Kansas City Chiefs 2011 NFL Predictions
The Kansas City Chiefs stunned the rest of the AFC West last season, coming out of no where to win the division with a 10-6 record. The team had won a total of 10 games the three seasons prior, but used a soft schedule and an in-flux of young talent to secure what even the most optimistic of Chiefs’ fans thought impossible.
Now Kansas City will face the league’s most daunting schedule, which is certain to impact its 2011 NFL Predictions. The Chiefs must deal with the likes of Pittsburgh, New England, New York, and Indianapolis from the AFC while drawing the Packers, Bears, and Lions from the NFC. And, oh by the way, they will square off against division rivals San Diego and Oakland twice.
Given that brutal lineup, a 2011 Kansas City division title might be more shocking than last season’s improbable run to the top of the AFC West.
Offense: Kansas City loses offensive coordinator Charlie Wies, who left at the conclusion of last season to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Florida under Wil Muschamp. Weis certainly played a part in getting the Chiefs offense up and running, and his presence proved critical in helping quarterback Matt Cassel rebound from a lackluster 2009 season; however, offensive line coach Bill Muir, who is set to take Weis’ place, has a wealth of NFL experience. And Head Coach Todd Haley, who served as offensive coordinator for the Cardinals before taking over in Kansas City, will also have his finger prints on all aspects of the Chiefs’ offensive attack.
From a personnel standpoint, Kansas City is more potent this season than last with the additions of Steve Breaston (WR) and Le’Ron McClain (FB) as well as No.1 draft pick Jon Baldwin (WR – Pittsburgh). The Chiefs, which led the NFL in rushing last year, already possessed big time play makers in Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, and a capable threat at tight end in former Iowa Hawkeye Tony Moeaki.
If the offensive line, which is thin on quality depth, can stay healthy and Cassel, who threw 27 touchdowns to seven interceptions last season, can continue to progress, the Chiefs will field a top 10 offense.
Defense: Coordinator Romeo Crennel took over a unit that gave up a horrific 388.2 yards and 26.5 points per game in 2009. He wasted no time fashioning that miserable group into a respectable defense. Kansas City knocked off 58 yards and 6.1 points from those totals last season and it also increased its sack total from 22 to 39.
There are plenty of talented players back with the team this season, including linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali and second year safety Eric Berry. Again, the area of concern for the Chiefs is upfront in the trenches. Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey made huge strides last year, but his former LSU running mate, Tyson Jackson, did not. Jackson played well at the start of the season, but an injury derailed his progress and he was not the same player when he returned to the lineup.
If Jackson, the team’s first selection in the 2009 draft, can fulfill his potential, the line should improve; however, there are depth questions here as well. Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith departed in free agency, which means several young players, including Anthony Toribio, and recent additions Kelly Gregg and Amon Gordon must perform well.
The Chiefs’ defense should progress this season, but the step up in competition may mask any improvement that does take place.
Special Teams/Kicker: The Chiefs have a competent field goal kicker in Ryan Succop, but the South Carolina product could stand improve on his accuracy (20-of-26 last year). Succop is known for his strong leg but he only scored eight touchbacks in 2010; that number should increase greatly with kickoffs now taking place at the 35 instead of the 30 yard line.
Punter Dustin Colquitt does not own the strongest of legs, but the seven year pro is exceptional at pinning teams deep. Colquitt gets great hang-time on his punts, which allows the rest of the special teams unit more time to cover returns.
Kansas City drafted Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas last season, in part, because of their ability to make an impact in the return game. The pair looked like pro bowl performers, especially Arenas, in the pre-season, but neither player created much of a stir in the regular season. McCluster did return a punt 94 yards for a touchdown in the Chiefs’ Monday night opener against San Diego, but he almost disappeared the remainder of the year.
Coaching: Todd Haley is a fiery, tell-it-like-it-is head coach. That style may grate on some players, but others thrive under his forth right approach. The Chiefs players may not always like what Haley dishes out, but it is clear they respect him and the direction he has taken the franchise.
Haley is also one of the biggest gamblers, as far as game-day decisions are concerned, in the NFL. The guy will frequently go for it on fourth down when some coaches would have punted on third. That sort of let-it-all-hang-out mentality helped the former coordinator achieve quick results in Kansas City, and it will probably help him turn this once downtrodden club into a consistent winner going forward.
Prediction: 9-7, Second AFC West
Regular Season Win Total: Over 8 Games (+130), Under 8 Games (-160)
To Win the AFC West: +350 (three of four)
To Win the 2012 AFC Championship: +1500 (15 to 1)
To Win Super Bowl XLVI: +3000 (30 to 1)