Season In Review: Kansas City Chiefs

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Overall Record: 11-5 (Regular Season) 0-1 (Postseason)

Division Winner? No, and it speaks to both the strength of the AFC West and the ultimate weakness of the Chiefs that their divisional record was unfavorable at 2-4. With the Broncos in the Superbowl and the Chargers managing to sneak into the playoffs, the Chiefs found themselves sandwiched between two talented teams who both managed to proceed further in the playoffs. A surprising development, considering the Chiefs were the last team to hold an undefeated streak in 2013.

Milestones Of 2013: Coming off of an abysmal 2012 season, it seemed as though the Chiefs might have already had most of the pieces in place to quickly turn things around. With multiple Pro Bowl players and a fresh vacancy at the head coaching position, Andy Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia ended at just the right time for everyone involved. He quickly jumped at the opportunity to lead the Chiefs, and in the process retooled the roster to suit his offensive mindset. Alex Smith, cast off from the 49ers after the emergence of Colin Kaepernick, seemed to fit Reid’s system like a glove and, more so, was a solid counterpart to the Chiefs’ revitalized defense. Smith’s tendency to avoid mistakes kept the Chiefs defense fresh, and they took advantage of this by preying on opposing quarterbacks and forcing their opponents to play to their strengths.

Essentially, all the talent this team maintained during a drought of a 2012 season was put in great positions to succeed by a coaching staff that has a wealth of experience in doing just that. What remains to be seen is how the team can improve going forward; but in discussing the here and now, Chiefs fans have to be more than happy with the turn-around.

The Season In Review

The Chiefs didn’t lose a game until November 17th. In the ten weeks prior, their games were mostly close contests, decided by the narrow margins of a team that prides itself on safe execution, strong defense and a handful of playmakers making their plays. A rousing opening day victory over the hapless Jaguars was followed up by a near miss against the Cowboys, but two weeks in and you had a sense that this was a team destined for bigger things. That feeling was ultimately turned to reality as Andy Reid took his new team back to Philadelphia and thoroughly out-coached the Eagles’ new kid on the block, Chip Kelly. After this, each victory was at first icing on the 3-0 cake…until one Sunday, the Chiefs had their bye week and were 9-0. The attention of the football world was squarely in the west, between the Broncos, Seahawks and 49ers…but the Chiefs certainly earned some of that spotlight as well.

It wasn’t until after their bye week that the easily missed truth of the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs was revealed; this was a good team that, despite their record, couldn’t hold their own against the bigger dogs in their pack. In their last six games, they lost twice to the Broncos and Chargers, showing that they weren’t quite ready to compete with their own division. Despite these losses, and a let down against the Colts, the Chiefs managed to finish 11-5 and take their mostly successful season to the next level.

What happened on that next level will remain in our memories forever. After the Colts had gotten the better of them only several weeks before, the Chiefs were out to prove a point in the wildcard round, jumping to a huge 38-10 lead early in the 3rd quarter. Game over? Absolutely.

Only, it was the Chiefs who had lost, and in such a remarkable, jaw-dropping fashion that the entire feel-good season seemed to be a memory of some long forgotten success. In retrospect, however, the 45-44 outcome of that game doesn’t quite tarnish the otherwise solid season in Kansas City. The only real concerns, beyond those that have followed Andy Reid his entire career, center around whether or not they can overcome the Broncos and Chargers in 2014.

Future Forecast

There are few holes on this team, but they could definitely use help at wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe has been a one-man show at the position for the vast majority of his time in Kansas City, and as Alex Smith has shown in his later years in San Fransisco, he can shine with the right talent at his disposal. The offensive and defensive lines have health and age-related question marks, but a wide receiver that is more polished than Dexter McCluster and more athletic than Bowe is a necessity this offseason.

Beyond that, the team is in excellent shape to shore up depth across the roster. With a stacked front end of talent on both sides of the ball and wiggle room under the salary cap, the Chiefs can use the draft to stockpile picks and dig for diamonds in the rough(er) rounds past the 3rd.

In all, the Chiefs can easily bounce back into contention in 2014, so long as they maintain their composure and don’t let the disappointing finish to this season carry over.

Overall Grades

QB – B

RB – A-

WR – C+

TE – D

OL – B+

DL – A

LB – B

CB – B

FS/SS – B+

K/P – B

KR/PR – B


Team MVP: Jamaal Charles, RB

Offensive MVP: Alex Smith, QB

Defensive MVP: Justin Houston, DE

Rookie Of The Year: Eric Fisher, OT (The trade for Alex Smith technically applies to the Chiefs’ draft class, which easily makes him a co-winner in this category)

Biggest Disappointment: That Wild, Wild, wildcard game.

Very Early 2014 Prediction: 10-6, Top AFC Wildcard.

