7 Reasons Why the Kansas City Chiefs Will Return to the Playoffs
Despite how the season ended with the postseason collapse in Indianapolis, Kansas City Chiefs fans are ready to put that behind them and are excited to see what the team has to offer in 2014 after coming off the biggest turnaround in franchise history and one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history.
The Chiefs had a quiet offseason with no big acquisitions by general manager John Dorsey. The Chiefs lost some key starters including Pro Bowlers Dexter McCluster, Branden Albert and Brandon Flowers. On top of that, the Chiefs will deal with a more challenging schedule this season.
However, in Andy Reid's second year as the head coach of the franchise, Chiefs fans will hold the team to high standards. After an 11-win season, expectations will be high in 2014, and fans should have some reasons to believe the team will appear in the postseason for the second year in a row.
The Chiefs Are Led by a Good Coaching Staff
The result of good play always comes from good coaching. Reid deserves a lot of credit for creating a winning team in 2013. Although the Chiefs returned most of the starters from their two-win 2012 season returned, the team flourished under a better coaching staff last year.
Alongside Reid, the Chiefs bring back offensive coordinator Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, who both had a big hand in improving the team.
Another assistant who deserves big praise is special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who brought out the best in all of his return specialists in 2013. McCluster, Quintin Demps and Knile Davis all took a punt or kickoff return back for a touchdown, as the Chiefs led the league in punt return yards and were third in kick return yards.
With Reid and all three of the top assistants staying in Kansas City, Chiefs fans should feel good about the decision-making by the coaches this year.
Alex Smith Is a Reliable Quarterback
It took Alex Smith awhile to gain a lot of support from Chiefs fans. As the 2013 season went on, Smith got better, and fans liked what they saw from him in his first year in Kansas City. Eventually, he turned it up late in the season as the Chiefs became a three-dimensional offense.
Smith's biggest strength is his ability to take care of the football. He committed only 10 turnovers last year and is responsible for 23 giveaways in his last 40 games through the last three years.
Smith is 31-11-1 as a starter since 2011 including postseason games.
Now that he has one full year under Reid's guidance, Chiefs fans can expect him to be better. He will be prepared when the Chiefs go up against some of the top defenses in the league.
Jamaal Charles Is a Big Threat on Offense
Being just 20 yards shy of 2,000 yards from scrimmage, Jamaal Charles was responsible for 37 percent of Kansas City's yards on offense and 46 percent of the team's offensive touchdowns.
With a better supporting cast (which we will touch on shortly), Charles won't need to carry the offense like he did for most of last season. Still, Reid will feed the ball to Charles, who is viewed by many as the most dangerous offensive player in the league.
Whether it was in the running game or through the air, Reid turned Charles into a dual-threat running back.
Since Charles became the primary running back midway through the 2009 season, he has not shown any signs of slowing down. Instead, he is making strides and had his best year in 2013.
If Charles can eliminate his fumbling woes, which can be done by giving him fewer touches and letting others help move the ball on offense, it will benefit the Chiefs immensely.
Kansas City Has a Better Supporting Cast on Offense
As mentioned a couple of times in this slideshow, getting familiar with a new coach's expectations usually translates into a better second year. For Kansas City's offense, there is a lot of room for improvement going into Reid's second season.
While Charles showcased what he can do as the team's leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches, the Chiefs don't want him to repeat as the leader in those three categories.
The Chiefs need other pass-catchers to step up. It is likely that will be the case this year.
Travis Kelce on the rise
So far, tight end Travis Kelce is showing a lot of promise with back-to-back catch-and-run touchdown plays this preseason. Kelce has pulled in five catches for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Despite entering the league with some upside, he missed all of last year due to a knee injury. If he carries his preseason performance into the regular season, Smith will target him the same way he used Vernon Davis back in San Francisco.
