Experts' Picks (Consensus: second)
|DIVISION FINISH: 2 The Chiefs have improved, especially at head coach and at quarterback. Last year's 2-14 finish seems like a long time ago.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 2 With Andy Reid as head coach and Alex Smith at quarterback, the Chiefs should be one of the most improved teams in football.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 2 Andy Reid has changed the culture in Kansas City, but it will take a bit of time to take hold.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 2 This team has more talent than its 2-14 record last season suggests. New head coach Andy Reid will have the Chiefs competing for a wild-card spot.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 2 Andy Reid is worth a couple of wins to the Chiefs, at least.|
Five things you need to know about the Chiefs:
1. This team loves Andy Reid: Reid was famous for being a players' coach in his 14 years in Philadelphia. Reid is developing the same reputation in his first season in Kansas City. I was struck by how much players were raving about Reid during my training camp visit. These were star players. Eric Berry, Dwayne Bowe, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson were all effusive in their admiration for their new coach. They all praised Reid's attention to detail and his willingness to help anyone on the field. Let's face it, this is the best coaching these players have received in a long time, and they are embracing it.
2. Linebacking dominance: The Chiefs have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL. ESPN's Matt Williamson has said he thinks it will be one of the best 3-4 units in the league. It's difficult to disagree. The team has three Pro Bowl players in Hali, Johnson and third-year star Justin Houston. Rookie Nico Johnson is vying to start at an inside spot next Derrick Johnson. Nico Johnson was a leader on the best defense in college football and was a two-time NCAA champion at Alabama.
3. Still room for Charles: A lot of people assumed Reid's hiring would take away Jamaal Charles because Reid is a pass-first coach. As we approach the season, Chiefs fans (and fantasy owners) shouldn't fret. Charles will be a big part of the mix. Reid knows how dangerous Charles, who had 1,509 yards rushing last season, is on the ground. Reid also likes Charles as a receiving weapon out of the backfield. They've been working on it a lot this offseason, and Charles is known for having solid hands. He had a career-high 45 catches in 2010. He could easily that number this year.
4. Help for Bowe: The Chiefs don't have a ton of holes. But receiver could be an issue. The team is set with No. 1 receiver Bowe. He just signed a lucrative five-year deal, and he is an upper-level player. But he needs help. The team hopes free-agent Donnie Avery can fill the role. Avery may be more of a backup, but he has speed and could flourish in Reid's system. A.J. Jenkins, acquired from San Francisco for fellow former first-round pick Jon Baldwin last week, will also get a chance to make an impact. He had no catches as a rookie, but he has the speed Reid covets and his former teammate, quarterback Alex Smith, has vouched for him.
5. Worst to first? The Chiefs went 2-14 last year. But this looks nothing like a 2-14 repeater. The Chiefs are immensely talented (they had six Pro Bowl players last year) and got better through free agency and the draft. They upgraded at the two most vital spots -- head coach and quarterback. I'm not sure the Chiefs can make it all the way to first place because Denver is more talented, but the Chiefs have the ingredients to be one of the most improved teams in the NFL in 2013.
-- Bill Williamson, ESPN.com
Inside The Numbers
The Chiefs had the league's worst scoring offense last season, averaging a mere 13.2 points per game. Although the Chiefs averaged nearly 5.0 yards per rush, the offense struggled when going to the air.
The Chiefs ranked 29th in Total QBR as a team last season, and Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn -- who each started eight games -- finished in the bottom five in Total QBR among qualified quarterbacks. The Chiefs also had had 4.2 percent of their passes intercepted, the worst rate in the league.
Needing to fix their aerial deficiencies, the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith while letting go of Cassel and Quinn in the offseason.
In Smith, the Chiefs have a quarterback who can protect the ball. Smith completed 70.2 percent of his passes last season with the 49ers and ranked seventh in Total QBR.
Smith was particularly good against five or more pass-rushers last season, completing 72.6 percent of his attempts with a plus-7 touchdown-to-interception differential. Chiefs quarterbacks combined to complete 54.2 percent of their attempts against such pressure last season with a minus-8 touchdown-to-interception differential.
• The Chiefs struggled to keep opposing offenses off the scoreboard last season. Opponents scored a touchdown or kicked a field goal on 40.4 percent of their drives against the Chiefs, the second-worst rate in the NFL. In addition, Kansas City forced a turnover on a league-low 6.2 percent of opponent drives.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN The Magazine: Non-QB MVP
LB Derrick Johnson (10.9 avg. AV since 2010)
The No. 15 pick in 2005, Johnson grew into his role as one of the NFL's premier run-stuffing LBs. The eight-year vet's three best seasons have been his past three (103 tackles per year).
-- Pro Football Reference