Kevin Haskin: Veteran characteristics could help or hurt Chiefs

Upset over New England could stir great hopes for reigning AFC West champs

Quarterback Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the New England Patriots on Thursday. (File photo/The Associated Press)

The Kansas City Chiefs will win the Super Bowl.


At least that will be what some predict if the Chiefs open the 2017 season by beating the powerhouse Patriots in New England.

House money is what the Chiefs will be playing with on Thursday against the reigning NFL champions, ageless Tom Brady and ruthless Bill Belichick.

Oddsmakers tab Kansas City an underdog by more than a touchdown going into Foxborough. In addition, oddsmakers predict a digression from last season, when the Chiefs won a tiebreaker with the Raiders atop the AFC West at 12-4. This year, KC’s over-under for wins is just 9, though when I looked into such a wager a $140 outlay was needed to win $100.

Based on that prohibitive line, some love does exist for KC to win at a double-digit pace.

Frankly, the Chiefs are quite capable considering several key holdovers return.

Defense should be a strength, in part because of veterans skilled at their positions. Contract money tied to many of those veterans suggest they should perform at a high level too.

Of course, general manager John Dorsey was fired at an odd time prior to training camp. His inability to manipulate the salary cap was generally assumed to be one of the reasons Dorsey was let go.

That high-priced defense also happened to rank 26th against the rush in 2016.

While the KC defense is aging, the return of linebacker Derrick Johnson, assuming the veteran tackler stays healthy, should help eliminate nightmares of Le’Veon Bell and the 170 yards he gained against the Chiefs in the playoffs.

Of course, the Steelers did not score a touchdown in that game, becoming the first playoff winner since 2006 not to punch the ball into the end zone.

The game manager who drew much of the blame for that 18-16 defeat remains the Chiefs quarterback.

Alex Smith, however, watched during the preseason as a newcomer hurled vertical passes downfield, something the offense has often lacked in spite of the 41-20 record Smith has managed since joining the Chiefs in 2013.

Patrick Mahomes was a nifty preseason diversion for fans, but Smith will engineer the team again. Watching the first-round draft pick Kansas City moved up to get could at least convince Smith not to automatically check into a swing pass.

Then again, Smith’s tendencies have been crafted over time.

Pin your hopes on this: Mahomes is available to operate a 2-minute drill if the Chiefs need to cover lots of ground. That sounds even better than inserting Dontari Poe, a departed tackle, for a goal-line push pass.

With Tyreek Hill elevated into a featured role on offense, a speedster does exist for Smith to exploit on deep routes. Tight end Travis Kelce also returns as a rising star.

The backfield was hurt by the loss of versatile Spencer Ware, placing a burden on rookie Kareem Hunt to perform. The running back position in the NFL is often defined, though, by sudden opportunity. So why not turn to the Toledo rookie?

Special teams should work in the Chiefs’ favor as long as Cairo Santos is completely recovered from the groin injury that limited his preseason.

While Hill is, supposedly, no longer fulfilling a role as return man, the Chiefs did run back two kicks for TDs in the preseason — an indication special teams coordinator Dave Toub is better than most.

While on the subject of coaching, there is also Andy Reid.

The head coach obviously gained the complete trust of Chiefs owner Clark Hunt during whatever dust-up contributed to Dorsey’s firing. Although Brett Veach was promoted to the role of GM, make no mistake, the Chiefs function competitively under the supervision of their fifth-year coach.

Beginning with the adamant assertion that his fifth-year quarterback is the Chiefs regular.

For an opening doozy, Smith opposes Brady.

I have still got the Chiefs going 11-5. A clean sweep of their division, which KC achieved last season, is a tall order, but the Chiefs still will be the team to beat in the West.

Going deeper in the playoffs, given the track records of Reid, Smith and the franchise in general, remains an improbable proposition. Yet it has to be the primary goal for the organization, which has won one of its last 10 playoff games dating to 1994.

No matter the outcome on Thursday, New England is a team — along with others in the AFC — confidently capable of wrecking lofty ambitions in the postseason, particularly those of Kansas City.

Contact Kevin Haskin at (785) 295-1159 or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.



Olathe West takes control in the second half to drop Topeka West, 68-36

OLATHE — Topeka West led at the end of the first quarter Wednesday night and the Chargers were within four points at... Read more