The Kansas City Chiefs endured the worst 2012 season imaginable. The on-field performance was a disaster, as a team that TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis felt had dark-horse playoff potential ended up 2-14 and picking first in this past April’s NFL draft. And the season ended in tragedy, when linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend and then himself. The Chiefs now look to move forward in 2013.
It’s the running game that will have to key any success on the offensive side of the ball. Jamaal Charles ran for over 1,500 last season and the Kansas City ground attack was one of the better ones in the league. The line has some promising young players on the interior, and they used that #1 overall draft pick on offensive tackle Eric Fisher.
The passing game is another question, and that’s what new head coach Andy Reid has to fix, as he looks for his own fresh start after his long tenure in Philadelphia came to an end last year. Reid went out and got Alex Smith on the free agent market. Smith was completing 70 percent of his passes in San Francisco last year when he got hurt and lost his job to Colin Kaepernick.
But Smith has never proven he can be an effective quarterback without Jim Harbaugh as his coach. Does that change in an environment where there’s not a lot in the way of quality targets? Dwayne Bowe is the best receiver on this team and he had less than 900 yards a year ago.
The biggest question I see with this offense is whether Reid’s strengths as a coach can coalesce with this team’s talent base. Reid is a solid football coach and particularly good at masterminding a finesse offensive gameplan. But Kansas City, as presently constituted, is best served by getting physical. Can Reid make the adjustment or can the passing game personnel step up?
Kansas City’s defense was bad last year, doing very little well, but they have some playmakers to build around. Tamba Hali at outside linebacker and Eric Berry at strong safety are each players you can unleash and see if they can create any action.
If Hali and Berry have good years, effective coaching can help the rest of the defense fall into place. The Chiefs were 25th in the NFL in points allowed last year, and I would at least look for them to move in the middle of the league.
The betting markets in Las Vegas are optimistic about Kansas City, with the Over/Under win prop showing a number of 7.5. That means you have to take a 2-14 team and bet that, at minimum, they become .500.
When I look at this team I can see it happening, and it certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented in today’s NFL. But acknowledging something is possible is different from betting on it, and I would have to still take the Under with Kansas City.