The Kansas City Chiefs are an interesting enigma as they enter the 2015 National Football League season. The Chiefs went 9-7 a year ago with impressive wins over both the AFC and NFC champions (New England and Seattle), but they failed to reach the postseason. Part of the team’s problems had a lot to do with the rash of injuries that included an Achilles injury to inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and the nagging leg problems of running back Jamaal Charles. Johnson got hurt in Week 1 and missed the entire season and his return to start the 2015 season is not guaranteed. As such, bookmakers have listed the Chiefs as 33/1 longshots in Super Bowl predictions, 16/1 to win the AFC Conference and +400 in NFL odds to win the AFC West.
While the Kansas City Chiefs had their share of problems, they still found a way to win nine games. A big part of the team’s success had to do with a defense that ranked second against the pass and second in scoring defense in the NFL. Outside linebacker Justin Houston came within half a sack of tying Michael Strahan’s league record of 22.5 sacks. Houston (6-3, 258) quietly ravaged offenses for 22 sacks in the Chiefs 3-4 defense. Houston, Josh Mauga, Tamba Hali, and a healthy Johnson give the Chiefs one of the best linebacking corps in the league. It is unknown yet whether free safety Eric Berry will be able to return after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He is expected to recover fully, but that may not mean he will be in football shape this fall. The Kansas City Chiefs signed former Oakland safety Tyvon Branch and drafted cornerback Marcus Peters out of Washington to help shore up the secondary.
Offensively, Kansas City is solid. They have a capable veteran quarterback in Alex Smith threw for 18 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He also completed over 65 percent of his passes for 3,265 yards. Charles, even though hurt, still managed 1,033 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. The Chiefs, though, became the first team since the merger of the AFL and NFL to not have a touchdown pass thrown to a wide receiver. That should change this year with the addition of Jeremy Maclin. The former Eagle played collegiately at Missouri and brings some explosiveness to the Chiefs offense. Maclin had 85 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns last season in Philadelphia.
For Kansas City to have any chance of defying Super Bowl predictions, they must contend with Denver in the 2015 AFC West division. They will face the Broncos in Week 2 followed by a Monday night date in Green Bay. The schedule gets a little easier down the stretch which is why the Chiefs should have a great shot at making the postseason. Vegas has also taken notice of Kansas City's schedule and despite being a team with many questions still left to be answered, NFL odds for the Chiefs total regular season wins at 8½ OVER (-130).
Chiefs Update (9/8/15): Kansas City are now +3300 favorites in Super Bowl predictions, +1600 to win the AFC Conference and +325 to win the AFC West.