Merlin’s Midseason Report
Look out NFL, the Chiefs post a 4-0 quarter and, at 6-2 are in a nice position for a playoff run. A lot went right for the Chiefs, but some things went wrong. Concerns abound, but let’s highlight a few positives.
Chris Conley has been developing nicely. The real surprise is the ascendance of Tyreek Hill. I assumed that Hill would be a return guy and gadget player as a rookie. He clearly has vaulted himself past that. We are looking at a WR corps going forward of Maclin, Conley, and Hill. Past that point, Conley and Hill have the talent to be the #1 and #2 receivers for the Chiefs for years to come. A word about Hill’s speed. NFL athletes are elite athletes. There are few players in the NFL that have an athletic attribute that gives them an elite advantage over other NFL players. Hill’s speed is such an attribute. Teams are avoiding him like the plague in the return game. As a WR, Hill can blow the top off a defense. A threat like that can give valuable room to operate for the other players. What really surprises me about Hill is his strength and toughness. He reminds me of Jamaal Charles in that respect. Both play bigger and tougher than their size would lead you to believe.
I have been defending Ford for two years, but this last pre-season had me very concerned that he might not make the team. I wasn’t seeing the development I expected from him. Wow, I was wrong and happily so. A couple of games ago, it seemed like the game finally clicked for him. He has developed enough pass rushing moves to be one of the leading sack artists in the game this year. His pass defense and run defense have improved. He can be a good pass defender. However, run-defense will always be his weakness. He just doesn’t have the frame and strength to hold up well there. As long as he doesn’t get washed out of plays, the Chiefs can live with him on the field. Where will Ford go when Houston returns? It’s not a hard decision. He will start at ROLB and Hali will be a rotational player. Houston is better suited for the left side of the defense. You will see them flip sides on occasion, but I believe that Ford right, Houston left will be the base defense.
A common adage is that it takes close to ½ a season to figure out a team’s identity. We know the Chiefs are a tough, close group that does not give up on games. But, who are the 2016 Chiefs? A running team? A passing team? A lock down defense team? After the Jaguars game, it clicked for me.
The 2016 Chiefs, More Lucky Than Good
Getting turnovers has been the key for the Chiefs this year. Without a major advantage there, the Chiefs could easily be 2-6. It’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth. Google the 1980 Kardiac Kids and what happened to the Browns the next year for an example of the fickle mistress called luck. Game after game, we watch the Chiefs get outplayed, yet win the game. I expect Drew Brees to move the ball against any defense. When Ryan Fitzpatrick and Blake Bortles rack up huge yardage, it’s a cause for concern. Luck eventually runs out. The Chiefs better tighten up or this team is not going to go far in the playoffs, if they make it. A big factor is if/when Justin Houston is on the field and the Justin Houston of old.
The Third Quarter
As friendly as the second quarter was, the third quarter isn’t nice at all. The Chiefs face three road games. The first one in Charlotte against a Panthers team that seems to have gotten their act together. A home date against the Bucs is followed by two away games, one against the Broncos and the last game against a Falcons team that is playing better than expected. A 2-2 quarter would set the Chiefs up well. A 3-1 quarter would put the Chiefs in a very good position, especially if one of those wins was a division win against the Broncos.
A1’ers, that’s my guide to the Kingdom. Sound off in the comments. What do you think? Where did I go wrong?