Keeler: 3 reasons to believe Chiefs hype and 3 reasons to be wary

BY foxsports • July 22, 2013

Ain't parity grand? For the last 10 years, at least one NFL team that finished last in its division one season wound up first the very next. The experts think the Kansas City Chiefs -- coming off a 2-14 season that proved historically tragic on multiple levels -- might have undergone enough restructuring to make that jump in the AFC West, although some fella named Manning may have something to say about that. To celebrate 2013 Training Camp Move-In Monday, we break down ...
 
3 REASONS TO BELIEVE THE HYPE
 
:03 ... The first part of the slate is Hostess-cupcake soft.
 
Of the Chiefs' first nine opponents, eight missed the postseason a year ago. And you couldn't ask for a better road opener for a rebuilding team with a new coaching staff and an overhauled roster than going to Jacksonville, a franchise endlessly spinning its wheels. The Jaguars still have the quarterback the town wants to move on from but management doesn't (Blaine Gabbert); the Chiefs, by contrast, have already moved on. With the Cowboys, Giants, Raiders, Texans and Browns at home and trips to North Florida, Philadelphia, Tennessee and Buffalo on the docket to begin the slate, it's hard to picture a healthy Kansas City bunch heading into Week 10's bye with a record any worse than 5-4. With a few kind bounces, a 6-3 mark or (gasp) 7-2 aren't out of the question, either, as ...
 
:02 ... Bob Sutton and a secondary makeover
 
... the defense, on paper, has all the ingredients to be one of the more improved groups in the NFL. For one thing, an offense (cough, quarterback, cough) that creates fewer turnovers should mean fewer sudden-change and short-field situations. For another, new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has vowed to let slip the dogs of war, to blitz from any and all conceivable angles. And he'll be able to take more risks, theoretically, up front, because of better support from a revamped secondary. Former general manager Scott Pioli was savaged -- and justifiably -- for putting all his eggs in quarterback Matt Cassel's leaky basket, year after year. But letting cornerback Brandon Carr walk more than a year ago and letting a so-so secondary regress in a division that featured four games a year against Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers was straight-up asinine. The Reid-John Dorsey regime gets it: The NFL of now requires at least three cornerbacks capable of starting on hand to counter the quick-strike, spread offenses that have become all the rage. The addition of free-agent corners Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson offers the potential upgrade in terms of quality and depth in one fell swoop.
 
:01 ... Dave Toub
 
Remember how much fun Chicago Bears fans seemed to have every time Devin Hester returned a kick? Or, more to the point, how much fun Chiefs fans had when Dante Hall was parting red sea after red sea? The right kind of special teams units can make a bad team look decent, and a decent team look downright scary. Toub coached exactly those kind of units in Chicago, where he helped to turn Hester and names such as Johnny Knox and Corey Graham and Brendon Ayanbadejo into Pro Bowlers. In his nine seasons in the Windy City, his units ranked in the NFL's top 10 eight different times, including No. 1 in '06 and '07. Even better: longtime running buddy and kicking/punting expert Kevin O'Dea is along for the ride, too. Reid has quietly assembled an accomplished, diverse and large staff around him; Brad Childress and pistol guru Chris Ault get most of the ink, but the Toub/O'Dea hire could wind up being a mini-masterstroke.
 
 
... AND 3 REASONS TO HOLD YOUR HORSES
 
 
:03 ... The second part of the slate is Hostess-bankruptcy ugly.
 
The division-favorite Broncos are up twice in three weeks -- Week 11 (road) and Week 13 (home) -- with a visit from San Diego in the middle, a stretch that should determine the tenor of the final month of the season. But three of the Chiefs' last four tilts are on the road, including a visit to ascending Washington that'll be tricky if Robert Griffin III doesn't play and an absolute beast if he does. Bottom line: The more early momentum Reid and company can build heading into Halloween, the better.
 
:02 ... Alex Smith
 
So many questions: How will he mesh with Andy Reid's pass-first M.O.? Can he handle the deep ball? Will he be able to use his legs as a pro the way he did collegiately at Utah? But the biggest one is this: Can the Chiefs' newest quarterbacking savior get through an entire season healthy? Through his first seven years in the NFL, Smith has played 16 games in a season only twice -- in 2006 and in 2011, his breakout year. Ball security could also become an issue: According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, in 78 career games, Cassel committed 41 fumbles, or 0.52 per contest. In 80 games, Smith has done it 44 times, or 0.55 per game. Over the past four seasons, Cassel was credited with 25 lost fumbles; Smith, just 10.
 
:01 ... The Denver Broncos
 
As long as Peyton Manning is in Denver, throwing to Wes Welker in Denver, coached by John Fox in Denver, the division is likely the Broncos' to lose. Not that recent history has been kind, either -- since 2000, the Chiefs are 3-10 in the Mile High City and just 11-15 against the Broncos overall. On this, everyone can agree: Denver's window is right here, right now. And half the fun will be watching Reid try to toss a giant red brick right through the heart of it.
 
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.


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