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Keeping Tabs on the AFC West: The Kansas City Chiefs

Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride lets us know what to expect from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013.

Donald Miralle

Changing up from our recent Keeping Tabs posts, I thought it'd be a good change of pace to see the perspective from the guys who actual follow and write for their respective teams. I was able to contact the head honcho for each divisional opponent. Today, Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride took the time to fill us in on what to expect this year from the Kansas City Chiefs.

Before I start, I want to thank Joel for taking the time to do this, and wish the Chiefs the best of luck in 14 of their games this year. So without further ado:

The Chiefs are a popular "sleeper" pick this upcoming season in the NFL. What are the realistic in house expectations for Kansas City? How far can they go and is Denver the only team standing in their way? W/L prediction?

Joel: I think you can reasonably put the Chiefs in the category of 6-9 wins. It's not like it's impossible to be better or worse than that range either. New quarterback, new coach, new offense ... we're doing a lot of guessing on how the Chiefs will look, but we really don't know yet. I'm waffling somewhere between 7-9 wins for my prediction. That's a minimum of a five-game improvement year over year, which is significant.

Last year the Chiefs were very predictable on offense. With the hiring of Andy Reid, what changes can we expect to see on that side of the ball? With Jamaal Charles will Reid really be throwing the ball over 60% of the time like he did with the Eagles?

Joel: Reid's probably going to stick to what he knows and run the offense he ran in Philadelphia. That's the reason he was hired, that's what has worked for him, so he shouldn't stray from that. The expectations are relatively high, compared to what we saw from the Chiefs last year, which was one of the worst offenses in the NFL. And the year before that, too.

They have to be better because it can't get much worse and with Reid's proven track record along the offensive side of the ball we're optimistic the Chiefs offense will improve dramatically. With Charles, it will become more about touches and not carries. Charles will see more receptions out of the backfield, which seems like a good thing, being he's outstanding in space and all. LeSean McCoy once had over 1,300 yards rushing in Andy Reid's offense. He also came close to racking up 600 receiving yards one season.

Speaking of offense, the Chiefs traded for quarterback Alex Smith in the offseason, who looks to be a clear upgrade from last years duo. What does Smith offer to the offense and is he the missing piece to put the Chiefs in the playoffs?

Joel: Hopefully he offers some reliability. Steadiness. Some turnover-free football. The last two years, asChargers fans know, have been a disaster at quarterback in Kansas City. What I find interesting about Smith is that Reid seemed to legitimately want him even before he was in Kansas City. There was a report that there was some sort of "courtship" with Reid and Smith, before he ended up signing back on in San Francisco. That makes me optimistic that Smith wasn't just the best of a bad crop of available quarterbacks.

We know Charles is great, we know Justin Houston is great, but as a unit, what are the strongest and weakest units of the team?

Joel: The strongest unit on the team is the linebackers. There are three Pro Bowl-caliber players there. The fourth is coming down to former Eagle Akeem Jordan and former Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson. The Chiefs have one of the best set of linebackers in the league (on paper which, you know, is all we got).

The weakest position is the defensive line. They're a competent group but for a variety of reasons (some acceptable, some not so acceptable) they have yet to live up to the investments the Chiefs made at that position over the last five years. That could change if Dontari Poe ends up being a stud. Nose tackle is an important position in the Chiefs defense.

The Chiefs made a splash in free agency by signing corner backs Dunta Robinson & Sean Smith. Smith has always been supremely talented and got off to a good start last season, but struggled in the second half of the year. Robinson gave up a lot of catches, and quarterbacks had a 103 QBR throwing his way. What are expectations for the two, as well as the secondary as a whole?

Joel: The secondary talk starts with Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry. We're pretty sure we know what we have in those two. Smith is a bigger cornerback, over 6'0 and, oh by the way, the Broncos receivers are large men. Smith will probably end up winning the No. 2 job but I suspect Robinson will fill in plenty. Remember, Andy Reid has historically put an emphasis on having a number of good cornerbacks.

Dwayne Bowe can play, if he catches it, he's one of the better receivers out there. But outside of him it's kind of a toss up. Do the Chiefs have enough weapons outside of Bowe to be an above average offense?

Joel: They'll be improved but if by above average you mean the 15th ranked offense or better ... I doubt it. Plenty of other Chiefs fans will disagree with that. The way I see it though is that Bowe is really the only proven commodity in the Chiefs passing game. Jon Baldwin hasn't done anything in the NFL, Donnie Avery has been hurt this offseason and Dexter McCluster simply has not been a game-changer in the secondary. I do like the potential at tight end with Anthony Fasano, third round pick Travis Kelce (who has looked sharp) and Tony Moeaki (who has been hurt). Maybe that can supplement what the Chiefs could be missing at receiver.

Every year it happens. A breakout player emerges that no one saw coming. For the Chargers last year it was wide receiver Danario Alexander, who was signed off the streets midseason and ended up being the teams best wide out. Who will be that player for the Chiefs this year, on both sides of the ball?

Joel: Oh man, you're going to have some Chiefs fans talking with that Danario Alexander comment. I would've gone with Justin Houston but I don't think you can do that when he's already a top 50 player (according to NFL Network). Defensively I'll go with Dontari Poe. Honestly ... I don't know who else to pick. The Chiefs defense is loaded with first rounders who at times have already broken out (just not at the same time).Offensively, I am going to give you the most boring pick ever: Jon Asamoah. He's a guard, a third round pick out of Illinois three years ago. He's a solid player AND in a contract year, which means he has every incentive to make this the best year possible.

What is the biggest reason the Chiefs won't have a winning record this year? Barring injuries.

Joel: Alex Smith. I don't really have anything to add. If he doesn't play well the Chiefs don't win.

Want to thank Joel again, and the good work they do over at Arrowhead Pride. Last year the Chiefs were a laughing stock and won 2 games, and the Chargers handled them pretty easily in both games. This year I think we can expect a completely different team. I think the Chiefs will have a shot at the wildcard this year if Alex Smith can deliver.