The Kansas City Chiefs are perhaps the NFL's version of the little engine that could. They have all the odds stacked against them, yet they keep showing signs of moving up that mountain. While the west is the worst in the NFC, the west is no better in the AFC where the Chiefs, the mini-Patriots, were cellar-dwellers in 2009. However, a second year under new coach Todd Haley, a new defensive coordinator, the emergence of a star running back, and a solid if not spectacular draft have everyone in Chiefs country optimistic for a better showing in 2010.
Division: AFC West – Projected Finish: 3rd Place
Strength of Schedule - #17 = 16th Best. The Chiefs fall right in the center of this season's schedule in terms of who they play, so they start with an even playing field. It's up to them to make their own luck.
Matt Cassel takes on his second season under center for Kansas City. His 2009 numbers were quite forgettable, with less than 3000 passing yards, and 16 TDs against 16 interceptions. Cassel simply isn't a fantasy stud, and I don't expect 2010 to prove any different. He's a serviceable number 2 QB. I have him ranked at 20th overall, and that may be too generous.
The Chiefs wisely rid themselves of the cancerous Larry Johnson last season, and Jamaal Charles took over and simply shined. What will he do in 2010.
- Jamaal Charles - Once Charles got the ball, he put up over 1000 yards in 8 games, including 700 and 4 TDs down the stretch. The Chiefs now have a running game. but wait, there's more...
- Thomas Jones - The team then signed one of the league's top producers for the last couple of seasons, in Jones. Jones is expected to receive less carries but it could be a nearly even split. The team has declared him the #1 guy, but I expect Charles to be the better of the two.
- Dexter McCluster - The wildcard. This rookie was drafted as an RB, but it expected to play a Wes Welker sort of receiving role in Kansas City. he's even listed on their roster as a WR. Check your league for his eligibility. He could be RB or WR eligible, or even both. He could be a very pleasant fantasy surprise in 2010 regardless.
The big question here is how the splits will work out between Jones and Charles. I have them ranked at 34th and 16th. But I expect Jones to move up as much as 10 spots as the season gets closer.
The wide receiver position from a fantasy point of view begins and ends with Dwayne Bowe. And based on last season's numbers, that not saying a whole lot. The former top receiving threat played only 11 games and amassed only 589 yards and 4 TDs in 2009. He'll need a return to form to help fantasy owners and his team. The team did re-sign Chris Chambers. Chambers came over from San Diego mid-season and put up 608 receiving yards and 4 TDs 8 games with the Chiefs. He could have some sleeper value.
Last season's top TE in Kansas City, Sean Ryan, is gone. That leaves the likes of Leonard Pope and Brad Cottam to make plays. Rookie Tony Moeaki could surprise with his ability to stretch the field. Enough said.
The team ended 24th in fantasy production at defense. 2010 won't seem them jump into fantasy viability as a group. On the IDP side, here are the names to know starting with rookie Defensive Back - Eric Berry who I ranked 14th overall. Linebacker - Derrick Johnson. Defensive Lineman - Glenn Dorsey.
2010 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
Wk Date Game Stadium Time (ET) 1 Sep 13 SD @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 10:15 PM 2 Sep 19 KC @ CLE Cleveland Browns Stadium 1:00 PM 3 Sep 26 SF @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM 4 Bye 5 Oct 10 KC @ IND Lucas Oil Stadium 1:00 PM 6 Oct 17 KC @ HOU Reliant Stadium 1:00 PM 7 Oct 24 JAC @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM 8 Oct 31 BUF @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM 9 Nov 07 KC @ OAK Oakland Coliseum 4:15 PM 10 Nov 14 KC @ DEN Invesco Field at Mile High 4:05 PM 11 Nov 21 ARI @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM 12 Nov 28 KC @ SEA Qwest Field 4:05 PM 13 Dec 05 DEN @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM 14 Dec 12 KC @ SD Qualcomm Stadium 4:15 PM 15 Dec 19 KC @ STL Edward Jones Dome 1:00 PM 16 Dec 26 TEN @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM 17 Jan 02 OAK @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM
Todd Haley's second season at Arrowhead looks to be better than his first. Larry Johnson is thankfully gone. He's got a solid running game in Jones and Charles. With the tandem of Bowe, Chambers, McCluster and Urban at WR we should see less drops in the passing game. The O-line is improved. The attitude is improved. Winning more games will be a great elixor for Haley's team, and the addition of offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss should help Matt Cassel.
Two words: Romeo Crennel. The team's new defensive coordinator is going to take a team of solid weapons along with some new ones, like rookie Eric Berry, and turn these guys into lean mean defensive machines. His presence alone should steal a couple of games. The defense will stick with a standard 3-4 scheme.