Chiefs' optimism goes beyond the season-opening norm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s the time of year when optimism around the NFL runs rampant. If a team doesn’t think it’s going to win this year’s Super Bowl now, with the regular season beginning this week, it never will.

So it wasn’t surprising to hear wide receiver Jeremy Maclin talk in superlatives about what could lie ahead for the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I believe we’ve got something special here," said Maclin, who on Sunday in Houston against the Texans will play in his first season opener with the Chiefs. “I believe if we go out and continue to get better each and every day, I feel like we’ll be in good shape."

But Maclin went on to say this was more than just the normal season-opening optimism, something he didn’t necessarily feel during his first six NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I’ve been in two locker rooms now and basically three because Chip [Kelly] came in and kind of changed the dynamic of the Philadelphia locker room," Maclin said. “This is no disrespect to anybody I’ve played with before, but I feel something special here. I can honestly say that.

“It’s a feeling. Obviously, on paper, we’ve got talent. But believing it can grow to be something bigger than that is a feeling."

It’s been some time since the Chiefs, normal season-opening optimism aside, could realistically feel that way. They haven’t had the right to believe they could win the AFC West, as they do now, at least since Peyton Manning arrived in the division as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos in 2012.

General manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid said over the weekend that the Chiefs have their best roster since they arrived in 2013. Maybe that’s easy for them to say, but in a testament to how deep the Chiefs are, three players they discarded at the final roster cuts will play for other teams.

Maclin himself is a big part of that optimism. He caught 85 passes for more than 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014, a season like the Chiefs haven’t seen from a wide receiver since Dwayne Bowe was in the prime of his career in 2010.

“I don’t think I’ve been off to a better start with a particular quarterback,’’ Maclin said of his working relationship with quarterback Alex Smith.

If the Chiefs can improve their passing game from what it was last year, they could well win the division and – that’s right, I’m saying it – a playoff game or two. A sluggish passing game held them back last year in a season when otherwise they did a lot right.

And that’s not just the usual season-opening optimism talking.

“We understand what we have here," said guard Ben Grubbs, who, like Maclin, is new to the Chiefs. Grubbs spent the first eight years of his NFL career playing for some successful teams in Baltimore and New Orleans. “We do have a lot of great pieces to this puzzle. Our mindset is that it’s not going to come to us. We’re going to have to go get it.

“It can be a beautiful thing if we attack every day like it’s the last day."