Ursery: Which Chiefs are the real Chiefs?

The end of the year is upon us, and that represents a lot of different things for people. For some, it’s a new beginning, as they seek change while entering a new year. For others, it’s a time to reflect on all the events from 2017.
For football fans, the end of December represents the end of the NFL season. We are entering the final week of the 2017 NFL season, and for 12 teams, it’s the week before the start of the “second season.”
Fans of the Kansas City Chiefs are gearing up for the second season, as the Chiefs are getting set to enter the playoffs for a third straight year. However, as we move into January, one major question is hovering over the fan base: Which Chiefs are the real Chiefs?
Is it the team that started the season 5-0, and had emerged as the unanimous favorite to win the AFC, and maybe finally put an end to the franchise’s playoff woes?
That team seemed to do everything right. Alex Smith was considered the favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award. Kareem Hunt came out of nowhere to become a points machine for fantasy owners.
That Chiefs team started the season with a win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. That’s no easy task. Besides, they didn’t just beat the Patriots. Kansas City made New England look bad on national television.
The Chiefs ruined New England’s debut for the 2017 season. Before the game, the Patriots put five giant Lombardi Trophies on the field as they celebrated not only their win in Super Bowl LI, but all their success over the past 15 years.
Then, the fourth quarter happened. The Patriots’ defense looked lost. Brady and Co. looked nothing like the daunting New England offense that the country has known over the past decade-plus. The Chiefs won the game 42-27.
The following week, they won at home against Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles went on to earn a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
After those five weeks, those Chiefs disappeared and a different Chiefs team showed up. That team lost six out of seven games. It started with a loss to Pittsburgh at Arrowhead. The Steelers just seem to have Kansas City’s number when they set foot inside that stadium.
After the Pittsburgh loss, Kansas City went on the road to Oakland and lost again. It looked as if the Chiefs would win that game, before the secondary gave the Raiders three chances to score inside the 5-yard line with no time left on the clock. Oakland prevailed, thanks to Derek Carr finding Marcus Crabtree in the end zone.
The Chiefs (and everyone else) beat Denver at home, then went on to lose four straight games. A four-game losing streak is bad, but when you look at who Kansas City lost against, that losing streak looks even worse.
Kansas City lost an overtime thriller to the New York Giants. Yes, the 2-12 New York Giants. In a game where all they could manage was three field goals, the Chiefs made New York look like the better team.
To make things worse, that loss came after a bye week. Head coach Andy Reid was 16-2 after bye weeks going into that game. Somehow, the team just didn’t seem very prepared for that game.
Kansas City lost at home to the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have been contending for a Wild Card berth. That was still a winnable game. Alex Smith moved the offense down the field before throwing an interception. He tried to throw to Tyreek Hill in double coverage.
The Chiefs snapped that losing streak with a win over Oakland. They followed that up with a blowout win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
It’s unclear if the real Los Angeles Chargers showed up for that game. The “team without a home” started the season 0-4 before catching fire and winning seven of their next nine.
Going from 0-4 to 7-6 put LA in an opportunity to steal the division from the Chiefs.
Kansas City avoided any such catastrophe by winning 30-13. However, it never should have come down to that. The Chargers never should have been in any kind of contention for the AFC West.
The Chiefs were 5-0 while the Chargers were 1-4. People in Kansas City were feeling good about the season. People in San Diego were enjoying free tacos after every Chargers loss. People in Los Angeles weren’t paying attention to the NFL franchise playing on a soccer field.
Kansas City has one game remaining, against Denver at Sports Authority Field. The following week, they will host a Wild Card playoff game at Arrowhead.
How confident will Chiefs fans feel about the playoffs this season? I’m not a Chiefs fan, but I know a few. Last season, they all were ready for that AFC Divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh.
Those same friends probably aren’t as confident about the playoffs this time around. I can’t say I blame them.
If Kansas City is going to make a playoff run, it’s going to ultimately come down to Alex Smith.
Through Week 15, in the eight games the Chiefs won, Hunt rushed for 926 yards. Kansas City ran the ball effectively, and were able to control the flow of the game.
In the six games Kansas City lost through Week 15, Hunt rushed for only 275 yards. The teams who beat Kansas City may have solved the puzzle for the other five AFC teams going into January.
If the Chiefs find themselves unable to run the ball well, the responsibility of winning the game is placed soley on Smith. That’s probably not what fans want to hear (at least not the ones who wanted Reid to bench Smith and start Patrick Mahomes the remainder of the season).
In four of the six games that Kansas City lost, Smith either made poor throws or threw a costly interception. The two exceptions are the losses against Oakland and the New York Jets. Those two losses should be placed on the Kansas City defense.
Smith has the ability to be the game-changer if it comes down to that. He passed for nearly 1,400 yards during that five-game winning streak at the beginning of the season.
The quarterback who earned the reputation of being nothing more than a “game manager” might be relied on to be the guy who has to make the plays down the stretch to get that elusive playoff win in Arrowhead.
The Chiefs have been a frustrating team for their fans to watch. They went from being the favorite in the AFC, to potentially missing the playoffs.
It appears the Chiefs might be back, but that has yet to be seen.

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