As they say, “out with the old and in with the new.”
New Look Seahawks
In Seattle, the Seahawks were supposed to be a team in transition. A new head coach and an infusion of youth had fans looking to the future. The Seahawks rebuilt their roster via trades, dealing for players like LenDale White (later released), Leon Washington and Charlie Whitehurst.
The biggest move they made was during the season when they traded for former Buffalo Bills starter Marshawn Lynch. Together with Justin Forsett, the Seahawks seem to have finally found the rushing element that's been missing since Shaun Alexander.
The Seahawks are still led by experienced signal caller Matt Hasselbeck. In 2006, Hasselbeck led this team to its only Super Bowl appearance. Now he is being asked to provide veteran leadership to a much younger offense.
Pete Carroll brought in former USC receiver and NFL washout Mike Williams for a look, and Williams has delivered with a team—leading 32 catches and 348 yards. Second—year wideout Deon Butler leads the Seahawks in touchdown receptions, and rookie Golden Tate has taken the role of slot receiver and return man. John Carlson remains the starter at tight end.
After the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7, Seattle is in sole possession of first place in the NFC West.
The Seahawks still have five remaining home games on the schedule. They are a perfect 3-0 at Qwest Field this season.
Perhaps the most surprising division leader in the NFL is the Kansas City Chiefs. The San Diego Chargers were expected to run away with the AFC West. Despite ranking first in the league in both offense and defense, however, turnovers and poor special teams play have sunk the Chargers into last place and a 2-5 record.
The Oakland Raiders have looked both very good and completely hopeless in their 3-4 start, while the Denver Broncos are 4-13 since beginning 2009 with six straight wins.
Kansas City has lost only two of its first six games, but both were hard-fought contests. The Chiefs lost (some would say robbed by a bad call) a high-scoring shootout to the 4-2 Houston Texans.
The Chiefs have surged to the top of the weak AFC West mainly due to having the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack. Kansas City is averaging 176.5 yards per game on the ground. Both Jamaal Charles (6.0 yards per carry) and Thomas Jones (4.7 ypc) are on pace to be 1,200-yard rushers. Even versatile rookie Dexter McCluster is averaging 5.5 yards per carry behind the Chiefs' impressive offensive line.
Though Kansas City is a run—first team, Matt Cassel has looked vastly improved as the starting quarterback. He has a passer rating of 91.5 and a touchdown to interception ratio of 9:3.
Rookie tight end Tony Moeaki leads the team with 21 catches, Dwayne Bowe has 341 yards and five touchdowns, and McCluster has also made a big impact in the passing game with 15 grabs.
Now that the Chiefs are leading the AFC West, the schedule makers might have ensured they stay there.
They have five home games remaining at Arrowhead Stadium, with contests against the 0-6 Bills, the two-win Broncos, and finally the Cardinals, Raiders and Titans. The only remaining road game the Chiefs have with a team above .500 is on November 28 against the 4-3 Seahawks.
NFL fans might be surprised to see the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs leading their respective divisions nearly halfway through the season. With veteran quarterbacks, improved run games, and easy schedules, it won't be such a shock for these two teams to finish this year right where they are now—West division champions.