Following a promising 2010 campaign in which Kansas City won the AFC West, a plethora of injuries plagued the team during a disappointing 7-9 season in 2011.
Here are five bold predictions for Kansas City in 2012.
1. Kansas City will have a top-five defense
“Top seven” would probably be more accurate, but doesn’t sound as appealing.
Kansas City’s defense finished 12th in the NFL in points per game and 11th in yards allowed. Two factors should result in the Chiefs’ defense ascending in both categories:
Charles in Charge: A healthy Jamaal Charles, who averaged 6.4 YPC in 2010, should prolong Kansas City’s drives. Opposing offenses will have less possessions per game, and the Chiefs’ defense will not be as fatigued throughout the second half.
Second-Berry: After earning a Pro Bowl selection in his rookie season, strong safety Eric Berry will make his return to the lineup following a short-lived 2011 campaign due to an ACL injury suffered in the season opener. Berry is a critical cog in the secondary, accumulating four interceptions alongside 92 tackles in 2010.
Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, and Dale Carter... meet Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, and Eric Berry.
2. Glenn Dorsey will be released
The fifth-year product out of LSU is averaging one sack per year (including zero last season).
Dorsey is in the final year of his contract, so he will have one last opportunity to justify his fifth-overall selection in 2008. Neglecting his ineffective pass rush, the defensive end has not provided ideal run support either – Kansas City finished 26th against the rush last season.
Unless Dorsey has a breakout year, look for his front lawn to be decorated with a “For Sale” sign next offseason.
3. Matt Cassel will finish the season as the starting quarterback
That statement is painful, but any alternative options may be more impractical than the Arrowhead faithful would like to believe.
Will Pioli take a chance on Peyton Manning? Doubtful.
Kansas City has the offensive arsenal to catch Manning’s eye; the team also has a stable defense composed of young, rising stars. However, it is unlikely that Pioli will risk acquiring Manning’s contract – even if it is restructured – alongside Cassel’s considering that both quarterbacks finished the year on injured reserve.
In limited action, Kyle Orton quickly became a fan-favorite. Pioli may entertain the option of re-signing Orton, but are the feelings mutual?
Pioli and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are fans of Cassel. The trio’s roots stem from New England – Kyle Orton is undoubtedly aware of this. If he returns to Kansas City, No. 8 may face an uphill battle in dethroning Cassel at the top of the depth chart.
Quarterback controversy follows Orton like a lost puppy (see Chicago, Denver). There are teams more desperate for a quality starter than Kansas City – namely Miami and Washington – that offer less competition.
One thing is certain: Kyle Orton does not want to begin the 2012 season wearing a headset.
4. Justin Houston will finish with double-digit sacks
Expect the outside linebacker to become a household name in Kansas City during his sophomore season. In limited action, Houston netted 5.5 sacks – ranking second on the team behind Tamba Hali – and one forced fumble as a rookie.
Why is he so successful?
Houston is extremely fleet of foot for his position. Weighing in at 270 pounds, the former Georgia Bulldog recorded a 2.68 40-time at the 2011 NFL Combine - to put that into perspective, Tambi Hali ran a 4.75.
Houston’s sack total should increase for two reasons:
Trail-blazers: Kansas City played “catch-up” throughout the majority of games in 2011 due to a lack of offensive production. The return of a healthy Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and Matt Cassel (assuming he reclaims the starting position) should reduce the aforementioned scenario, translating into more passing attempts for the opposing offense. More throwing equates to more pass-rushing opportunities for Houston.
Ad-Justin': Considering that Houston was a rookie entering a shortened offseason due to the lockout, Andy Studebaker shared a significant portion of the time at LOLB. With a year of experience under his belt, Houston’s playing time should expand.
A second edge-rushing threat will only help Kansas City’s talented secondary – Justin Houston will provide it.
5. The Chiefs will win a Playoff game
January 16th, 1994:
The top song was “All for Love” by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting.
The biggest movie release of the weekend was House Party 3.
Bill Clinton was four days shy of the one-year anniversary of his first inauguration.
The Kansas City Chiefs would defeat the Houston Oilers in the franchise’s last playoff victory to date.
Yes, it has been that long.
Kansas City won the AFC West in 2010 before a heart-wrenching first-round loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. Fans at Arrowhead were first-hand witnesses to an abysmal performance provided by Matt Cassel (9/18, 70 YDS, three INT). The Chiefs were decimated by season-ending injuries in 2011 and finished with a 7-9 record.
The vast majority of 2010’s playmakers remain on Kansas City’s roster today. Add key additions such as Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Justin Houston, plus upcoming offseason acquisitions, and 2012’s roster appears more talented than its successful 2010 counterpart.
Barring another contagious injury bug, the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs should be a postseason contender.