It’s not often that you have to wonder if a team that starts a NFL season 9-0 is a pretender or a contender for going deep into the playoffs. In the case of the Kansas City Chiefs, it has to be considered to be a legitimate question. It’s impossible to win on a consistent basis in the NFL, so the Chiefs have to be applauded for an impressive start to this season, especially after winning just two games last year. Kansas City set a record on Sunday, becoming the first team in 80 years to record nine wins and no losses while holding opponents under 17 points in each game.
The hire of head coach Andy Reid looks to be a remarkable move this offseason as he has to be considered the front runner for Coach of the Year. What’s more remarkable about the job Reid is doing this year in Kansas City, is that he has adapted his coaching philosophy to his current roster. If the Philadelphia Eagles had played the style of defense that the Chiefs are currently, he might have won a Super Bowl or two with the Eagles.
Defense has led the way for Kansas City through the first nine games of the season. They lead the NFL in sacks, takeaways, giveaway/takeaway differential, and limiting opponents third down conversions. All a recipe for on field success, but can that continue against a higher level of competition?
Good teams are supposed to win games against lesser opponents, and that is what the Chiefs have been doing in the first half of the season. As they currently enjoy their bye week, the schedule is preparing to get more daunting in the second half of the season with two games against the Denver Broncos in the next three weeks. A total of five divisional games remain as well as a showdown with the Indianapolis Colts.
Kansas City has defeated just one team with a record over .500, the Dallas Cowboys, a team which has been wildly inconsistent this season and currently sit at 5-4. The quarterbacks they have defeated this season include Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Jason Campbell and most recently, Jeff Tuel. The level of quarterback play by opposing teams is going to improve greatly in the second half of the season for the Chiefs. Two games against Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers along with a showdown with Andrew Luck are looming.
Perhaps the biggest question about the Chiefs is whether or not they will able to play from behind, if they happen to get into an offensive shootout. Only once this season have the Chiefs been behind at halftime, that was in week nine against the Buffalo Bills, losing 7-3. In eight games this season, Kansas City has held the lead heading into the fourth quarter and last week were tied 13-13 against Buffalo. Only twice this season, have the Chiefs lost the time of possession battle. Against the Bills, the teams were about equal, each holding the ball for right at 30 minutes.
While QB Alex Smith has done a magnificent job at protecting the football this season, only throwing four interceptions, Smith has tossed just nine touchdowns. In comparison, Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles threw seven in just three quarters last week.
Can Smith be trusted to lead the Chiefs if they get behind by two touchdowns this season? He is averaging less than 200 yards per game and only one starting quarterback has a lower yards per attempt average than Smith (6.09), rookie Mike Glennon (5.71) of the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith has not thrown for more than 273 yards in a game this season and has less than 200 passing yards in three contests this season. In five games, Smith has not recording a passing touchdown. Smith has the fewest number of pass attempts of over 20 yards in the league currently.
The leading receiver for the Chiefs is RB Jamaal Charles with 47 receptions. Charles has been the focal point of the Kansas City offense, accounting for over 1,100 total yards and eight scores. WR Dexter McCluster has become more involved in the passing game in recent weeks, but no wide receiver on the Chiefs has more than 33 receptions (Dwayne Bowe). Donnie Avery has 27 with just one touchdown on the season. There has been a lack of production from the tight end position as veteran Anthony Fasano has battled injuries this season. The weakness at that position helped to fuel speculation that the Chiefs might make a move to pry former tight end Tony Gonzalez from the Atlanta Falcons.
The turnaround for the Chiefs has been impressive to say the least, but their red hot start is going to be tested in the coming weeks. One has to have serious doubts about this offense and it’s ability to overcome early deficits. No doubt that Andy Reid and his coaching staff is closely studying the tape of the Indianapolis Colts victory over the Broncos, but the Colts are built differently on offense. Indianapolis was able to take a 33-21 lead over Denver into the fourth quarter, Kansas City has scored over 30 points just once this season. Denver is averaging 42 points per game this season and the Colts held them to a season low 33 points. We’ll know more about just how good this team is after the Chiefs play their next three games.