Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs rebounded from arguably the worst campaign in franchise history (2-14) to an 11-5 record that included nine straight wins to start the season and a AFC wild-card berth. Alex Smith threw for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns while Jamaal Charles led all running backs in rushing touchdowns (12) and total scores (19).
There is doubt, however, they can do it again.
There was a lot of change in Kansas City this offseason, but it’s hard to believe it was for the better. Nearly 7,000 starter snaps walked out the door, with the biggest blow happening to the offensive line. Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah all signed big deals elsewhere. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher will replace Albert at left tackle, and the early results aren’t promising. The Chiefs have to be worried.
According to Pro Football Focus, Fisher has allowed one sack, one hit and one hurry in 31 snaps (9.7 percent) during the 2014 preseason, which is a slight improvement over last season (47 total pressure events over 469 snaps, 10 percent) keeping in mind the small sample size. However, Donald Stephenson is moving to Fisher’s old spot on the right side, and appears to be picking up where he left off: only one hurry allowed in 31 passing play snaps. He allowed just one sack over 299 snaps last season when he was asked to block on a passing play.
Defensively, the Chiefs went back to the aggressive 3-4 defensive front that made them successful in the past, registering 32 sacks during the first six games of the season. They will return
five four Pro Bowlers from that unit — Eric Berry, Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe — which could signal improvement on the defense.
But even that might not be enough for a repeat of last season.
In May, Las Vegas sportsbook CG Technologies posted point spreads on every NFL game through Week 16. If we assume the point spread is the implied margin of victory, then the Chiefs should be the 13th-best team in the NFL and second to Denver in the AFC West. We can also use this data to set win probabilities for each of the games the Chiefs will play and run a simulated season 10,000 times. Here are the chances the Chiefs will win x games next season:
They have a 6 percent chance of having at least an 11-win season and are just 32.9 percent likely to go over Vegas’s win total, which as of today is set at eight games.
The Chiefs’ pass rush should be great and their offense boasts the best all-around running back in the AFC, but expect Kansas City to take a small step back from last year’s success.