After going 2-14 in the 2012-13 NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs have shocked the world by starting this season 7-0. Their defense has been dominant, Jamaal Charles has been running through everyone and they have a solid head coach in Andy Reid running the show. To everyone's surprise, they remain the lone undefeated team in the NFL through seven weeks.
Winning a game in the NFL takes team work, preparation and a lot of grit no matter who the opponent is. The Chiefs deserve all the praise they have been getting for their efforts. But lets not forget that they haven't really played any legitimate contenders yet this season.
Kansas City's best win thus far came at home against the Dallas Cowboys, where they won by a point. It was the first of two one-point victories this season and the only victory over a team that currently has a winning record. Their six other wins have come against:
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-7)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
New York Giants (1-6)
Tennessee Titans (3-4)
Oakland Raiders (2-4)
Houston Texans (2-5)
Their wins have come against seven teams that combine for a record of 15-33.
Their next two games shouldn't be too much of a threat to Kansas City, either. They'll host the Cleveland Browns (3-4) at home in Week 8, and then they'll head to Buffalo in Week 9 to take on the Thaddeus Lewis-led Bills (3-4) in Week 9.
The Chiefs should head into their Week 10 bye week with a 9-0 record. They'll get a much needed extra week to prepare for a divisional showdown in Denver with the Broncos. That's where I believe their undefeated run will stop. The '72 Dolphins will be able to sigh and breathe easy.
One can make the argument that in the NFL, stringing seven wins together to start a season automatically signifies you as a great team. The Chiefs are a great defensive team, but I'm hesitant to call them great in all aspects of the game until they prove they can hang with the league's best.
Two matchups against the Broncos and one against the Indianapolis Colts will be the only real tests for Kansas City all year. Winning in San Diego won't be a walk in the park either with the way quarterback Philip Rivers has been playing this season.
One could also make the argument that Denver's wins have come against the same teams Kansas City has beaten this year. It's true (minus Denver beating the Baltimore Ravens), and Denver is getting much more recognition than the Chiefs from the media for what they're doing. If Peyton Manning wasn't on pace to break just about every single season NFL passing record, maybe that wouldn't be the case.
The fact is, Kansas City and Denver are two completely different football teams. Kansas City is an old-school defensive powerhouse being talked up with the likes of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, while the Broncos have a chance to solidify themselves as the most potent offensive team in NFL history.
Take nothing away from the defense Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton have put together. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston spearhead a group that has sacked opposing quarterbacks 35 times this year. They are tied with the Seattle Seahawks for the league lead in turnovers forced with 19. More importantly, they have given up an average of just 11.6 points per game (81 total). The only team that's played seven games and is even close to that is the Seahawks, who have given up 16.6 points per game thus far.
The thing that's concerning about the Chiefs is their offense. Many will stand behind the statement "defense wins championships," but in this NFL, you also need a solid offense. Right now, their offense is just average at best. They rank 18th in the league, averaging 330.7 yards per game.
Lets take a look at the most recent Super Bowl champions going back to 2007:
Baltimore Ravens (2013)
New York Giants (2012)
Green Bay Packers (2011)
New Orleans Saints (2010)
Pittsburgh Steelers (2009)
New York Giants (2008)
Indianapolis Colts (2007)
Each of the most recent winners have had a real solid quarterback who can throw the ball downfield. The Chiefs don't have that with Alex Smith. One could argue none of those teams had a running back as talented as Jamaal Charles, but all you really need is a decent running game to be successful in the playoffs. You definitely need a quarterback that can throw the ball down the field to win a Super Bowl in this current NFL.
According to Pro Football Focus' premium statistics (subscription required), Alex Smith has thrown the ball 20 yards or more downfield on just 13 of his 231 aimed passing attempts (0.056 percent). He has 250 attempts on the season, but nine were throw aways, four were batted passes, he was hit as he threw the ball on three and three more were spikes.
Smith is attempting less than two pass attempts 20-yards downfield on average per game. He's only completed four of those attempts (30.7 percent). Smith has just never been a guy to throw into coverage. He's always been a game manager who does a great job eating the clock and leading 10 play drives.
Pro Football Focus has Smith ranked 26th in the NFL on their QB rating scale, which is "an alternative to the out-dated standard, [they] take into account dropped passes, throw aways, spikes, and yards in the air and further adjust the old formula so it makes more sense and is a more accurate measure." Three of the last four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks were ranked in the top-seven on the same rating scale.
Smith is averaging just one touchdown pass per game, with seven total on the year, and he has thrown four interceptions. The Chiefs offensive line also needs to do a better job protecting him. They have allowed Smith to get sacked 18 times through seven games.
The Chiefs have one of the best deep-threat wide receivers in the NFL in Dwayne Bowe. This is a guy who hauled in 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns just three seasons ago. If it weren't for an injury suffered last season, there's a great chance Bowe would be running on a streak of 1,000-yard seasons. Smith has only targetted him 44 times through seven games. He's caught 25 of those balls for just 295 yards and two touchdowns. 1,000 yards certainly looks as if it's out of the picture this year, as Bowe is on pace to finish the season with just 675 receiving yards.
If they want to go deep and compete in the playoffs, they are going to need to figure out a way to get Bowe involved. It starts with Smith's willingness to take more chances down the field. Bowe isn't the type of player to catch a five-yard hitch and make 30-yards out of it. Smith needs to start trusting in himself and trusting in his receivers.
Every Chiefs fan should certainly be happy with where they're at right now. 7-0 is far and above what anyone had expected the Chiefs record to be after finishing a season ago as the league's worst team. They may be able to continue to have the success they are having throughout the regular season, but don't be surprised if you don't see this team win a game in the postseason.
Keep in mind they have to go through Denver to win their division. If they can't do that, which I don't think they will, I don't see Kansas City going into Indianapolis, Cincinnati or New England in the first round of the playoffs and coming away with a win.