Perhaps I picked the wrong sleeper in AFC West

Posted Sept. 14, 2010 @ 10:59 a.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

I spent much of the offseason doing radio shows and writing for this site about how the Raiders might be the team to watch in the AFC West.

Many of you scoffed. And having watched the Raiders in Week One, I now see why you did.

They played about six minutes of solid defense to start the game and then completely caved in, the way they have many times the past few seasons. Since 2003, really.

But then last night, a plucky Chiefs team — one that has been only marginally more competitive than the Raiders over that same stretch — pulled a stunner in the rain at new Arrowhead.

Naturally, I am rethinking my pick, though, as we all know, one week does not a season make.

Still, it was hard not to like the perfomance of the young Chiefs players, as well as have disdain for the performance of the dreadful Raiders offense.

The Chiefs were a bit fortunate to win, but they had a nice game plan and executed it fairly well. There are still miles and miles to go in the passing game, but I will assume the poor conditions didn't help that cause too much. But the Chiefs would not have won that game last season. This time around, the defense stood up to a tough challenge and made stops when it had to down the stretch.

Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster are electric players who are not big enough to withstand a season's worth of punishment as full-time starters, but they make this offense go. Watching them get involved this season will be fun.

I don't know how good QB Matt Cassel is, but I am willing to wait to find out. The Chiefs can't contend in the West until he shows some week-to-week consistency and carries the team on his shoulders at some point. And I am still suspect of a defense that has some interesting tests ahead.

But you look at the schedule, and it's not insane. The Browns are beatable. San Francisco is coming off a horrible opener. The early bye is not ideal, and the Colts and Texans will be huge road tests for that "D." But after that, there is a nice stretch through the middle part of the season where these Chiefs could win some games.

I am starting to think that if they make some improvements, the Chiefs — and not those Raiders I backed — could be the surprise team in the AFC.