Can the Kansas City Chiefs repeat as champs in the AFC West?
Lost in the team's late season dive and early playoff exit is that 2010 witnessed the Kansas City franchise's most successful season since the midst of the Dick Vermeil/Priest Holmes era.
Ten wins and a division title earned Todd Haley's squad a home playoff game and a tall order of expectations from their hometown fans in 2011.
However, it's likely the Chiefs will get little respect from commentators this off season.
Superstar QB Philip Rivers will be a popular pick to turn around the talented San Diego Chargers, the Tebow-ites will use John Fox as an excuse to call the Denver Broncos a dark horse and even the moribund the Oakland Raiders showed enough flashes of offensive brilliance to garner some prognosticator love if they can swing a disgruntled QB like Vince Young or Kevin Kolb.
There's every reason to believe that those three teams will provide stiffer competition in the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs' quest to repeat as AFC West Champions.
There's also every reason to believe that the Kansas City Chiefs will be up for that competition.
The guy who stocked Bill Belichick's Super Bowl winners gave the Chiefs one of the best drafts in the NFL in 2010. With the on again off again lockout, the draft could be one of the few ways teams can be sure of improving themselves for the 2011 campaign.
Jonathan Baldwin was a mild surprise as the third receiver off the board Thursday but the real Pioli value was in getting Baldwin and an early third round pick for Kansas City's pick at No. 21.
Wide Receivers don't often contribute quickly in the NFL, but Pioli is a deep drafter and Saturday—not even Friday—will be the day his work really pays off.
Odds are Pioli scores again, helping the Chiefs continue to get younger and more talented. Can you say that about teams like Denver and San Diego that seem more interested in dumping talent like Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson than acquiring it?
You certainly can't say that about Oakland.
Charlie Weis or no, Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe made a real jump in 2010 and deserve the triplets moniker.
They're young, developing together and leave little reason to believe they won't continue to improve. In his fourth season, Bowe posted his best average yards per game, his best average yards per catch and more than doubled his best previous TD total.
In his third season as a starter, Cassel posted his most TD passes, fewest interceptions and highest QB rating. In his third season, Charles posted nearly 1500 yards rushing, improved his pass catching and earned the best yards per carry average of his career.
Sensing any patterns?
In 2011, the Kansas City Chiefs may very well face more challenges than they faced in their surprising 2010 resurgence. A first place schedule, improved divisional opponents and the loss of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis are issue that will have to be overcome.
But the Chiefs are the proven defending AFC West Champs and are likely to stay that way.