Matt Cassel and the Chiefs are 90/1 to win Super Bowl XLV.
Despite Kansas City’s 10-38 record over the past three years the Chiefs could be closer than you think to an NFL postseason spot. A breakout season isn’t impossible, but it would be a stretch to view this as playoff caliber team at least right now.
The books agree with that assessment as well listing the Chiefs at plus 750 to win the AFC West well behind the favored Chargers and slightly behind the Broncos on the NFL betting chart.
Kansas City though seems to be headed in the right direction thanks to the tandem of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley. Pioli did some major house cleaning when he arrived while Haley installed a new shotgun spread offense and a 3-4 defense. Haley has also assembled an All-Star coaching staff, consisting primarily of former Patriots assistants. Charlie Weis was hired as offensive coordinator while former Browns head coach Romeo Crennel was brought in to direct the defense.
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Kansas City started the ’09 campaign with five straight losses (1-4 ATS) and never did recover. Quarterback Matt Cassel, perhaps feeling the weight of the huge $63 million contract, averaged just 5.9 yards per pass attempt and finished with disappointing numbers in several of the major offensive categories. He threw for 2,924 yards (20th) with 16 touchdowns (21st), 16 interceptions and a passer rating of 69.6 (25th).
His detractors say the Chiefs overpaid for him and without the New England system and receivers like Welker and Moss Cassel will ultimately end up being just another overpaid QB. If Cassel should crumble, Brodie Croyle is the other option although Croyle is 0-9 as a starter. With that QB tandem, it’s no surprise the Chiefs are listed 50/1 NFL betting long shots to win the AFC.
One pleasant surprise in 2009 was the play of running back Jamaal Charles. The former Texas star became the starter in Week 7 and rushed for 1,120 yards and a sparkling 5.9 per yards average. He also had 40 receptions, finishing with a combined nine touchdowns.
Kansas City also has Thomas Jones, who provides them Chiefs with an inside running presence. Though Jones posted a career-high 1,402 yards rushing for the Jets last season, it’s clear he’s here to work behind Charles. Whatever the case it gives KC some much needed depth at the position.
Kansas City’s receivers are good but not great. Chris Chambers and Dexter McCluster are the best of the bunch. However, former first-round selection Dwayne Bowe, who gained 2,017 yards in his first two seasons, has fallen out of favor with Haley who cites Bowe’s immaturity and poor work habits as major problems.
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The defense has nowhere to go but up. The unit ranked 29th in points allowed (26.5), 30th overall in total yards (388.2) and 31st against the run. Kansas City ranked 31st in run defense and total sacks last season.
The Chiefs allowed 40 or more points on three occasions, including 41 to the Browns in Week 15. Former Penn State LB Tamba Hali led the team in sacks with 8.5 while CB Brandon Flowers had a team-high five interceptions.
Javier Arenas, who had seven punt return touchdowns at Alabama, will be fun to watch. Kicker Ryan Succop gets a nod, and not just because of his last name (pronounced suck-up). Succop was one of the most accurate kickers in the game hitting all 29 PAT’s and connecting on 25 of 29 field goal attempts.
Kansas City was favored just twice in 2009, and lost both times. The Chiefs lost their final four games of 2008, went 0-4 in the 2009 preseason and 0-5 to start the regular season. Wins over the Raiders and Redskins formed the bookends for the 13-game losing streak.
If Cassel plays well, the offense should move up in most statistical categories. The defense, though, is another matter. There’s not enough size or talent and the team lacks a proven pass-rusher. The Kansas City Chiefs, aka the Missouri Patriots, are still a work in progress and are worthy of their 90/1 odds to win the Super Bowl.