The Kansas City Chiefs hosting a playoff game this Sunday is far more than was expected from this team.
The 2010 Chiefs season is already a success. They have exceeded their own expectations, as well as the pundits and the fans'. They entered the season predicted to finish last, or close to it by most. They won the division. That is called exceeding expectations.
Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are at the top of the list of people who deserve the credit. It started at the top, two years ago and is paying off.
On the field, Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Tamba Hali, and many other "veteran" Chief players have also exceeded our hopes.
The improvement of Derrick Johnson, Glenn Dorsey and Brandon Carr cannot be overstated. Free agents such as Thomas Jones, Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann added depth and leadership, and none of them failed to deliver.
The rookie class may have been the most impressive. Eric Berry proved to be worth the No. 5 pick of the Chiefs. Tony Moeaki has been sensational. Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas have been spectacular in spots, as well as Kendrick Lewis.
When you put all this together, what you have is the recipe for a team that is being built for long-term success. I believe the short-term success they've had will not be derailed by this season. Coach Haley has gone out of his way to make sure they understand that this is a "work in progress."
It has become tiresome to hear about the schedule the Chiefs played. The AFC West played the NFC West. The Chiefs finished last season at 4-12. What exactly did you expect the Chiefs schedule to look like?
This Sunday they square off against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens will be the best team they have faced this year.
Realistically, the Chiefs have a slim chance to win this game. They will need to limit Ray Rice and put pressure on Joe Flacco. If they can do those two things consistently, it should at least assure themselves of staying in the game.
Offensively, they must stay out of 3rd-and-long. If not, they will lose. They have to use Jamaal Charles and get in favorable second-down positions. This will provide them with excellent play-action opportunities. If they accomplish all of that, they will have a legitimate chance to win the game.
If they can win, they will then go on the road to Pittsburgh or New England and will have to play better.
Regardless, the Chiefs are winners. That is simply a mathematical fact. They will get better. Next year's schedule is far more difficult, which is a good thing.
In order for the Chiefs to move up, their competition needs to be better. That's one of the things that make Baltimore a dangerous team. They've played the Steelers twice, the Patriots, Falcons, Tampa and the Saints, and finished their season at 12-4.
It's great to be back in the playoffs, and I have no doubt they're back for a long time.