The Kansas City Chiefs might be scarier than people think.
On October 18, 2015, if someone had pegged Kansas City as championship contenders, one would have assumed that person was referring to the Royals. Kansas City’s baseball team was playing for a chance to go to the World Series, which they would go on to win, while Kansas City’s football team was sitting with a 1-5 record. Since that lowly loss to the Minnesota Vikings on the third Sunday in October, the Chiefs have not lost a single game. Winners of nine straight, Kansas City has clinched a playoff spot and is poised for a potentially long run.
Considering the Chiefs are only the second team in NFL history to start 1-5 and make the playoffs (the other being the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals), the 2015 season has already been a success for Andy Reid’s squad. Perhaps the biggest reason for the Chiefs’ recent surge is their underrated quarterback, Alex Smith.
Since the beginning of his team’s impressive winning streak, Smith has a Total QBR of 83.1, ranking second in the league to Carson Palmer. In addition, since Week 7, he has scrambled for an NFL best 271 yards. Quietly, Smith has been putting up stout numbers since he arrived in Kansas City.
The most impressive statistic is Alex’s touchdown to interception ratio of 3.28 to 1 as a Chief. His ability to draw penalties has also been key to his success. For example, during the Chiefs’ 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Smith drew three penalties totaling 50 yards. Having a quarterback who can scramble and not commit turnovers hugely compliments Kansas City’s greatest asset: its defense.
During their nine game winning streak, the Chiefs have given up an average of just 12.3 points per game. They also have amassed an astounding 22 takeaways (2.4 per game) during this stretch.
Most surprising is the Chiefs’ ability to win football games without their star running back Jamaal Charles. The perennial Pro Bowler has been on the disabled list since Week 5 and has only been a part of one Kansas City victory in 2015. Despite the setback, the Chiefs have been able to muster production from other offensive sources like RB Charcandrick West, WR Jeremy Maclin, and TE Travis Kelce.
Because of key injuries to the Cincinnati Bengals (e.g., Andy Dalton, Tyler Eifert), Denver Broncos (e.g., Peyton Manning, Omar Bolden), and New England Patriots (e.g., Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Devin McCourty), the Chiefs may have their best opportunity in recent memory to make a run at a Super Bowl title. Kansas City is getting hot at the right time and has a Head Coach who is no stranger to the NFL playoffs.
As an NFL head coach, Andy Reid has participated in five Championship games and a Super Bowl (all with the Philadelphia Eagles). He is now leading the Chiefs to their second playoff appearance in three seasons. Factoring in aforementioned veterans like Alex Smith and stars Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, Kansas City has a great mixture of talent and experience.
The toughest challenge for the Chiefs will be to beat either the Patriots, Bengals and/or Broncos on the road in the playoffs. However, as long as the team continues to play great defense and not commit turnovers, they have a shot to make some noise come January.
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