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NFL Sneak Peak – The Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Football Futures Betting – 2009 NFL PreSeason Analysis – Chiefs Football Gambling

Last year the Chiefs started out bad and ended up bad. There was just no spinning out of their 2-14 season (8-8 against the spread), in which Brodie Croyle, who had been anointed the “quarterback of the future,” went down with an injury, and Tyler Thigpen wound up being the quarterback.

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Other parts didn’t work, Larry Johnson had off-the-field issues, and the pass rush was absolutely non-existent, setting a modern NFL record for futility. Can things get any better for them this year?

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Odds To Win AFC West

San Diego Chargers -275
Denver Broncos +400
Oakland Raiders +1000

There were three very major moves in the off-season for the Chiefs. One of them was to excuse coach Herman Edwards from duty and bring in a “flavor of the month” coach, Todd Haley, who was the offensive coordinator for the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals. Then they wanted to maneuver to get a quarterback that they could actually take into the future, and for that they turned to Matt Cassel, who threw for 3693 yards after taking over for the injured Tom Brady in New England. Cassel, who tossed 21 touchdown passes, also completed over 63% of his throws. The feeling in Kansas City is that he is more accomplished than anyone else they could have gotten, but one NFL scout told me that the team around him may be more likely to bring him down than he is to raise them up.

“You have to remember that in New England, regardless of the kind of stats he put up, he was not asked to do too much,” said the scout. “In many ways, he was a function of the help he had around. He’s not going to have that kind of support structure in Kansas City.”

Indeed, he isn’t, and to a large degree that’s because of the third big move the Chiefs made, sending Tony Gonzalez off to the Atlanta Falcons. Gonzalez had supposedly made some noises about wanting to get out of town during the 2008 season, but the Chiefs could not move him before the trade deadline. Nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, he wants to be part of a team that has a chance to make it to the Super Bowl.

That’s not this team.

Larry Johnson, the team’s former Pro Bowl running back, is another player who has expressed the desire to be somewhere else. However, it’s been said that Johnson is quietly participating in team activities, and may actually want to stick around with Haley’s offense, which tried to use the running back in Arizona, with limited success. Brian Waters, the lone member of the offensive line who went to the Pro Bowl, has said he wants out as well, claiming to have been “disrespected” by Haley in their first meeting. If he somehow does not remain with the Chiefs and left tackle, Brandon Alpert, last year’s #1 draft choice who suffered season-ending injury, doesn’t come back strong, Cassel will be running for his life.

There are promising people in the secondary; one of them is another of last year’s draftees, Brandon Flowers. These guys have to hold their coverage longer than usual, however, since the Chiefs cannot rush the passer (ten sacks). For this reason they drafted Tyson Jackson out of LSU with the first overall pick, but a lot of the pressure has to come from the outside linebackers. Kansas City added some veteran help on defense, with Mike Vrabel, who came from the Pats in the Cassel trade, and Zach Thomas, who was let go by the Cowboys, where he played for one season.

There is a new 3-4 defensive scheme, and in that alignment Tank Tyler is going to man the nose guard spot. That means Glenn Dorsey, who was drafted out of LSU last year as a run-stuffing defensive tackle, will be counted on to adapt to a defensive end position, playing with Jackson, who he teamed with in college. It remains to be seen how well Dorsey, who could be injury-prone, is going to adapt to that new position. In his favor, he had been known in college as a defensive tackle who could rush the passer, but will he prove to be quicker than many opposing offensive tackles?

Haley came in the way many new NFL coaches do these days, as a coordinator of a team that suddenly achieved great success. They are able to strike when the iron is hot. Sometimes guys like that work out, but sometimes they don’t. This, to me, looks like a season of major adjustment, and possibly a major dose of reality for Matt Cassel. The Chiefs may surpass last year’s win total, but won’t go far beyond that. Four wins may actually constitute progress for this team that is lacking in so many areas.

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