Kansas City Chiefs Could Find Success Thanks to Weak AFC West
It's odd to say that a team that won just two games a year ago has the best chance in its division to make the playoffs, but that seems to be the situation the new-look Chiefs find themselves in.
Following the worst season in team history, Kansas City went through a major overhaul, one that saw them replace their general manager, head coach, starting quarterback (barring massive failure by Matt Cassel), and their all-world tight end.
The changing of the guard could continue, with Larry Johnson still not 100 percent happy to still be sporting the Red and Gold.
How in the world can a team with this much turnover expect to compete for anything other than the first pick in the draft, you ask? Because they play in arguably the worst division in professional football.
One year ago, the AFC West (or the AFC Worst, as it's been known in the past) champion San Diego Chargers sported an 8-8 record. There's been very little action among the four teams in the division that would make anyone think that much more would be required in 2009.
The Chiefs fired head coach Herm Edwards shortly after the season ended and brought in one of the hottest names in coaching as his replacement in former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Kansas City also replaced longtime general manager Carl Petersen with another up and comer, former New England Patriot Scott Pioli. Pioli promptly brought in the league's new "it" boy in quarterback Matt Cassel, who filled in swimmingly for the Patriots when Tom Brady went down.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos, who finished the 2008 season by imploding on the field, began a second implosion off the field that culminated in their brand new head coach alienating their all-pro quarterback so badly that they had to part with him, and they appear content to replace Jay Cutler with serviceable but far from sensational Kyle Orton.
Then the Broncos spent their first round pick filling a hole that wasn't there by drafting yet another running back. Denver appears bound and determined to go backwards.
San Diego is a different animal altogether. The Chargers have enough talent that they could improve dramatically from last season. However, the questions remain. Can LaDainian Tomlinson return to form? Or is he going the way of so many other great running backs who crest the 30-year-old threshold?
Will Philip Rivers be able to survive yet another season without a legitimate target other than Antonio Gates? San Diego has made no move to acquire another wide receiver, whether through trade, free agency, or the draft.
Will Norv Turner's squad get off to yet another slow start, and if they do, can they count on the other AFC West teams to crumble down the stretch?
San Diego does not make the playoffs if not for Denver's complete collapse. Denver sported an 8-5 record with three weeks to go in the regular season, while San Diego sat at 5-8.
Oakland is Oakland. Until Al Davis finally hands the reins over to someone else, the Raiders will be hard-pressed to field a winning franchise. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell continues to develop slowly, and the team brought in none other than 400-year-old Jeff Garcia as a backup should his development continue to sputter in 2009.
While the Raiders' draft was not a laughingstock, it was an oddity. The entire first day was spent drafting players far higher than they needed to, including their first round pick in Darrius Heyward-Bey. The speedy wide receiver has the skills to be a decent player in the league, but his hands are questionable, and he spent his formative years playing for a school whose emphasis was on the run game.
Some might point to the Raiders winning their final two games as proof that the Tom Cable experiment is paying off. They would have to ignore that the team was 3-11 going into their final two games to say that with a straight face.
Are the Chiefs a lock to win the AFC West? Most decidedly not. However, the fact that they play in one of the weakest divisions in football can only help a team feeling a renewed energy and sense of purpose thanks to their new leadership and direction.
A division crown isn't out of the realm of possibility.
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