When they went 1-5 at the start of the season, many said that the Kansas City Chiefs’ season was over before it had even really begun. They looked spent, they just could not get things going and with an injury to star running back Jamaal Charles, there was no hope left.
How wrong everyone was.
Fast forward to December and the Chiefs have won seven straight games, they have been in fantastic form and are a few wins away from the playoffs with three teams under .500 to see out the season. They have a chance to stroll into the playoffs on a roll that is only bettered by the Carolina Panthers, so how have they got there?
For starters, the team have continued to commit to the running game even without Charles in the line-up. Charcandrick West has put in a string of impressive performances in a team that are really built as a run-first kind of team. Their offensive line is stout in both running and pass protection, which means that a solid backup could always pick up some of the slack.
The added bonus that Alex Smith is also using his legs a little more has added to their offensive style. He is keeping the pass rush honest, especially in his scrambling display against the Detroit Lions in London, and that’s allowing him to do more in the passing game as well as give defensive co-ordinators something else to gameplan for. It’s strange to think back and know the San Francisco 49ers probably should have stuck with him.
Add that to the fact that he now has weapons to pass to and it’s created a much better offensive output. Tight end Travis Kelce has been a safety blanket, free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin should top 1,000 yards this season and both have combined for nine touchdowns just a season removed from when no wide receiver could get into the endzone.
Their defence has continued to be incredibly imposing, with the currently ranked four in average points per game allowed with 18.7. They have held the San Diego Chargers to six points in two games, although they are banged up, and that side of the ball has consistently allowed them to outscore other teams.
Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters is having a fantastic year, causing five interceptions and he has added to the likes of Eric Berry and Sean Smith in the secondary. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali continue to be incredible pash rushing threats, with 7.5 and 6.5 sacks respectively, and when you add the running stoppage of Dontari Poe and the slow emergence of Dee Ford last week, they have numerous ways to get to the quarterback.
However, in spite of all of that, the real key statistic that has sparked all of it is their turnover differential. Kansas City are +12, having thrown just four interceptions all season long and just one in their last six games.
That is, frankly, ridiculous numbers in today’s NFL and everyone knows that if you can keep hold of the football and create a few turnovers, you have more chances to score and a better opportunity to win close games.
And that is precisely what the Chiefs have done. They’ve won dominantly, they have won in scrappy fashion but there is one consistent in both those statements, they have won. Will it see them all the way? It is difficult to say as the playoffs can be so hard to predict but there will be no one in the AFC that will want to take them on if they continue their red-hot form.