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Preseason Power Rankings No. 17: Kansas City Chiefs

Jamaal Charles AP

At their best, the Chiefs are playoff-caliber.

The Chiefs proved it a season ago with their sound, stout play en route to a wild card berth. The Chiefs forced 36 turnovers and committed a mere 18. Their defense proved too tough for weaker opposition. By early November, the Chiefs were 9-0 and had all but made the postseason.

However, the Chiefs had peaked early. They won just two of their final eight games, including a 45-44 playoff loss at Indianapolis marked by Kansas City blowing a 28-point third-quarter lead.

In the end, there was no doubting where the Chiefs fit in the NFL’s power structure. They were much stronger than the league’s weakest outfits, but they just couldn’t handle stepping up in class. The Chiefs were 10-0 against clubs who missed the postseason but just 1-6 against playoff entrants, with the lone victory against Philadelphia in September.

With seven games against 2013 playoff teams, including league elites Seattle, San Francisco, New England and Denver, the Chiefs must fare better against top competition if they are to improve upon their work from a season ago.

Strengths.

The Chiefs have a strong defensive front seven, with outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, nose tackle Dontari Poe and inside linebacker Derrick Johnson all making the Pro Bowl a season ago. Moreover, the Chiefs’ first-round pick, Dee Ford, will add to the pass rushing depth behind Houston and Hali. Playmaking strong safety and fellow Pro Bowler Eric Berry leads the back end of the defense.

The offense has some skilled core players, too. Tailback Jamaal Charles is among the best at his position in the game. Quarterback Alex Smith takes care of the ball and played very well in the Chiefs’ wild card loss, throwing for 378 yards and four touchdowns. Smith’s future will be a storyline to watch; he’s in the final year of his contract. Smith’s top target, Dwayne Bowe, is the Chiefs’ go-to receiver. Bowe can still perform like a No. 1-caliber target; he lit up the Colts for eight catches and 150 yards in the playoff loss.

In 15 NFL seasons, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has overseen 10 playoff clubs. And his best teams have usually played into January. Of the five teams he’s led that missed the postseason, three had losing records, and two were 8-8.

Weaknesses.

The Chiefs don’t have a wealth of receiving talent beyond Bowe, who will draw the bulk of attention from opposing secondaries. The Chiefs didn’t add any major pass catching help in free agency or the draft, leaving wide receivers Donnie Avery, A.J. Jenkins and Junior Hemingway and tight end Travis Kelce as the complementary pass catchers to watch.

The Chiefs’ offensive line lost three key players in free agency, with left tackle Branden Albert and offensive guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah all departing. That’s quite a drain on the line’s talent and depth.

The Chiefs’ secondary also has undergone some changes. The club released cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Dunta Robinson and didn’t re-sign free safety Kendrick Lewis. After Kansas City struggled against the pass down the stretch, some changes were probably to be expected on the back of the defense. But it will be interesting to see how the Chiefs fare against good passing teams.

Changes.

The Chiefs’ offensive line will have new full-time starters at left tackle, right guard and right tackle. Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, will step in at left tackle, with Donald Stephenson the favorite at right tackle after finishing out the season at the position. Ex-Colt Jeff Linkenbach is an option at right guard.

The defense will have multiple fresh faces in the starting lineup. At defensive end, ex-Raiders defensive tackle Vance Walker could step in for Tyson Jackson, who signed with Atlanta. At inside linebacker, the Chiefs will have to replace the departed Akeem Jordan. The secondary will have two new starters, with Chris Owens, Phillip Gaines or Marcus Cooper potentially getting the call to take over for Flowers at cornerback and second-year pro Sanders Commings a possible replacement for Lewis.

In the kicking game, rookie De’Anthony Thomas could replace Dexter McCluster (now with Tennessee) on punt returns.

Camp battles.

With so many departures, the Chiefs’ younger players have a chance to show what they can do. Let’s see if any of the pass catchers can take a step forward this summer. Similarly, could a rookie like Zach Fulton or Laurent Duvernay-Tardif push for playing time at right guard? Also, will second-year pro Nico Johnson or free agent addition Joe Mays start opposite of Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker? At defensive end, Walker seems the likely starter, given that the Chiefs gave him a three-year deal, but fourth-year pro Allen Bailey could also be in the mix for more reps.

The Chiefs’ young defensive backs will also have an opportunity to earn playing time. Rookie Gaines and second-year pro Cooper will compete with free agent signee Owens for snaps at cornerback. At free safety, Commings and veteran Husain Abdullah look to be the top options.

Prospects.

The Chiefs don’t get the benefit of a favorable early schedule this season. Four of the club’s first six games are against 2013 playoff clubs — road trips to Denver (Sept. 14), San Francisco (Oct. 5) and San Diego (Oct. 19) and a home game against New England (Sept. 29).