Dwayne Bowe looks to rebound
Dwayne Bowe will miss the season opener due to a suspension, but he must live up to his contract when he returns in Week 2. If Sunday's exhibition game against the preseason showed us anything, Bowe proved he is ready to play better than he did last year. He and Smith showed good chemistry, connecting five times for 62 yards. Bowe and Smith also did a lot of damage against the Colts in the playoffs when Bowe had eight receptions and gained 150 yards that day. If the Chiefs turn this into consistency, Bowe will be viewed as a top-tier receiver.
Knile Davis and DAT
Behind Charles, the Chiefs have two scatbacks in Knile Davis and rookie De'Anthony Thomas. Both players are projected to handle return duties, but even as backups, they will also see action on offense, and the Chiefs will want to use them. Like Charles, Davis and Thomas have tremendous speed and can go the distance when they have possession of the ball.
If the Chiefs get some help on offense, it would take a lot of weight off Charles' shoulders, making the team hard to stop for opposing defenses.
The Chiefs Have the Best Pass Rush in the NFL
The Chiefs lost a couple of key players on defense in defensive end Tyson Jackson and Pro Bowl cornerback Flowers. But Kansas City still has the defensive players who made the most impact in helping the team succeed last season.
Outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston have gone to the Pro Bowl together for two consecutive years and have been the most feared pass-rushing duo since midway through 2011, which was Houston's rookie season. Nose tackle Dontari Poe also stepped up in providing pressure through the middle.
Those three are labeled as some of the top pass-rushers in the league.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com also noticed the dominance as he ranked Hali and Houston as the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL.
Those three players plus inside linebacker Derrick Johnson collected 31 sacks combined in 2013.
If that is not enough, the Chiefs added to an already impressive pass rush when they drafted Dee Ford from Auburn. The team lacked pressure when Hali and Houston both suffered game-ending injuries in Week 12, which allowed the Chargers to gash the defense and score 41 points.
In case the injuries occur again, the Chiefs will have Ford to step in and fill that void. If the Chiefs are fortunate to avoid injuries, Reid will find a way to make Ford active through the rotation to make life hard for opposing quarterbacks.
Even though the Chiefs appear thin outside of Eric Berry with their defensive backs, the pass-rushers will create plenty of ill-advised passes, opening up opportunities for some of the unknown defensive backs to come up with interceptions and make plays.
Special Teams Returners Could Be Difference-Makers in Close Games
We already got a glimpse of what Thomas can do as a punt returner in the NFL when he took a punt return 80 yards back for a touchdown in Kansas City's preseason opener. We saw a rookie show signs of his future in the preseason last year when Knile Davis took a kick return 109 yards back for a touchdown in a preseason game against the Steelers. He did it again when it counted in the regular season with a 108-yard kick return touchdown last year against Denver.
Under Toub, Thomas, Davis and any other players in the return game will do plenty of damage. By the end of the season, Thomas will make McCluster seem like a long-distant memory.
Kansas City's premier special teams returners benefit the offense greatly. The offense will find itself in good field position a majority of the time.
The Chiefs have the tools to succeed on offense and defense. But in some competitive games, every NFL team will need all three facets to contribute.
The Chiefs are fortunate to have weapons in all three phases of the game, which is the ultimate recipe to winning.
The Home Crowd at Arrowhead Stadium Will Help the Chiefs
During Kansas City's resurgence, the fanbase was revamped, and Arrowhead Stadium went back to being a tough place for opposing teams to play. Coming off the 11-5 season and with some prime-time home games scheduled for this year, Arrowhead Stadium will have a packed house for all eight games.
The Chiefs went 5-3 at home in Reid's first year and hope to do better in 2014.
Unlike the Chiefs, not many teams have the luxury of having a stadium with loud fans who help make a difference in the game.
With a loud fanbase, the Chiefs have an advantage in all of their home games. If the Chiefs can win a majority of their games at Arrowhead Stadium and pull off some wins on the road, it should be enough for Kansas City to return to the playoffs.