2. Kansas City Chiefs / AFC West
Sep 3, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid calls a play against the St. Louis Rams during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Chiefs defeated the Rams 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Following a losing season in 2014, the Chiefs earned one of the AFC Wild Card spots in 2015; and reached the AFC Playoffs divisional round, before being eliminated by the Patriots.
The Chiefs overcame a 1-5 start — and an injury to superstar running back Jamaal Charles — to finish the year 11-5.
They could enter next season as the AFC West favorite in many eyes, depending on what happens with Denver’s quarterback situation (who as I mentioned have Mark Sanchez penciled in as their starter at the moment).
On defense, the Chiefs really performed well, finishing fifth in schedule-adjusted defensive efficiency on a per-play basis. Their pass defense ranked fourth, and their rush defense ranked eighth.
With a top-two rushing attack and a top-eight defense overall, against the pass, and against the run, it’s no wonder that the Chiefs were able to reel off nearly a dozen straight wins.
Even though well-respected and long-time NFL offensive guru Andy Reid is their head coach, make no mistake about it: the Chiefs’ ultimate success begins and ends with their defense.
The Chiefs have been pretty aggressive this offseason so far.
They’ve re-signed Pro Bowl TE Travis Kelce to a five-year deal, franchise tagged safety Eric Berry, re-signed linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, and signed former Browns offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz, in what’s considered by many as one of the best moves in all of 2016 Free Agency.
They needed to do that because they have the 5th highest salary cap in the league and the 28th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The biggest loss in the off-season for the Chiefs besides CB Sean Smith in Free-Agency was the news that All-Pro LB Justin Houston will likely miss the 2016 season after surgery to repair a torn ACL in February.
Houston hurt his knee in a game against Buffalo last November, and at the time it was diagnosed as a hyperextension. He missed the remainder of the regular season but returned wearing a brace for the playoffs, playing 44 snaps in a win over the Texans, but just eight in a loss to New England.
Still, this may be the toughest road game for the Saints in all of 2016; as they’ll have to travel to the iconic Arrowhead Stadium — site of one of the most distinctive home-field advantages in all of professional sports.
Next: A New Rivalry