Raiders, Playoffs and Pro BowlDecember 30th, 2010 by Lee Eldridge
My 10 year old daughter emailed me yesterday and said, “Hey dad, read your little blog. Haven’t posted in a while have you?” It’s been a crazy holiday season, and before I forget, happy holidays!
The Chiefs have lost five games this year. Two games were blowouts, and three that were very competitive. The loss in Oakland to the Raiders hurt the most, and had the most potential to come back and haunt the Chiefs.
It will be interesting to see the mindset of the Chiefs this week. On one side, they’ve already won the division title. All that’s at stake is securing either the third or fourth seed in the playoffs. With a win against the Raiders, the Chiefs earn the third spot in the playoffs, which only has any real significance if the top two teams lose in the second round. The AFC Championship game would then be played in Kansas City. Not likely, and probably isn’t a motivating factor for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs are 7-0 at home, and the Raiders are 5-0 against the division. If anybody thinks that the Raiders will come to Kansas City and just lay down, they’re mistaken. This should be a competitive game. The Raiders did a great job of shutting down the Chiefs running game in Oakland, limiting Charles / Jones to 85 yards rushing. The Chiefs looked like the better team in that game, but could never quite shut the door on the Raiders. The difference between then and now is that the Chiefs have gained considerable confidence in their passing game. Where early in the season the Chiefs could only setup the pass with the run, they’re now able to setup the run with the pass when a defense drops eight defenders in the box.
Prediction: Chiefs go undefeated at home and beat the Raiders 31-20.
Playoffs and AFC West Division Title
The Chiefs are not a great team, but they’ve certainly become a good team much more quickly than most of us anticipated. I remember talking with my brother before the season began, and he said to me “You’re really excited about the Chiefs this year.” My explanation was that yes, I’m excited. But not because they’re going to win a lot of games. I was excited because it just felt like the Chiefs were moving in the right direction again. I thought that anywhere from 7-9 wins was possible, especially given their soft schedule. I would never have guessed they’d be looking at 11 wins and a division title. But that’s the NFL, and why we love football. Congratulations Chiefs!
Last year was the first year since 1978 that not a single Kansas City Chief made it to the Pro Bowl. And truthfully, not a single Chief deserved it. Oh what a difference a year can make. Here are my thoughts on the players that made it, and those who could have made it.
First, those who have made the Pro Bowl:
Jamaal Charles (RB): One of the most dominating running backs in the league. He’s number two in the league with 1380 yards despite averaging only 14.4 attempts per game. If his average per carry holds up (it’s currently 6.4 yards per carry), this will go down as one of the top averages in NFL history. Certainly deserving of a Pro Bowl appearance.
Brian Waters (OG): Personally, I think Waters’ best years are behind him. He’s played well this year, but not sure he’s really one of the top 3-4 guards in the AFC. The Chiefs have the best running game in the league, and have allowed very few sacks. This is more about the achievements of the entire offensive line, and a reward to Waters who has had a stellar career on and off the field.
Dwayne Bowe (WR): Who could have imagined this only a few months ago when Bowe dropped two huge passes in the loss against the Colts? The fans wanted him out of Kansas City. But since that game, Bowe has been impressive and leads the league with 15 TDs. A surprising but deserving reward for a very productive season.
And those who could have made it:
Matt Cassel (QB): Matt happens to play in the AFC with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. That’s going to make it tough to break into the Pro Bowl, even when he deserves it. He’s certainly had a better season than Manning. He’s way behind in yards because the Chiefs don’t pass the ball as much as these other teams. But Cassel’s numbers are impressive. He’s fifth in the league with a QB rating of 98.8, and has thrown 27 TDs to only 5 INTs. VERY impressive numbers. He’s likely the first alternate behind the big three, and might still end up in the Pro Bowl if one of these guys decides not to travel to Hawaii.
Tamba Hali (OLB): Hali is quietly having an outstanding season. He’s sixth in the league with 12 sacks. He’s also forced four fumbles. Often players get to the Pro Bowl a year or two after their breakout season. Hali may fit into this category if he keeps putting up numbers like this.
Derrick Johnson (ILB) and Brandon Flowers (CB) are also having nice seasons, and deserve some consideration for the Pro Bowl. But much like Hali, they may have to wait a couple years before they get this kind of acknowledgment.