And that’s not it for tall orders for the Chiefs. Witness this three-game stretch from Weeks 11-13: home vs. Seattle (Nov. 16), away at Oakland (Nov. 20), home vs. Denver (Nov. 30). Of that trio, the matchup against the Raiders looks most favorable, but it comes only four days after playing the defending Super Bowl champions, and it involves traveling from the Central Time Zone to the Pacific Time Zone.

In the end, if the Chiefs play above-average defense and ball-control offense, they can again compete for a playoff spot. The postseason ranks always seem to include a team or two like this — a grinder that out-executes the opposition.

That said, the most interesting issues with the Chiefs are the bigger-picture ones. How will Smith play in his second year in Reid’s offense and in an contract year? Will some of the club’s younger players step up their games? The Chiefs would seem to be counting upon it, given all the talent that walked out the door in the offseason.

Some will write off the Chiefs, given the way the club finished 2013. But they do have a system that works, and if some of the kids can play, they might again be right in the playoff picture. Still, the schedule looks tougher, and there are some obvious areas of concern, with the playmaking of the offense the obvious worry.

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48 Responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 17: Kansas City Chiefs”
  1. slugdub says: Jul 14, 2014 3:23 PM

    KC = Window closed (never really opened in the first place)

  2. murph2432 says: Jul 14, 2014 3:24 PM

    I’m a broncos fan and I even think they should be ranked a little higher on this list. Somewhere between 10-14?

  3. chargersdiehard says: Jul 14, 2014 3:24 PM

    Ouch. 17th won’t get you in the playoffs.

  4. thefiesty1 says: Jul 14, 2014 3:28 PM

    Humm, you finally placed a team at it’s probable correct ranking. First time since you’ve got all the others mis-ranked so far.

  5. afcdomination says: Jul 14, 2014 3:29 PM

    playmakers on offense? they scored 44 points without Jamaal Charles

    how about help at S and more pass rush from the DL.

    you can’t go from on pace for the sack record, to .5 sacks per game. that is what gets you a 28 point lead into 3 quarters, then makes you lose by 29 the rest of the way

  6. longsufferingkcfan says: Jul 14, 2014 3:30 PM

    This ranking is way too low and is an outrage. The Chiefs have won more Super Bowls than the Vikings, Cardinals, Chargers, Bills, Bengals, Browns, Texans, Jaguars, Titans, Eagles, Lions, Falcons, and Panthers combined. That’s over a third of the league. If that’s not dominance, I don’t know what is.

    I know everyone will point to that playoff loss to the Colts last year but the Chiefs had the bad fortune of playing in the wrong time period. Practically the whole team was concussed. In the past, those guys would’ve been allowed to keep playing and in the future there will be better preventative helmet technology. See what I mean?

    Joe Montana once played for KC. Who’s the best QB your team ever had? The Chiefs also have the best RB in football – much better than that roid user to the north. The rest of you can keep on hating while the Chiefs keep on winning Super Bowls.

  7. thepftpoet says: Jul 14, 2014 3:30 PM

    The Chiefs are definitely a middle of the pack team.

    These Power Rankings immediately lost credit when they had the Minnesota Vikings at #27

    They should be at least a top 10 team in the NFL, based on our immense roster talent and personnel.

    I can’t wait to see the look at these haters faces when we hoist a Lombardi.

    The Dynasty is beginning.

    The Historic Vikings always prosper, it’s in our blood.

  8. Marshawn Lunch says: Jul 14, 2014 3:32 PM

    Too Low. Personally, I’d rank this team (on paper) as number 11.

  9. mf7krime says: Jul 14, 2014 3:32 PM

    They’ll finish 3rd in the division this year and miss the playoffs.

  10. cannonballdookie says: Jul 14, 2014 3:36 PM

    This seems right to me, I see them going back to mediocrity after their strong season, much like they’ve done in the past.
    Something always feels fluky about this team, Charles is an amazing talent, but they have nothing else on offense and lost a few linemen and did nothing in free agency or the draft really. If their D struggles, they’re in for a long season. Also I like Alex Smith but I don’t think he can win games on his own.

  11. longsufferingkcfan says: Jul 14, 2014 3:37 PM

    This team really scares me in our division and will probably rise to the top of it this year.

    Sincerely,
    A Broncos Fan

  12. jjackwagon says: Jul 14, 2014 3:38 PM

    Won’t be 3 teams from the AFC West in the playoffs this year. Expect the division winner and no one else.

  13. wydok says: Jul 14, 2014 3:39 PM

    I thinking this might be a TAD low. 14 or 15, maybe? Not bad, though.

