Let's face it, the AFC West is not the NFL's power-house division this year. In fact, it may end up being last years NFC West. A large part of that is due to the schedule for all the teams in the division. This was not a good year to pull the NFC North as it's cross league foe. They appear to be the best division in all of football.
It will be a stretch for the Chiefs to win the division, but it will for any of the other teams, so why not the Chiefs?
Let's take a look at why, and maybe why not.
Schedule: This is the biggest hurdle for the Chiefs. It doesn't help the others teams in the division either. While on this subject, I often read and hear how the Chiefs three wins have been against two terrible teams and one team that was with no quarterback.
The Chiefs have the most difficult schedule of the four teams. I believe one of their biggest games takes place this coming Monday, the Chargers. Not only is it a division game, but Miami and Denver follow, also at home. Based on the rest of their schedule, for the Chiefs to have any realistic chance of the division crown, they must leave home at 6-3.
After that, they enter the part of the schedule that is brutal, to say the least. They play, in order: the Patriots, Steelers, Bears, Jets and Packers. The Pat's, Jets and Bears are on the road. In my opinion, the Patriots and Packers are virtually in the lose column as you read this.
Who Will Win the AFC West?
I think the rest of those games are possible, but very, very difficult. No doubt they will win one we don't expect, and lose one we believe they should win.
They finish with Oakland at home and Denver on the road. Those may very well decide the division.
The Run Game: As frustrating as it can be watching Thomas Jones run for one yard so often, I don't think he's washed up and I think I'm seeing a pattern develop. Jackie Battle may very well save the season for the Chiefs. He's big, strong and fast so he'll be the main guy. Jones, however, you'll see late in the game when the defense is wearing down and I think it's a good strategy. Throw in a little McCluster (no pun intended) and the Chiefs will have a very effective running game.
The Passing Game: Herein lies your season. Contrary to most, I believe Matt Cassel to be a talented, tough leader who is going to get better as the season continues. More importantly, he has weapons. If Jonathan Baldwin can get in the swing of things, the Chiefs can actually have a lethal pass attack. Steve Breaston is showing why he's here and Dwayne Bowe is one of the best wide receivers in football. One of the very best.
Creativity: I've been screaming at my television for this team to become more creative on the offense for a long time. Finally, we're starting to see it. It's called "necessity". They have the talent to do it, so use them.
Special Teams: Hopefully, Mr. Irrelevant is relevant again. Though he had the day off in Oakland, based on his previous couple of games it appears that way. Dustin Colquitt is one of the better punters in the league. Javier Arenas is showing to be one of the better punt return men as well. This is a strength for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs seem to be getting better as they go. They believe in Todd Haley. They believe in each other. They have a lot of camaraderie. They have a lot of weaknesses as well. What they must do is prove they can beat top calibre teams, especially on the road.
It will take a lot to come together for them to defend their crown, but I believe they can do it. Ten wins will no doubt win this division, and it's even possible that nine will.
There is no reason it can't be the Chiefs.