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07-16-2010, 10:23 AM

Chiefs 2010 Season Preview
By Tim Herbers

According to some sources the Chiefs are headed for another long season of embarrassing losses, while others claim Kansas City is on the verge of breaking into the middle group of teams in the league.

With training camp starting in a couple of weeks, the truth is that no one knows exactly what the season holds, not even Scott Pioli or Todd Haley.

Even so, I believe there are four major factors that will have an enormous impact on Chiefs win total this year.

1. The Schedule.

The Chiefs have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL this season, a sharp contrast from last year and perhaps the biggest reason for optimism. There are eight to nine games this year in which the level of competition will be comparable to the Chiefs. Last year the Chiefs were way outgunned all but five games.

And while an easier schedule should help, games against weaker opponents must be taken advantage of this year. Last year, of those five winnable games, the Chiefs lost three of them (to Oakland, Cleveland, and Buffalo). If the Chiefs can find a way to win 75 percent of the games against other poor teams, that makes 7 wins and a three game improvement over last year.

2. New Players.

Safety Eric Berry and offensive weapon Dexter McCluster have gotten a lot of hype from local media especially since being drafted, and they will certainly be counted on heavily in their rookie years. Other rookie draft picks Kendrick Lewis, Tony Moeaki and Javier Arenas are also being counted upon for help on offense, defense, and special teams.

Free agent additions of Tomas Jones, Ryan Lilja, and Casey Wiegman will make a big impact on the offense by adding talent, experience, and leadership. Not much attention, however, was paid to the defensive line and linebackers, which many considered to be a weakness after last season.

3. Improved Players

Rookies and three free agents cannot take a team from four wins one year to playoffs the next. So for marked improvement in 2010, the Chiefs will certainly need players from last year to simply play better. High draft picks like Glen Dorsey, Brandon Albert, Tyson Jackson, Derrick Johnson, Alex Magee, and Donald Washington along with other young players like Jovan Belcher, Andy Studebaker and Wallace Gilberry can do the most to improve the team.

All but Albert play on defense, which finished close to last in the league last year. At the same time these players are all young and learning, so for each to take a step forward is not out of the question.

4. New Coaches.

Last year was something of a last minute effort for GM Scott Pioli and Coach Todd Haley in terms of building their coaching staff. Because they were hired later than other executives and head coaches around the league, some of their top choices were unavailable. In 2010, Coach Haley has the coordinators he wants and needs in Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weiss--both held the same titles for the championship teams in New England. The addition of Emmitt Thomas, an all time great Chief player, to coach the secondary was also a great move.

When the 2010 season rolls around the Chiefs will either continue to lose in often pathetic and sometimes dramatic fashion or they will start to compete and win the way Pioli has envisioned.

If the team can take advantage of its easy schedule, develop its new talent and younger players, and benefit from improved coaching, there is no reason the team cannot win half of its games.

On the other hand, if the team loses winnable games, gets little from its draft picks, gets the same effort from players like Dorsey and Johnson, and fails to improve its new coaching, the Chiefs will look unfortunately similar to the last two years.