  14. afcdomination says: Jul 14, 2014 3:39 PM

    see everyone saying they won’t make the playoffs, you better be the same folks agreeing with KC fans that Smith shouldn’t be paid yet. otherwise you are a hypocrite who will wait until this subpar season ends to bash the franchise for doing what you thought was best.

    this is why you don’t pay alex smith 18 million a year after the easiest schedule in a decade. because they likely don’t make the playoffs and can you imagine having a 100 mil Alex Smith on a 6-7 win team? its 2013 Flacco without the super bowl win.

  15. darkneptune73 says: Jul 14, 2014 3:47 PM

    Breaking news: The Chiefs go 8-8 this year.

  16. longsufferingkcfan says: Jul 14, 2014 3:49 PM

    In all seriousness, this ranking is spot on. The Chiefs won’t be terrible, but it’s hard to see them duplicating last year’s success. The O-Line is huge question mark and it’s hard to go far without a good one. Plus, they’re not going to sneak up on anyone this year. 8-8 is my prediction.

  17. bullcharger says: Jul 14, 2014 3:53 PM

    I don’t get this one. They were 8th ranked last year and I don’t see how they will be that much worse then last year. They will be in the top 6 in the AFC, which minimum puts them in the top 12 range in the league. Who is going to get the wild cards in their place? They are better than SD and Oakland. Houston has no QB. They are better than the Jets.

    I might buy 12, but not 17.

  18. bassplucker says: Jul 14, 2014 3:55 PM

    That loss to the Colts was one of the worst choke jobs I have seen in all my years. The Chefs have to get a LOT smarter and tougher if they are going to knock off the Broncos in that division this year.

  19. tennesseeoilers says: Jul 14, 2014 3:58 PM

    Wow … so PFT is saying what happened last year was a fluke … That team looked legit to me.

  20. ariani1985 says: Jul 14, 2014 4:01 PM

    Me ah, this is as good as it gets.

  21. radrntn says: Jul 14, 2014 4:03 PM

    alright we are at the bottom half, cant wait to see the top half.

  22. thebirdofprey2 says: Jul 14, 2014 4:23 PM

    What Kansas City had last year to start the year was a perfect storm. When they were undefeated I kept looking at their schedule and it was back up and 3rd string QBs nearly all the way until week 10. Sure there were 1 or 2 solid victories but the eyeball test said that team had holes and many of us said it was going to tested to finish there year against tougher teams and it was terrible slide.

  23. teambolt5000 says: Jul 14, 2014 4:27 PM

    17 seems a little high for the Chiefs. They looked good when they played lesser opponents the first half of the season, then completely fell apart against better teams. In their last 7 games, the Chiefs went 5-2, only winning against two bottom five teams last year, the Raiders and Redskins.

  24. largent80100 says: Jul 14, 2014 4:38 PM

    Why should they be higher since the only team above .500 they beat were the Eagles?

    The same way that the Chiefs were not what their 2012 2-14 record said, they aren’t what their 2013 11-5 record says.

    I like their defense, lots of pro bowl/all pro caliber players like Poe, Hali, Houston, Johnson and Berry, but their performance declined later in the season but they have no OL and their WR core is on pair with the Panthers for the worst in the league.

    I expect them to fight for a wild card, but the competition against teams like Ravens, Steelers and Chargers wil lbe tough.

  25. bhlobos says: Jul 14, 2014 4:41 PM

    LongSuffering… you channeling the Poet or what? LOL… I don’t think everyone saw the sarcasm font though…

    Hard to see KC having the same success as last year, but should still have enough talent to fight for a wild card spot.

  26. racerx1225 says: Jul 14, 2014 4:43 PM

    I expect them to get swept by Oakland and battle it out for last in their division with SD.

  27. revelation123 says: Jul 14, 2014 4:58 PM

    They’re better than #17

  28. narfmoo12 says: Jul 14, 2014 4:59 PM

    They beat the Eagles last year when Vick was starting (and had 5 turnovers) … their other 10 wins were against teams .500 or below. Unless they are playing another joke schedule, they aren’t making the playoffs.

  29. omaha189 says: Jul 14, 2014 5:22 PM

    the Chiefs are easily the 6th best AFC team in the league. That will get them in the playoffs on any other year. This year will be tough with their schedule and division. 12 to 14 would be right, 17 is insulting. Underated as usual.

  30. cliffordt says: Jul 14, 2014 5:29 PM

    Tough schedule this year. I predicted 11 wins a year ago primarily based on our schedule. I hope we get 10 this year, but it’ll be a stretch.

    Knile Davis is the wildcard. He could take us places.

  31. teambolt5000 says: Jul 14, 2014 5:35 PM

    I expect them to get swept by Oakland and battle it out for last in their division with SD
    —————————————————-
    You’re saying the Raiders finish the AFC West first or second? This is almost as delusional as some of the Viking fan posts I’ve seen here.

