Kansas City Chiefs fans were excited for the 2011 season after the team took the AFC West in 2010. There was no specific fan favorite. You could pick multiple players as fan favorites as six players received Pro Bowl invitations prior to the 2011 season. There were three players Chiefs fans were looking forward to seeing in 2011.
- TE Tony Moeaki: His one-handed touchdown grab electrified Arrowhead Stadium. Chiefs fans were ecstatic as Moeaki's touchdown grab helped put away the winless San Francisco 49ers, allowing the Chiefs to advance to 3-0 at the time. Chiefs fans were ready to see more from their new tight end, who helped make fans move forward from the loss of Tony Gonzalez.
- S Eric Berry: Berry got off to a slow start, but he picked up the speed of the NFL and quickly became one of the top safeties in the league. Berry received a late Pro Bowl invitation since Steelers safety Troy Polamalu went on to prepare for the Super Bowl. Berry's biggest play was against the Tennessee Titans where he took an interception back 54 yards for a touchdown. Berry was ready to do bigger things in 2011.
- RB Jamaal Charles: No player has improved more than Charles has since 2009. Charles went from being an inactive player and a backup to multiple running backs on the Chiefs to winning the FedEx Ground Player of the Year Award in less than two years. Charles did not have a problem tearing up defenses, despite being second on the team in carries, falling 15 carries behind Thomas Jones in 2010. Fans could not help but wonder what was in store for Charles in 2011 after the Chiefs finished first in the league in rushing the season before.
After the lockout was lifted, the Chiefs were struck by the injury bug. In the preseason finale, Moeaki went down with a torn ACL injury. During the season opener, Berry got hurt in less than five minutes into the season with a torn ACL.
In Week 2, Charles got going against the Lions, amassing 27 yards early in the game off two carries. But on his second carry, he tore his ACL, becoming the third Chief in just as many weeks to be placed on injured reserve.
The Chiefs finished in last place in the AFC West with a 7-9 record but were only one game behind the Denver Broncos, who won in a three-way tie with an 8-8 record. This gave Chiefs fans optimism going into 2012 that the team can get back in the AFC West title picture, provided that their key stars stay healthy.
Which Chiefs player returning from a torn ACL are you excited for the most?
As soon as the season was over, Chiefs fans were looking forward to 2012. If there was any good news to come out of the injuries suffered by Moeaki, Berry and Charles, it was the fact that they tore their ACLs early in the 2011 season.
Had they all suffered those injuries in the month of December, there might have been a lot of questions as to whether or not the three would be ready for training camp this weekend.
But fans don't need to worry about those three as they took it lightly during OTAs. This Friday, fans can expect to see all three players practicing during training camp. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli informed the Kansas City Star Tuesday that all three players who suffered season-ending injuries are cleared and set to practice on Friday.
With Peyton Manning in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs know that the Broncos will finish with a better record than 8-8. That means the Chiefs will need be at the same level as the Broncos this season. In order for that to happen, the Chiefs will need their three returning players and the rest of their team to stay healthy and in shape, like they did in 2010 when they took the AFC West.
With the Oakland Raiders still rebuilding and the San Diego Chargers not making any notable offseason moves to help improve their team, this division could be decided in Week 17 when the Chiefs visit the Broncos. Don't be surprised if the two teams are neck-and-neck for the division and will have to fight for it in the finale game, hence a possible Sunday Night Football switch.
If football fans are big believers in history repeating itself, then the Chiefs could be favored to take the division if it comes down to that final game. The Chiefs (and their predecessors, the Dallas Texans) have met the Broncos nine times in the past in the regular-season finale. In those nine contests, the Chiefs have won all nine meetings.
If history does repeat itself, the Chiefs might just surprise everyone, again, and win the AFC West.