Last year the Chiefs exceeded all expectations by winning the AFC West and making the playoffs. Now, without Charlie Weis running the offense, can we expect a sophomore slump or can Matt Cassel strive with the stabilizers removed? Al Dannity breaks down the big questions.
The players As mentioned in the intro, there will be a lot of eyes on Matt Cassel this season. He took some big steps forward under Charlie Weis. Now that Weis has moved back to College Football, it’s time to see how Cassel fares with more responsibility under center.
Looking at the draft, first round pick Jonathan Baldwin will be under a lot of pressure to perform early. The highlight of the Chiefs’ mid-round selections was Jalil Brown, a defensive back with great versatility out of Colorado. Sixth round selection Jerrell Powe could be the sleeper pick here. Refining his game will be key but there’s no questioning the former Mississippi star’s physical assets.
Mark your calendar The first tricky road test comes in Week 2 at Detroit. The Lions are an improving side and, crucially, this game is early enough that NFL betting fans can believe Matt Stafford will be healthy enough to start. Week 3 sees the Chiefs travel to San Diego in a meeting of AFC West favorites. It doesn’t get much easier with a Week 5 date in Indianapolis.
The Chargers visit Kansas City in Week 8 before the Chiefs face a string of top caliber opposition in Weeks 11 to 15. The Steelers, Patriots, Bears, Jets, and Packers all tangle with Kansas City at the business end of the season. The price of success in one season is a tougher challenge the next. We’ll know what the Chiefs are made of by the end of this season.
The verdict Losing Weis won’t be what hurts the Chiefs in 2011. It will however be what every two-bit hack claims is the problem. The bigger issue for Kansas City will be the much tougher schedule ahead this season. They are in an improving division and have a clear talent disadvantage compared to the Chargers. With all those extra challenges on their slate, it’s difficult to see the Chiefs even treading water this year. A 7-9 season isn’t unthinkable, although I imagine 8-8 or 9-7 to be much more likely. The Chiefs got a lot of breaks in 2010, they will need even more this year to make the post-season.