    Denver 11-13 wins, San Diego 9-11 wins, KC 7-9 wins, Oakland 5-7 wins.

  32. scrotiemcb says: Jul 14, 2014 5:37 PM

    Well, they’ll get prison-raped twice more by Denver.

    -2

    They’ll lose twice to SD and once to OAK.

    -3

    They’ll probably use a running clock in the second half against Seattle and SF.

    -2

    They’ll lose to the rest of the NFC West.

    -2

    I don’t know who else they play, but odds are they’ll lose those.

    -6

    That puts them at 1-15 (shame on you, OAK!)

    My trusty calculator indicates that 17 is far too rich for this bunch.

  33. natelan says: Jul 14, 2014 7:19 PM

    Chiefs only get in if the AFC West sends three teams again, and facing the NFC West this year, isn’t likely.

  34. moeman79 says: Jul 14, 2014 7:32 PM

    Last year they produced did they get weak down the stretch or slack off? My question for KC is I see a lot of player leaving but not a whole lot of replacements. Either they had the talent waiting to develop or the GM (not sure if they have one or it Reid) is screwing up big time.

  35. riverhorsey says: Jul 14, 2014 8:47 PM

    Chiefs probably deserve around a 10 rank.

  36. Fly Eagles Fly says: Jul 14, 2014 8:49 PM

    hahaha…welcome to your reality Chiefs fans. So excited about Andy Reid only to suffer under his gigantic ego.

  37. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jul 14, 2014 9:00 PM

    Too low IMO. It’s like calling their playoff season last year a fluke. I think they may actually improve even more next season.

  38. wiztopher says: Jul 14, 2014 9:48 PM

    Andy never seemed to enjoy the value of good wide outs. Always tried to get by with just a couple weapons which doesn’t add up cuz he’s pass heavy.

  39. drwbrsdmndsnxplntn says: Jul 14, 2014 10:56 PM

    thepftpoet is the greatest writer of our generation. I can’t help but smile at each of his musings. Skol Vikings!

  40. jimthebuilder27 says: Jul 15, 2014 12:27 AM

    Eric Fisher=Bust!

  41. rainponcho87 says: Jul 15, 2014 1:34 AM

    I think they will lose all four NFC west games. That leaves 12 games left to try to get 9 or 10 wins for a playoff spot. Of those 12 they play Denver twice and New England once. I think they can get a wildcard, but it is going to be a lot harder this year,

  42. blogatron2000 says: Jul 15, 2014 2:40 AM

    The Chiefs biggest issue last year wasn’t lack of talent or inability to score points as in past years, it was lack of defensive depth.

    Once Hali and Houston went down, the pass rush all but disappeared. The weaknesses in the secondary, especially Lewis and Robinson, were exposed and blueprinted by high powered passing offenses (Broncos) and they just had no answer.

    They looked like a team with a bright future that was learning how to win. Here’s hoping the addition of Dee Ford and the changes in the secondary address the needs and the climb continues.

    That said, I do wish they’d added a receiver…

  43. sportsfan18 says: Jul 15, 2014 9:08 AM

    tennesseeoilers says:
    Jul 14, 2014 3:58 PM
    Wow … so PFT is saying what happened last year was a fluke … That team looked legit to me.

    34 20

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    They were legit… against NON-playoff teams.

    Can’t call 1 & 6 against foes who made the playoffs last season legit…

  44. wfh88 says: Jul 15, 2014 9:18 AM

    As a Chiefs fan, I probably would have ranked them a few spots higher – but I won’t gripe about 17. It’s an estimate – and there are so many unknowns in July that about all you can really do it try to rank the league into thirds. And I’d say it’s fair to put my Chiefs somewhere in the middle third.
    The face a very tough schedule – and I can’t really say that they got much better. I do expect a much better year out if Bowe – and think Knile Davis and DeAnthony Thomas deserve a bit more of a mention. Both can be big playmakers that can take this offense from being below average to dangerous.

  45. nflgiant says: Jul 15, 2014 9:49 AM

    10-6 at best……..6-10 at worst……….

  46. mattacc31 says: Jul 15, 2014 12:57 PM

    KC fan here. I see this team going 6-10. Questions at WR/TE along with a line that is being remade, and holes in the secondary. Throw in the fact that Hali and DJ are aging a little, Houston is holding out, and Charles has another year of carries on him and can only do so much by himself.

  47. randomjoeblow says: Jul 15, 2014 9:38 PM

    The NFC West has like 1 1/2 good teams…everyone’s commenting as if all four of those games will be losses. I mean, wasn’t it like two years ago when the NFC West was one of the worst divisions in history? Everything changes quite a bit in the NFL from year to year..

  48. babygaga19 says: Jul 21, 2014 2:56 PM

    Chiefs have been and will always be SOFT! Wake me when they win a playoff game.

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