With just two days before the Kansas City Chiefs host the Tennessee Titans, fans all over Chiefs Kingdom, and the world — including my wife in Romania — are thrilling over the possibilities in this year’s playoffs and some have even predicted a Super Bowl appearance for the red and gold.
The Chiefs burst out of the gates like gangbusters winning their first five including whipping the New England Patriots on their own turf and the Philadelphia Eagles — who both are now number-one cedes in the playoffs — but no one seems to know which team these Chiefs represent… the 5-and-0 team or the 1-and-6 team that followed up that start… or the team that finished the season 4-and-0?
We all want to believe this team, is the 9-0 team, that looked like the best team in the league at the beginning, and the end, of the year. Of course, this question is not about the Chiefs alone. Their opponent on Saturday, the Tennessee Titans began the year with a loss, then won two, the lost two, then won four, then lost one, won two, then lost three games in a row before ending the year with a playoff saving victory.
From my vantage point, I’d much rather take the Chiefs — winning streak-losing streak-winning streak — pattern than the up and down roller-coaster ride the Titans have produced. However, that doesn’t mean the Titans can’t rise up and put it all together to beat the Chiefs this weekend. It just appears much more possible that the Chiefs “put-it-all-together” than the Titans.
Obstacles and Curses
I’ve been following football and sports in general on a daily basis since the 1950s. Growing up outside of Los Angeles I witnessed a Rams team struggle to match the Packers every season and the same goes for those 1960’s teams of the Lakers who always played second-fiddle to the Celtics. The Dodgers on the other hand were a team that “overcame” their obstacles to win it all. Several times.
In general I’m not one to believe in curses nor do I have any superstitions surrounding a team I love, like the Chiefs. However, if you have followed the career of Elgin Baylor, you may change your mind. Baylor was 3rd all time in points per game at 27.36 points per game. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan did better than Baylor. After all those years of watching Baylor and Jerry West try in vain to break through against the Celtics, it wasn’t until the very next year after Elgin retired that the Lakers went on the win the title in 1972 (Elgin also owns the record for the most appearances in a final without winning a ring). What makes that story even more astounding to me is that there have only been 6 players in history who have broken the 27 ppg barrier and Jerry West, Baylor’s team mate, was also one of those players.
Persevering and then… breaking through
Ah, the 1970s. A decade that began with a Chiefs Super Bowl win and eventually saw the Pittsburgh Steelers break through against the Oakland Raiders, then went on to dominate the league from 1975 to 1980.
I’m sure you see the key here: breaking through. So, do these Chiefs have the ability to “break through” and win it all this year? That’s the question. However, while we often have the tendency to pick the team apart with stats and start focusing on one time of the year or another… let’s take a look at the team as they are right now. No, I’m not talking about where they’re at after their most recent 4-game winning streak. I’m talking about where they’re at… taking the whole season into consideration.
Quarterback Alex Smith
QB Alex Smith has had a career year… and whether you are of the opinion that he only accomplished that because of the players around him or not… this is what he accomplished. So, how does that alter our perception of Alex Smith (will the real Alex Smith please stand up)? Smith is a 12-year vet playing the best ball of his career. It also makes him one of the top QBs in the league right now. Notice, I didn’t use any stats for this assessment. It’s all about what you bring to the field on game day and Chiefs fans should be as excited as they have been since Len Dawson led the team into the post season in December of 1969.
Running Back Kareem Hunt
Rookie RB Kareem Hunt has provided the Chiefs with an element to their offense that they didn’t have going into the post season last year: a slippery banger who can also catch the ball. As much as Alex Smith was only able to do what he’s done this year because of those around him, the same is true of Kareem Hunt and each offensive weapon mentioned here.
Tight End Travis Kelce
TE Travis Kelce continues to be one the very best tight ends in the game. Sure, Kelce has had trouble hanging onto the ball at times but when he makes one of his patented sensational catches for a first down, his performances usually are game changing. Kelce is also a lightening rod when it comes to inspiring his teammates.
Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill
WR Tyreek Hill has become so much more than, that fast guy. Other teams must track Hill on the field at all times because every part of his game has become dangerous. His inside game has developed to match his ability to stretch the field.
A Four-Pronged Approach
If the Chiefs have all four of these players working and being successful, the have a high probability of winning.
If the Chiefs have 3 out of 4 of these players dominating… as long as Smith and Hunt are among those 3… they still have a high probability of winning.
On the Titans offensive side of the field…
- QB Marcis Mariota – 3,232 passing yards
- RB Derrick Henry – 744 yards rushing
- TE Delanie Walker – 807 yards receiving
- WRs (Rishard Mathews – 795 yards, Eric Decker – 563 yards, and Corey Davis – 375 yards)
The surprising aspect to the Titans offense this year is Mariota’s self-admitted lack of focus. While he’s capable of an excellent game, an early sack or pressure up the middle should cause him to slip back into that nervous Nelly state that could be the Titans offensive undoing.
Although I don’t want to make this about stats, I look at those figures above and compare the general, specific or overall output of the Chiefs top four offensive players to the Titans top four (or 6)… and the Chiefs should consistently come out on top.
If the Chiefs defense doesn’t show up, the offense is capable of winning a shoot-out. In fact, I’m not so sure the Titans are capable of getting into a shoot-out. Although the Titans have scored more than 30 points 3 times this year, they also have given up scores of 57 to the Texans and 40 to the Steelers.
When I place this Chiefs team within the context of a team ready to break through, I can easily see them putting up a 40-burger while holding the Titans to, in-the-teens.
When I consider the obstacles or improbable playoff curses the Chiefs may, or may not have to face… I see this team has the necessary tools to push themselves to the next level. Go Chiefs!
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