Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs fans celebrate late in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs: Legit playoff contender?

Before the season started, it was hard to imagine the Kansas City Chiefs being anything but division bottom feeders.  Between the absence of a reliable quarterback and a defense that underachieved more often than not, the Chiefs were a discombobulated franchise that failed to live up to the expectations of their loyal fan base.  However, rather than being content with rebuilding this season, the Chiefs tenaciously sought out the right tools to put themselves back on the map.

The Chiefs frequent misfortunes were finally worth the depressing turmoil they experienced when they acquired Andy Reid shortly after he was let go from the Philadelphia Eagles.  Although the Chiefs were still without a franchise quarterback, they at least had a proven offensive guru who could alleviate the relentless inconsistencies that had plagued this franchise for the last few years.  His track record with the Eagles coupled with stoic and inspiring demeanor made Reid the perfect candidate to rejuvenate this broken and seemingly hopeless franchise.

Of course, the Chiefs quiet brilliance wasn’t fully realized until they picked up quarterback Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers.  Although Smith wasn’t and still isn’t an aggressive passer, his confidence and patients in the pocket made him the ideal leading man for the Chiefs offense.  While Smith’s passing game may be more substance over style, his calm intelligence and sharp awareness have thus far allowed the Chiefs to succeed where they have failed in the past.

Yet, for all of Smith’s endearing qualities, his unique passing style lacks one key element: the ability to create explosive plays.  While Smith’s safe and methodical style of play has prevented the Chiefs from turning over the ball in their last three games, it has simultaneously prevented the Chiefs from blowing out teams who make numerous conceded mistakes.  Despite the fact that the Eagles turned the ball over on five separate occasions, the Chiefs only won by ten points.  While the importance of a victory isn’t necessarily predicated on the score differential in any given game, it is a telling sign of how a team will fare in more highly contested game time situations.  If the Eagles had found their rhythm offensively at any point last week, it is feasible to postulate that the game could have been much closer or the Chiefs could have succumbed to a debilitating loss.

However, the Chiefs have a trump card up their sleeve that has allowed them to play it safe while being clutch; their smash mouth defense.  While their defensive line still has to work off some rust, their secondary is one of the best in the league and ranks sixth at stopping the pass.  In a league in which quarterbacks have become single handedly responsible for winning championships, having a dominant secondary that is consistently capable of bailing out their offense when they hit a rough patch is of dire importance.  Thus far, the Chiefs secondary has proven they can come through in high pressure situations no matter who they’re playing against.

Ultimately the Chiefs destiny will be decided on how well they perform as a cohesive unit.  In their current situation, it simply isn’t enough for the offense to be lackluster while the defense carries this franchise to the Promised Land.  While the Chiefs have a great game manager in Alex Smith, as a professional athlete Smith is still fine tuning his game and evolving to become a more effective and accurate passer.  As he gets more comfortable with his teammates while slowly raising his confidence with each hard fought victory, Smith has the potential to be a breakout passer who can be as supremely dynamic as he is intellectually methodical in his decision-making skills.

In the end, the Chiefs have proven that they are not only the real deal but that they have a well rounded roster and a battle tested head coach.  Under Reid’s leadership, this franchise has the potential to both reach the playoffs while going deeper in the post season than they ever have before. 

Tags: Kansas City Chiefs NFL

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