The Superbowl Sleeper series is a look at five teams that finished below .500 in 2011 — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and the Buffalo Bills– and what it would take for each team to get to the Superbowl in 2012.
What happened in 2011?
The Kansas City Chiefs finished 7-9 as injuries crippled any hope of a playoff birth. They lost quarterback Matt Cassel with a broken hand, and running back Jammal Charles, tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry all suffered knee injuries.
When healthy the Chiefs have a talented nucleus of players. On offense, they feature an explosive group that includes running backs Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles, receivers Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breston, and offensive tackles Brenden Albert and Eric Winston. The defense is not as deep as the offense, but pass rusher Tamba Hali, inside backer Derrick Johnson and defensive backs Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry are strong building blocks.
The defensive front is poor against the run (they ranked 26th in the league against the run in 2011) and Hali is the only proven pass rusher. Matt Cassel has been inconsistent during his tenure in Kansas City.
Blueprint to get to the Superbowl
On offense, Hillis and Charles control the clock allowing Breston and Bowe convert big plays versus single coverage. Defensively young pass rushers Justin Houston and 2012 first round pick Dontari Poe compliment Hali as Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry turn rushed passes into interceptions.
The Chiefs are talented enough to win the AFC West and with possibly the best homefield advantage in the league, could definitely make a surprise run. However they do have questions along the interior of the offensive line and the run defense is a glaring weakness.