The Kansas City Chiefs probably couldn't be more exquisitely built for a deep postseason run, but, ironically, Alex Smith won't be in any "elite" quarterback debates in the near future.
Legitimate franchise signal-callers are thought to be the cardinal element needed to win a Super Bowl in today's pass-predicated NFL, but Andy Reid's team doesn't care.
It's gone old school.
From 2004 to 2012, top-level quarterbacks reigned over the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Then, in 2013, Joe Flacco, a middling, generally inconsistent quarterback went on a postseason run for the ages—11 touchdowns with no interceptions—and turned the top-level signal-caller reign on its head.
He beat preordained golden boy Andrew Luck in the first round of the playoffs. Then he outplayed Peyton in Denver, received some good, late-game fortune and upset the No. 1-seeded Denver Broncos. After that, he outperformed Tom Brady in New England. To finish it off, he put up better numbers than wave-of-the-future representative Colin Kaepernick to win the title.
But it wasn't all Flacco.
It was a collective effort from the entire Baltimore Ravens roster.
And this year's Chiefs aren't just about the quarterback, or even mainly about the quarterback.
They're about limiting turnovers, causing turnovers, running the football and playing air-tight defense that applies frequent pressure on the opposing signal-caller from all angles.
The playoffs begin in the heart of the winter season, but that doesn't mean every game will be played in the blizzard-like conditions we witnessed in Sunday's Week 14 action.
However, being able to pound the rock and play sound defense are vital when the temperature drops, the wind whips and the environment is far removed from the comfortable and controlled atmosphere of an indoor game.
This is how the Chiefs have fared on the ground and on defense this season:
(*Before the blowout victory over the Washington Redskins, Kansas City was 11th in rushing yards per drive.)
Jamaal Charles already has 1,162 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year, and his 1,622 total yards from scrimmage equate to 36.9 percent of the Chiefs' current offensive yardage output.
Staying true to form, Smith has a super-low 1.3 percent interception rate, and, unsurprisingly, his team leads the league with a plus-15 turnover differential.
|Chiefs Running Game and Defense In 2013 (Rank)|
|Offensive Drives||Rushing Yards||Rushing Yards Per Drive||Rushing Yards Per Carry||Sacks||Points Per Game|
|155||1,681||10.845||4.7 (5)||43 (2)||17.2 (4)|
|Football Outsiders and ESPN|
Reid's done a marvelous job getting the most out of his personnel, playing to specific strengths and masking weaknesses.
The Chiefs haven't followed the hippest, most recent trend in pro football, one that involves a team winning with an outrageously productive quarterback and a talented group of pass-catchers who negate a porous defense.
Because of that, they're almost foreign to us.
Sure, Denver swept Kansas City, and Manning and Brady aren't going to lie down in the playoffs.
But for a team that knew it didn't have the luxury of an elite signal-caller but possessed a potentially dominant defensive line and an electric running back, the Chiefs have done alright this season.
The Redskins have morphed from a division winner to an abomination in less than calendar year, so the 45-10 beatdown they suffered at the hands of Reid's team shouldn't be viewed as a specific indication of what Kansas City can do in winter weather.
But 193 rushing yards, 5.7 yards per play, nearly 35 minutes of possession, six sacks and two special teams scores should serve as a warning to AFC playoff contenders that the Chiefs are playoff-ready despite the fact that, by the numbers, they'll almost assuredly be at a disadvantage at the game's most vital position against any team they play in January.
Remember, too, Justin Houston, Kansas City's pass-rushing demon who amassed 11 sacks in 11 games this year, should be back soon.
FOX Sports NFL insider Mike Garafolo tweeted this on November 27:
Chiefs' Justin Houston will miss about 2-3 weeks, as @RapSheet tweeted. Some ligament and muscle issues. No surgery needed.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 28, 2013
Houston's defensive line mate Tamba Hali matched his sack total with two against the Redskins and nose tackle Dontari Poe, who was mostly invisible as a rookie, is Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) No. 9 defensive tackle.
The Kansas City Chiefs, a club that'll earn a spot in the postseason thanks to a much more traditional style than many others, are a team no one should want to face with the season on the line.