2014 NFL Season Preview, Fantasy Sleepers, and Predictions: Was the Kansas City Chiefs' Season a Fluke?
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With the NFL season fast approaching, Latino Post looks at the offseason moves that will make or break each team.
Last Season: 11-5 (2rd in AFC West, Lost in Wild Card)
Key Additions: DT Vance Walker, LB Joe Mays, S Steve Gregory, G Jeff Linkenbach, CB Chris Owens, DE Dee Ford (1st round), CB Phillip Gaines (3rd round), RB De'Anthony Thomas (4th round)
Key Losses: WR Dexter McCluster, CB Brandon Flowers, OT Branden Albert, TE Sean McGrath, DE Tyson Jackson, G Jon Asamoah, S Kendrick Lewis, S Quintin Demps
Games to Watch: Sept. 14 at Denver, Nov. 16 vs. Seattle, Nov. 30 vs. Denver, Dec. 28 vs. San Diego
Three Questions Heading into the 2014-15 Season:
•1. Was last season a fluke?
Kansas City benefitted from a mediocre schedule to rile off nine straight victories. Faced with abysmal NFC East teams, they also played bottom-dwelling teams like Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, and Buffalo. It would have taken a colossal meltdown for the Chief not to make the playoffs.
Things won't be as easy this time around.
The NFC West looms on Kansas City's schedule, as well as matchups with New England and Pittsburgh. They are one of three teams to face last year's Super Bowl participants.
Alex Smith led an offense ranked in the league's bottom-third in completions (333), passing yards (3340), and passing yards per game (209). That won't fly against the NFL's most dominant division.
Smith saw a big dip in yards gained per pass, dropping from 8.0 in his final stint with the 49ers to 6.5 last season. On the bright side, he only threw seven interceptions; the lowest among AFC quarterbacks with more than 200 completions. The problem is Kansas City's front office hasn't equipped Smith with enough weapons to succeed.
Outside of Jamaal Charles, only three Chiefs gained more than 500 receiving yards and one left via free agency. Dexter McCluster signed a three-year, $12 million contract with Tennessee, leaving a void in kick returner and slot receiver positions. Dwayne Bowe is Smith's main target but he's seen less and less action since a breakout season in 2010.
Coming off his most underwhelming campaign since a suspension-shortened 2009, Bowe sought to lose weight by toughening his workouts and limiting himself to fish and vegetable-based meals. It may be the shot in the arm Bowe needs.
Donnie Avery is Smith's No. 2 option, though his first season with the club was less than stellar. He was targeted 72 times and only notched 40 receptions; a 20 catch drop from his last season in St. Louis.
At this point, he's Kansas City's only option. They didn't draft receivers to replace McCluster and tight end Sean McGrath-one of few short-yardage options- retired. It'll be up to youngsters Albert Wilson and Frankie Hammond to decide who lines up in the slot.
The Chiefs' passing game is in shambles and NFC defenses are going eat it up.
•2. Can Jamaal Charles carry the offense?
How competitive is Charles? He reportedly juked defensive back Sanders Commings into breaking his ankle. It happened during a scrimmage.
Regardless of any holdout threats, Charles is the heart and soul of Kansas City's offense. He only saw 259 touches last year but doubled the amount of catches from 2012. Charles notched career-highs in rushing and receiving touchdowns, respectively, and led all running backs in rushing yards.
The 28-year-old Texas grad is the NFL's second-highest paid running back, and with reasonable cause. He virtually did everything for the Chiefs last year. A second straight Pro-Bowl appearance came from leading the team in most offensive categories, including receiving yards. That means head coach Andy Reid either depends on him too much or doesn't trust his receivers enough.
Charles may see a slight dip when facing St. Louis' staunch pass rush or Seattle and San Francisco's near-impenetrable secondary. After all, Kansas City arguably shoulders the toughest schedule.
Nevertheless, the only thing keeping Charles from another 1,000 yard season would he his offensive line. He lost key run blocker Branden Albert to Miami, forcing unproven left tackle Donald Stephenson in his position. The front line is shaky, at best.
•3. Who lines up at cornerback?
By the looks of their come-from-behind loss to Indianapolis in the wild-card round, the Chiefs' secondary needed a makeover.
Unfortunately, they did little to improve on a defense that allowed four touchdowns and 443 passing yards to Andrew Luck. Kansas City cornerbacks weren't very good to begin with.
Reid couldn't do anything to bolter a secondary that allowed AFC worsts in yards per reception (12.8). They gave up over 400 yards passing on seven occasions, excluding the playoffs. Longtime Chief Brandon Flowers was release as a result. Coincidentally, he signed a one-year deal with San Diego mainly to exact some revenge.
Commings, Sean Smith, Chris Owens, and rookie Phillip Gaines will mix and match at the corners. Only Smith saw considerable playing time in 2013.
They have no depth; facing Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning will expose pitfalls at the corners.
Anthony Fasano- TE
Anthony Fasano scored three touchdowns in his final four games after being sidelined with multiple injuries. That will scare a lot of fantasy owners, but his track history proves otherwise.
He's averaged 33 receptions 384 receiving yards since 2008. They're not standout statistics, but worthy of a late-round pick up. Fasano will see extended playing time since McGrath retired and should see more targets now that he's adjusted to Reid's style of play.
Prediction: 8-8 (3rd in AFC West, miss playoffs)
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