Long before the internet became the sum total of all knowledge and wisdom, I used to linger longer at the corner magazine five-and-dime sifting through the endless supply of sports related magazines, especially the one’s that made predictions about each team in the coming season. It’s a practice I still like to follow each summer only now my picks are limited to a shrinking list of sports magazines, the ones that are actually still being published, so I grab a couple then I lay my money down — a debit card with the chip these days– and now I’m out the door to enjoy browsing through my glossy-paged selections. This time, I picked up two magazine: “Lindy’s Sports Pro Football 2017 Preview” and “Athlon Sports 2017 NFL Preview.”
I’m always interested in what they have to say about our Kansas City Chiefs and also enjoy seeing if they’re off their rockers… because it always happens about one point or another.
The K.C. Offense
Let’s begin with Lindy’s Sports. Firstly, they project the Chiefs to finish in a tie with the L.A. Chargers for second in the AFC West behind the Oak-Vegas Raiders. Yes, that means they think the Denver Broncos will finish 4th.. or in last place for those sports fans just joining the conversation. By comparison, Athlon places the Raiders at the top of the division with the Chiefs second, the Broncos 3rd and the Bolts 4th. This is not a surprise at all and based on previous recent year’s performance, you could understand it.
Lindy’s makes the boo-boo of saying the “a Super Bowl has eluded Andy Reid” while I’m sure they meant to say “a Super Bowl VICTORY” has eluded Andy Reid.” Not a huge deal but some Chiefs fans act like Reid is incapable of taking a team to the big game… while others are convinced he could never direct a team to a victory even if he gets there.
Next up, they mention that the Offensive Coordinator role was split between Brad Childress and Matt Nagy — with what they typify as “so-so results” and I can’t disagree — and that Nagy would be taking over the OC role this year. I think this may be under emphasized by most because there were too many times when I questioned how many voices Alex Smith must have had in his ear… or that the slow speed of the plays getting in to Smith, were limiting his productivity. We’ll see if that continues, but I can only imagine that having “one young” OC will be a good thing for the Chiefs offense in 2017.
Athlon terms QB Alex Smith as a “risk-averse game manager” and while I thought we’d put the whole “game manager” tag to bed last year, Athlon make the point that a QB with this kind of M.O. won’t be able to take a team to a Super Bowl victory. It’s a bit ironic because Athlon also points out that only Tom Brady and Russel Wilson, two of the QB’s who have won a SB ring in the past 4 years, have a better record than Smith during that time.
Athlon may have hit upon the one stumbling block the Chiefs face in in 2017 that unless Alex Smith faces his fear of taking risks… or unless Andy Reid releases the hound inside of Smith… then the Chiefs could be limited in a big way this year. Lindy’s says Alex Smith is on the Hot Seat… meaning he either succeeds this year or he’s out… but we all kind of are expecting nothing less. If Smith senses a hot seat situation, it may just be the motivation he needs to take the next big step.
Lindy’s hands out ratings from 1-to-10 for all position groups and gives the Chiefs Receivers a “7” which is the lowest of all position groups on the team. Sure, Smith will still have TE Travis Kelce to throw to, as well as Tyreek Hill, but unless someone else who catches the ball — maybe Chris Conley or Demarcus Robinson or Ross Travis or Gavin Escobar — has a breakout year, then the Chiefs passing game may stall out at any given moment.
Before moving on the the defense, Lindy’s Sports points out that the Chiefs offensive line made the biggest one year improvement of any position group on the team. If the OL is able to take another step forward… as big a step as they took in 2016… then this year’s edition of the Kansas City Chiefs could very well be holding up a trophy next February.
The K.C. Defense
On the defensive side of the ball, Athlon is quick to point out that the K.C defensive unit is a top ten scoring defense… for four years in a row. While not too many Chiefs fans are going to give Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton kudos for the job he’s done, when you just consider that one fact — top 10 scoring defense for four year in a row — it’s hard not to elevate Sutton to a top ten DC in the league.
Many will compare Sutton to Reid’s long time DC in Philadelphia, Jim Johnson. However, in ten seasons. Jim Johnson had an average rank of his defense based on points scored, of 9.4. Meaning, his defenses ranked, on average, just over 9th in the league. Now, there’s no denying that this is a fantastic average over ten straight seasons. The average for Bob Sutton over the past four year? 5.75. So, can we please dispense with the “Jim Johnson was better” statements or the ones that say, “Without Jim Johnson, Andy Reid would be nothing.” I guess you can say the same thing about Andy Reid and Bob Sutton… but on the other hand, Reid obviously knows his defense must be good, to support the kind of offense he intends to run so he’s always invested heavily there… including hiring a good DC.
In any event, let’s agree, Bob Sutton has done a great job… especially last year because he was working on a shoestring and created a solid rope, enough to throw Reid’s offense a continuous lifeline.
Lindy’s points out that “when healthy” the linebackers are the strongest crew on the Chiefs roster. The key words there are “when healthy.” Considering that K.C. boast Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, and the emerging Dee Ford, I’d have to agree. The linebackers will also be key to the success of the defense this year as well. If Houston is back and DJ is back and Dee Ford takes another step… OH, WATCH OUT!
Athlon says it’s a “toss-up” between Eric Berry and Marcus Peters as to who is Kansas City’s best defensive back. Peters is probably more key to what Bob Sutton plans to do and the way the team has brought different Free Agent Safeties in who have starred, I might lean towards Peters. However, X-man-GM John Dorsey just opened up Clark Hunt’s wallets and poured all his money out for Berry so I hope we continue to see Berry shine. I’d hate to see his play tail off now that he has a contract.
About the Chiefs Special Teams play, Lindy’s points out that, “[Tyreek] Hill turned in the type of performance in the kicking game the NFL had not seen since Gale Sayers in 1965 with the Bears.” Since I recall Gale Sayers performances with the Bears that year, I would agree. The question is, what can Hill do for an encore? Teams will be keying on him and making sure to kick away from him so… what will the return game look like in 2017? My guess is… probably not as productive because it’s hard to sneak up on teams twice in the NFL.
Special Teams coach Dave Toub was also called a “guru” and I would not only agree with that assessment but I have wished for several years now, that Toub could be the Chiefs next head coach. However, with Reid signing for another half-a-decade, Toub will probably be long gone by then.
Well, there you have it. That’s what they’re saying. What do you have to say about that?
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