Season In Review: New York Giants

New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins
Overall Record: 7-9 (Regular Season) (No Postseason Berth)

Division Winner? No. The NFC (L)East was a mess this year, with the Eagles and Cowboys never quite getting on track while racing for the division crown, the Redskins never getting on track period, and the Giants hitting some major speedbumps. Their record is a testament to good coaching and a nucleus of talent that still exists, because injuries and lack of preparedness and depth along the offensive line did this team in early.

Milestones Of 2013: It’s difficult to find any. The 7-9 record is actually impressive when you consider how poorly this team played, particularly on offense, where they managed to average just 18 points and 307.5 yards per game. The only actual improvement, or milestone, this team managed to set for itself is its improved defensive play. While struggling early, the signing of Panthers veteran linebacker Jon Beason seemed to bring a renewed sense of purpose to the defense, where Justin Tuck and Antrelle Rolle had perhaps the best seasons of their respective careers. Overall, the Giants defense ranked in the top 10 in both total yards and passing yards given up…but managed to fall in the middle of the pack by letting about 24 points per game get by them.

Eli Manning showed more of an inability to carry his team than he ever did before, but there was always a sense of this even when the Giants were winning Superbowls with him under center. The offense definitely underachieved, and the biggest end results involve coaching changes and the eventual shuffling of the offensive line, which ranked 29th according to the good folks at Pro Football Focus. The only bright side? Will Beatty, who was given a lucrative contract after the 2012 season, has the capability to bounce back after a poor showing this year. Oh, and rookie Justin Pugh looks like the real deal.

Beyond the offensive line, the skill position plays looked absolutely disenfranchised the entire year. The running backs never could get a head of steam, and the rotation was a mess of former stars (Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis) and complementary pieces (Andre Brown, Da’rel Scott, Michael Cox). Losing David Wilson for an indefinite amount of time to a serious neck injury has set this unit back immeasurably as of today.

The wideouts were a different story altogether. While it was evident that Victor Cruz was every opponent’s main focus on game days, he still managed to deliver a solid season. This can’t be said of his fellow “star” WR, Hakeem Nicks, who had a terrible season. Whether or not health played a factor, his poor play (56 catches, 0 TDS) is poor in relation to expectations. If the Giants can’t expect more out of him (and this was a contract year for Nicks, the time when many players kick it into another gear if they don’t typically play at their highest gear), don’t expect them to resign him unless Nicks agrees to a number that reflects his injury history and lack of production. The tight ends were simply no better, with Brandon Myers having an average season with 47 snags and 4 scores.

The Season In Review

The Giants’ 0-6 start was one of the most talked about stories of 2013 as it was happening, with disheartening losses to division rivals Dallas and Philadelphia, and embarrassing losses of 38-0 (Panthers) and 31-7 (Chiefs) sandwiched in between. New York then managed to bounce back, but not in any grand fashion, winning four straight against banged up or talent-deficient opponents. The Cowboys cut their winning streak down, and the Giants finished the year beating the Redskins twice, taking advantage of the Lions’ late season collapse…and being shut out yet again by the Seahawks.

Far too many times, this team looked unprepared for their opponents, especially offensively. Eli Manning was constantly making mistakes, forcing passes he had no right to throw, and the pressure that the porous offensive line let through was to blame just as often as Eli’s lack of vision and his wideout’s lack of timing. The running game struggled to move the chains all year, but found a big of a resurgence when they resigned Brandon Jacobs, who had a handful of productive games before being put back in the rotation with a newly healthy Andre Brown and newcomer Peyton Hillis. None of it was enough to compete against the big boys.

The credit must go to Tom Coughlin and his defense, the two aspects of the New York Giants that carried the team to a record far more respectable than this team could have managed otherwise. The decision to keep Coughlin, and the recent talks of extending his contract, are all great signs for Giants fans; his success has definitely been inconsistent, but you can’t argue with the two rings, can you?

Future Forecast: Brighter than you might think. 7-9 is nothing to sneeze at, and the retooling of this team begins and ends at the offensive level. While some concerns abound at defense, that side is playoff-caliber so long as Justin Tuck and/or Jason Pierre-Paul can produce at a high level consistently. No, the Giants need to address their offensive line early and often, and a draft that features no less than three O-lineman will be a necessary step, especially if free agency doesn’t produce any qualifying upgrades.

Beyond the line, the Giants should look to invest in a playmaking skill position player, something that is complicated due to the questions at RB and the weighing of potential at WR (Hakeem Nicks) and TE (Myers). Still, an early draft pick towards a better complimentary RB or a solid possession WR would certainly be worth the investment.

Elsewhere, the team must improve its general depth, as their special teams’ units were either average or worse all year. They gave up three punt return touchdowns and were generally unable to break off solid gains on their own returns. They’re sitting comfortably at kicker and punter, but they should consider challenging Josh Brown during the offseason.

