2_Kansas City Chiefs1

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AFC WEST KANSAS CITY 2014 STRENGTHS: • Kickoff and punt returns, ball-control offense and much-improved D Chiefs Offense TOM SZCZERBOWSKI/GETTY IMAGES SPORT Led by Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs had the NFL’s secondbest running game, according to Football Outsiders, while also fielding an above-average 18th-best passing game, ranking overall as the NFL’s No. 15 offense. Give credit to the game’s best back. Give some credit to the Chiefs’ offensive line, which graded out as the NFL’s second-best run-block unit and 20th-best passprotection team. But also give a smidgen of credit to Alex Smith, head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson for playing to the team’s strengths, while also keeping Smith in a West-Coast-offense, ball-control mode that only facilitated field position for the offense (18 turnovers versus 36 takeaways). The Chiefs’ average drive started on their own 33.6, while their opponents were starting on their own 23.2. That doesn’t happen if your quarterback throws much more than 7 interceptions in 508 passing attempts. Add to the mix that Smith also had 23 touchdown passes—7 to his running back Charles and 5 to his goto receiver Dwayne Bowe—and you realize how smart the play 2014 WEAKNESSES: • Wide receivers, long-ball passing and season-ending stamina CHIEFS in 2013 indeed was. Now in 2014, the usual suspects have been rounded up again to hopefully win more than 11 and get farther than the first round (two nice accomplishments by the 2013 Chiefs). Bowe has three 1,000-plus receiving yard seasons on his resume and may reach that total once again if he doesn’t miss three games, as he did combined the past two seasons. Donnie Avery and Anthony Fasano are Smith’s unproductive WR2 and TE1 who will catch their 50 and 30 balls (give or take 10 apiece). So if KC is going to get a major explosion from a new source, that playmaker most likely will be super-athlete running back De’Anthony Thomas, who not only lit up preseason Game 1, but also every Chiefs special teams practice, to boot. Offensive Player to Watch Charles just may be staking claim as the greatest running back of his generation with his breakthrough 19-touchdown, 1980-yards-from-scrimmage 2013 season. When you recognize the gravity of the season, combine it with his past rampages of similar trails (6 and 1745 in 2012; 8 and 1935 in 2010; 8 and 1417 in 2009) and it’s easy to see why the 27-year-old is so special. Not to be missed is the fact that NFL offenses are moving the ball through the air, making the ground grind of Charles a lone throwback. Chiefs Defense Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton wasted little time remaking former head coach/defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s struggling 30th–rated defense of 2012 by placing his imprint on his players: Attack! Attack! Attack! No set of players took to that mindset better than Dontari Jamaal Charles


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