Are the Chiefs For Real?

Overreaction to week 1 in the NFL is a fall tradition unlike any other. Year after year, we get suckered into narratives after the first series of games. It’s important to not get carried away when drawing conclusions after one week and instead focus on close observations and see what trends develop in subsequent weeks. Let’s take a look at one of the teams blowing up in people’s minds after one game.

The Kansas City Chiefs come into 2013 with high expectations and not for a lack of good reasons. With Andy Reid taking over (a head coach with great success despite evident flaws) and the addition of a seemingly professional QB in Alex Smith to team with electric running back Jamaal Charles, the offense should be much improved. On the other side of the ball, we see a defense with a solid front seven including star middle linebacker Derrick Johnson, and pass rushers like Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Of course, a 28-2 blowout against the Jaguars adds to the sentiment that this team is for real. But let’s take a closer look at game one for KC and see if this hype is justified.

The offense did a few nice things to open the season. The offensive line consistently pushed Jacksonville’s front-7 around and opened lanes for the aforementioned Charles. Alex Smith also completed a handful of nice throws including a few TD passes to Donnie Avery and Junior Hemingway. However, two of the four touchdown drives on the day came off of great field position due to a big punt return and a turnover. The Chiefs added another score on a pick-6 deep inside Jaguar territory. While you never apologize for a win in the NFL (just ask the Jets), there are still a few things to keep an eye on with this KC team.

For example, Alex Smith got away with a few mistakes on Sunday and should have been picked off numerous times. Smith’s decision making simply has to be better. Like many other average quarterbacks, he leaves the pocket way too early while going through his progressions and tends to predetermine where he’s going with the ball. He also missed a few throws to receivers who were pretty much wide open on Sunday. These mistakes might not result in a bad outcome against an inferior opponent, but against a better defense, Smith has to be better if KC wants to compete for a division title.

On defense, there wasn’t much to complain about in week 1. However, let’s remember that this secondary was playing against league average receivers at best (especially with Justin Blackmon and Marcedes Lewis out) and possibly the worst starting quarterback in the league. Even though Luke Joeckel was a high draft pick, consistently beating a rookie lineman in his first game is not anything to write home about. I might also add that Jacksonville’s offense seems to have less plays and diversity than a Pop Warner team.

While getting off to a good start is nothing to sneeze at, let’s not overstate how high we should set the bar for this team. We will have a better feel for how improved the Chiefs are as they battle three NFC East opponents in a row, starting this week with Dallas and continuing with the Eagles and Giants in weeks 3 and 4.

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