Overall Grades

QB – D

RB – D

WR – C

TE – C-

OL – F

DL – B

LB – B

CB – C+

FS/SS – B+

K/P – C+

KR/PR – D

Team MVP – Justin Tuck, DE

Offensive MVP – Victor Cruz, WR

Defensive MVP – Jon Beason, LB

Rookie Of The Year: Justin Pugh, RT

Biggest DisappointmentEli Manning, QB

Very Early 2014 Prediction: 9-7, no playoffs

Season In Review: Indianapolis Colts

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The first in my series of all 32 team’s Seasons In Review: The Indianapolis Colts

Overall Record: 11-5 (Regular Season), 1-1 (Postseason)

Division Winner? Yes. The race was kept tight despite two of the league’s worst teams (Houston and Jacksonville) being lapped easily. The Titans were in contention up until late November, and the Colts, despite some of their struggles over the second half of the season, managed to take the division somewhat by default with weak competition.

Milestones Of 2013: The continued maturation and growth of Andrew Luck has to be the biggest step towards continued success for the Colts. He still needs to improve his mental work, especially his tendencies to eyeball receiving targets, which allows aware defenders to predetermine the pass. Still, his clutch play is something that simply cannot be taught. Combined with his pure athleticism and other intangibles, Luck is the unquestioned QB of today and the forseeable future, and he proved it with his 2nd straight trip to the playoffs in as many years in the league.

With the unfortunate season-ending injury to WR Reggie Wayne, several other wideouts were given more opportunities to shine. T.Y. Hilton, already known as a dangerous player, cemented himself as one of the league’s better players at his position in Wayne’s absence. Along with him, players such as Coby Fleener (TE), Lavon Brazil and Griff Whalem emerged as legitimate options in the passing game.

Early in the season, the Colts made waves by trading their 2014 1st round pick for former first round RB Trent Richardson. The jury is still out on Richardson, who struggled for almost his entire first year with the Colts; an offseason to immerse himself in the program, along with continued work on his vision and agility, may see the trade pay better dividends in 2014. As it stands, the Browns got the better end of this deal…only, they essentially traded a 3rd overall pick for a 26th overall pick. So that point may be moot.

The offensive line was definitely improved, and 3rd round pick Hugh Thorton helped shore it up. Luck was sacked 32 times, nine less than he was in his rookie season. Improved play from LT Anthony Costanzo was also a welcome sight.

Defensively, the Colts were up and down all year, but got a hell of a season out of Robert Mathis, who led the league with 19.5 sacks. While Pat Angerer struggled with injuries most of the year, 2nd year ILB Jerrell Freeman improved upon his impressive rookie season and looks to be one of the up-and-coming defense stars in the league.

The Season In Review

The Colts were hot, cold and hot again throughout 2013, winning big games over the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos, while besting the Chiefs twice, including an incredible 28-point 2nd half comeback in the wildcard round. Sandwiched between these outstanding victories were games that were either too close for comfort, or losses that left us wondering whether or not the Colts had what it took to make a serious push come January. Their 38-8 shellacking at the hands of the St. Louis Rams in November was by far their most baffling loss, but they managed to go a perfect 6-0 within the AFC South, earning their division title even if their division was most likely the worst in football.

After their wildcard shocker, the Colts were ground to a halt by a better prepared Patriots team in the divisonal round. Andrew Luck, for all of his success and comeback heroics, threw a combined seven interceptions in two playoff games, and ultimately that, combined with a serious lack of defensive backbone, led to their downfall, just two games away from the Superbowl.

Future Forecast: Bright. But the Colts, who are in solid shape salary cap-wise, need to combine a solid draft (2013’s draft looks like a miss, for the most part) and some key free agent signings to solidify their defense, no doubt their weak link in 2013. The secondary, in particular, could use an infusion of talent. As mentioned before, Luck must continue to progress on the mental side of his position, but I don’t see that not happening. An offensive identity that isn’t “wait until we’re losing and then start winging it and hope our ‘Luck’ holds out” needs to be found; the combination of Trent Richardson and Donald Brown should be an effective one-two punch in the running game, but that’s obviously dependent on whether or not Richardson can turn his game up a notch or two.

Overall Grades:

QB: A-

RB – C-

WR – B

TE – B

OL – B-

DL – C

LB – B

CB – D

FS/SS – D+

K/P – B+

KR/PR – C+

Team MVP: Andrew Luck, QB

Offensive MVP: Luck

Defensive MVP: Robert Mathis, OLB

Surprise Player Of 2013: Hugh Thorton, G

Rookie Of The Year: Thorton

Biggest Disappointment: Reggie Wayne’s season-ending injury.

Very Early 2014 Prediction: 11-5, AFC South Champions