Chiefs’ second half: Setting up a wild card run

1 of 2

Nov 15, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) reacts following the win over the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 29-13. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It was beat up, had one eye bloodied, a serious limp and didn’t look like it would survive.

Now, there is life left in this Chiefs team’s season.

The Chiefs made the first step toward the postseason last week in Denver. A crucial road win, it has set the stage for the remainder of the 2015 season. The team can build on its success against the Broncos and continue to evolve toward a playoff caliber squad.

Not everything is ready to go, however. This team is still on a journey to improve itself. While it may be a wildcard contender, is not ready to win a playoff game yet. The different levels of the offense and defense are in different states of readiness. Here’s a look at them.

Secondary and pass catchers

Nov 15, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Ron Parker (38) intercepts a pass intended for Denver Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer (14) during the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Chiefs won 29-13. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City secondary had an incredible day in the win against Denver. They played like a top-five unit. Sean Smith returned to practice on Thursday and that is a key to maintaining that level of play.

Now, five interceptions in a game is not a performance level that can be repeated week after week. But, the group has been on a tear and have the talent to continue it. Gaining confidence each week, this unit is still on the rise.

The pass catching group is another story. Facing the Broncos secondary that was not at full strength, they turned in one of the least impressive performances of the season in Denver. That has to change in order to not only make the playoffs, but win a playoff game.

Since the return of Jeremy Maclin, who has gone six catches for 52 yards, Albert Wilson and Chris Conley have combined for just five catches and 34 yards. That clearly is not the kind of compliment the Chiefs are looking for across from Maclin. There is still a lot of work to be done, especially since Conley only played 14 snaps versus Denver.

On a positive note, De’Anthony Thomas has gone seven catches for 59 yards you not same timeframe. Reid and Smith have to get back on track and progress the the passing game in order to secure the wild card. The Raiders, Ravens and Browns are all rank 25th or worse against the pass.

Linebackers running backs

So long as those trends continue or widen the gap, Kansas City should have a trip to take on Jan. 9.

The emergence of Charcandrick West has been the shot in the arm the offense needed following the injury to Jamaal Charles. As West becomes more comfortable in the offense, he has become more confident and more productive. The team will need that production is there a race the last seven games for a wildcard berth.

The linebackers have played very well of late. Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali have looked like a Pro Bowl trio over the last three games. The defense has held there last two opponents to less than 100 yards rushing on the day. The trend has even worn off on Josh Mauga, the fourth tarter, who made an actual interception against Denver. The return of the Ramik Wilson will only make the unit stronger and more prepared for the playoff run.

They will need to play the run well against Buffalo in particular in Week 12. That will be the largest challenge for the rushing defense down the stretch.

Next: Bottom line in the Trenches