worst team in of those divisions into consideration (Raiders at -131 and the Rams at -16), and the final totals for the two divisions stack up like this: NFC West +359 and the AFC West +249.
Looking at where the Chiefs have progressed to from a divisional standpoint they appear to be the second best team in the second best division overall and… the second best team in the best division in the AFC. Lofty heights considering last year’s finish.
Who would have imagined that after a 2-14 season in 2012 that the Chiefs would have 6 Pro Bowlers. It would have been difficult to project that the Chiefs would have even more in 2013 but that’s exactly what happened. 8 Pro Bowl players. Not to burst Chiefs fan’s bubble but I was surprised that both LT Branden Albert and CB Brandon Flowers made it to the Pro Bowl this year. Especially Flowers. That being said you have to respect the fact that somewhere out there people believe that the Chiefs deserved an equal number of Pro Bowlers as did the San Francisco 49ers. What does it all mean moving into the playoffs? It means the Chiefs have a number of playmakers, who, when healthy, and on their game, and help to take games over. Like in previous years, the question will come down to the holes in the roster like FS Kendrick Lewis whose play has been nearly abysmal at times and is such a liability that the play making ability of the Chiefs Pro Bowlers is offset by these, shall we say, “holey” rollers… cause that’s just the way they roll.
8 Pro Bowl players is fairly spectacular when you think about the pure numbers. 11 starters on offense and 11 starters on defense and two kickers equals 24. So, the Chief have one-third of all the Pro Bowl players? Yes, I know there are first team and second team players and kick returners are included but the pure volume of players going to Hawaii is impressive. I just hope it’s not troublesome when it comes time to re-sign all these wonderful Pro Bowl performers.
In the final analysis of how the Chiefs are viewed through the Pro Bowl spectrum, the Chiefs have one of the two best rosters in the league. One is in the NFC and the other is in the AFC… and do you see where I’m headed with this? It would be a great Super Bowl in MetLife in February to feature the two teams with the mostest of the boastest: Chiefs vs. 49ers. Smith vs. Kaepernick. Oh the tongues that would wag.
Depth of Thought
When you think about it, the Chiefs haven’t been this deep in years, I can’t remember when. Based on Sunday’s game, although I was hoping loud and clear that the Chiefs would put Tyler Bray in the game at some point, Chase Daniel appears to be the back-up we all hoped he could be. In fact, if Alex Smith goes down, Chiefs kingdom has to feel darn good about what Daniel can come in and do. This renewed confidence in the depth of the Chiefs team extends well beyond the QB position. The performance of second teamers, pushing San Diego first teamers to the limit before relinquishing that win was an amazing feat. In the fourth quarter, you could see some bloggers saying they’d be happy with the outcome of the game no matter the final score because the Chiefs second team had done so well against the Chargers starting unit. That’s saying something. Not only should John Dorsey be recognized as one of the leagues best GMs in his very first season but the coaching ability of Andy Reid and his staff should be heralded as, next to none.
Just a sub-note to the subject of “team depth” is the messy topic of officiating. I normally don’t bring the subject of officiating into question here at AA because I believe it’s a waste of time for the most part. If I have something to say about the rules as a whole I usually address it as a whole post topic. However, it was obvious this game against the Chargers was robbed from the Chiefs by bad officiating and more importantly, they robbed the Chiefs second team of a win. The second team played so well, they didn’t deserve a loss. Too bad we didn’t have a second team kicker to attempt a field goal at the end of regulation.
And the Beat Goes On
The point of developing a solid group superior second teamers is to have a player ready to step in during the absence of a first teamer and… not miss a beat. Several years ago John Dorsey’s Green Bay Packers won a Super Bowl with a slew of first team players sitting on the bench. How did that happen? Simple but not easy. Simply put, they had high quality depth. What’s not easy about that is that while finding players with excellent capabilities is step one, developing those players and placing them in positions to succeed is quite another. Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers is case in point: it appears the Chiefs are ready to make playoff run even if a few of their front line players go down. Will they? That’s another issue but, it looks a lot like the Chiefs are depth-ready to do damage in Indy.
A Kick in the Playoff Gut?
Ryan Succop has been the popular whipping boy this week and can you guess how fans in Pittsburgh feel about him, not that any of us care. It’s just that if you’re filled with vile for Ryan’s Hopelessness remember there are those on the outside still looking in who usually are on the inside snubbing their noses at us. And just the thought of that… kinda has me proud of Succop in a weird strange kinda way. My real concern about Succop at this point is whether or not he’s a choker? The Bleacher Report ranked kickers in the league last week and Succop came in 5th,
Ryan Succop is 11th in the league in scoring with 82 points on 19 field goals and 25 extra points. He’s facing the San Diego Chargers. The Bolts have allowed 16 field goals and 24 extra points.
While I might expect the Chiefs to take a look at another kicker this offseason, Succop appears to be the man for now. I do however question whether or not he has it in him to win the biggest game of all in the last seconds. After his performance in the closing seconds of regulation in Sunday’s game against the hapless Chargers you can’t help but be concerned.
Fresh Juice for the Post Season
As the playoffs begin, it’s important to go in healthy. That’s why anyone tuning in or showing up for the game on Sunday might have been upset to find that only one team was fielding jersey’s with names on them that anyone recognizes. Andy Reid is a smart man. Not only did we get a great look at these back-ups but they got some tremendously needed first team experience. Another important element of being successful in the postseason is making sure your first team players are sharp when they’re needed to be sharp by being fresh when they need to be fresh.
Subbing Powe for Poe early in the game against Indy, so Poe can be his… fast and furious beastly best... in the second half appears more possible now. Getting Parker some reps in the defensive backfield not only seems like a good idea, it might be an improvement. Is there anyone out there that does not want to see Mr. Hemingway becoming a more popular target for Alex Smith? He has done nothing but impress me this season and not just in the Chargers game. He gets open. He hold onto the ball. What else is there to do on his part? Does anyone want to see Knile Davis ripping through some holes in the first half so JC is fresher in the second half? Even if it’s only 5 extra touches in the first half it would help. Remember JC has 329 touches this year already.
Dance This Dance
Head coach Andy Reid has been here before: the NFL Playoffs. He’s danced this dance. Reid’s playoff record is 10-9 while the Chiefs current roster of players who were here in 2010, the last time the Chiefs made the playoffs, shows that approximately 14 players total have playoff experience from that year. However, I’d say it’s more important that the head coach have that experience than the players. Especially since there are enough players here who can recall what that was like. A post Monday at ESPN.com quotes Reid as saying,
It’s the start of a new season. That’s how the playoffs work, you’re in the dance, as they say. It’s another phase of the season. You’ve worked very hard as a team to get into this position.
This may be a new year and a new team for Andy Reid but there remains the question of whether or not he’s learned some important lessons. Reid was traditionally cited for his poor game management. At the time Reid was fired in Philly, in a post by Vaughn Johnson at Philly.com, Johnson said,
Fans will remember the number of division titles, but they will also remember the number of timeouts wasted at inopportune moments of games.
Can Reid learn? Is the support staff around him going to help with minute-by-minute game management? If this year is any indication, it looks to me like there haven’t been any major issues to speak of. However, we know how the playoffs can intensify things and until you’re in it… you never know how someone is going to react. A concern? No. Something to watch out for? Sure.
Are you Ready for Some (Playoff) Football?
Oh my gosh I can’t tell you how excited I am for this team. They often speak in terms of “family” when speaking about their fellow players. That’s something extra special for a mid-westerner with middle-class values. This is a memorable team and should be enjoyed to the fullest while you get the chance to enjoy them. I last had this feeling ten years ago. Many special players with special skills. A year to remember for sure. Now, to answer the question of whether or not there is something more to this team?
Do I think they have a legitimate shot in Indianapolis? Absolutely. Indoors, with the perfect turf and temp, should provide the Chiefs the chance to show off their speed game. While I believe Reid and staff planned to win the Colts game a couple of weeks ago, they knew they were going to the postseason and began to rest players then. It really is a luxury for teams with wins under their belts by the 14th game in the year, to rest their infirmed. The point is, the team the Chiefs put on the field against Indy game two weeks ago should in no way be associated with the team Kansas City will field this Saturday in Indiana.
It looks like the Chiefs will nearly be at 100%. What more could you ask for on New Year’s Day?
Have a Happy and safe New Year and may it be prosperous for you in every way.