2016 AFC West Previews & Predictions

The real reason Osweiler may have left the division.

The real reason Osweiler may have left the division.

What is it about the Denver Broncos winning Super Bowls and having quarterbacks retire?? This of course wouldn’t mean as much had Brock Osweiler stayed around. Now they have Mark Sanchez and highly regarded 1st round pick Paxton Lynch. This time around there won’t be a Mike Shanahan brain fart going with untested Brian Griese over veteran Bubby Brister. Hopefully Coach Kubiak will opt for the veteran and bring his prized rookie along slowly.

However an autumn wind is billowing in from the west. Its always fun to watch a team as it starts growing before your very eyes. Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Amari Cooper headline a young star studded group out in Oakland. The question is will it grow to a point to challenge for supremacy in the AFC West this season??

raiderfanlogo2016 AFC WEST PREDICTIONS

Oakland Raiders 10-6 *

Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

Denver Broncos 7-9

San Diego Chargers 4-12

Most will scoff at the notion of the Raiders overtaking the Chiefs until you realize Alex Smith is still their starting quarterback. We have seen the best of his abilities and he will just keep you in ball games. At times he plays scared of throwing the football down the field. Jamaal Charles just made it off the PUP list but when will he gain his original explosiveness??  Now with LB Justin Houston returning from knee surgery also can we expect the same production there?? They were 11-5 with the 7th best defense in the NFL and OLB Tamba Hali is coming back from a broken thumb. This team will slide back in 2016.

Anderson will breakout n 2016.

Anderson will breakout n 2016.

In Denver the preseason has played out exactly as The Chancellor thought, no one is taking control at the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez’s penchant for turnovers has come back to haunt him in both preseason games. We still don’t have a starter named going into week 3 of the preseason. First rounder Paxton Lynch still needs grooming. He’s taken a few more sacks than you’d like but could become the starter by mid season if the offense sputters. His arm has shown zip. Now he needs to develop touch and throw the ball on time.

For a team that was 6-1 in games decided by 6 points or less the one thing they can ill afford is turnovers. Turning the ball over 3 & 4 times a game will get a defense in trouble. Even a #1 ranked defense. Go ask the ’85 Bears, 2000 Ravens and ’02 Bucs why they didn’t repeat. So expect Coach Kubiak to lean on RB CJ Anderson who should breakout with a 1,400 yard season. However the ball doesn’t bounce a team’s way 2 years in a row and QB instability will lead to 3 or 4 close losses this season.

Carr will lead Oakland to the playoffs in 2016.

Carr will lead Oakland to the playoffs in 2016.

It won’t be enough to hold off the growing Raiders under Coach Jack Del Rio. Look no further than the stunning development of Derek Carr. Last year’s performance (350 of 573  3,987 yds 32 TDs / 13 ints) marked him as an up and coming superstar and this will be the year he cements that notion. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are back as his main receivers along with 1,000 yard rusher Latavius Murray.

The improvement has to come from last year’s 22nd ranked defense. Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr did get LB Bruce Irvin from Seattle this year and signed S Reggie Nelson to replace Charles Woodson. Both are coming from winning organizations which should provide veteran leadership to help a young team learn how to win. First round draft pick Karl Joseph has Nelson to groom him for the pro game.

Circle the week 6 match-up with Kansas City, where the Raiders could be sporting a 4-1 record against a 1-3 Chiefs team. The knockout blow that could ignite an AFC West Championship for the Oakland Raiders.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

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Alex Smith v. Colin Kaepernick: In Whom Do You Trust

Today’s football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs isn’t just another football game. The saga playing out will be the Alex Smith v Colin Kaepernick debate. Did the 49ers keep the right quarterback?? Most 49er fans think they did. Is that because they’re blind loyalists and wanted to move on with the new QB??

Alex Smith goes back to San Fran to take on the 49ers

Alex Smith goes back to San Fran to take on the 49ers

This has a similar backdrop to the 1994 game between the Chiefs and 49ers. In that one Steve Young brought the 49ers to Arrowhead to face his predecessor Joe Montana, now a Chief. However this one is taking place in San Francisco. Its a shame this game couldn’t happen at Candlestick Park with all the history.

For the record, The Chancellor of Football believes the 49ers kept the wrong quarterback.

Short sighted 49er fans forget that Smith drove Harbaugh’s first team to an NFC best 13-3 record. Then knocked off the Saints with “The Catch III” playoff winner to Vernon Davis in the final seconds. Smith didn’t lose that NFC Championship Game to the Giants. Those two muffed punts by Kyle Williams did them in.

In 2012 the 49ers were an established contender at 7-4, when Harbaugh made the switch to Kapernick. Smith said all the right things as he watched the 49ers make the Super Bowl. They lost that game to a superior team and the game revealed Kaepernick’s fatal flaw that still haunts him.

Kaepernick is dazzling when he runs but suspect when throwing.

Kaepernick is dazzling when he runs but suspect when throwing.

He makes splash plays when he runs the football but hasn’t developed as a downfield quarterback. Watch his play. He can’t throw his receiver open to a designated spot in the defense, and relies on a straight path to drill the football to his receivers. In other words, he can only complete passes like a game of catch. He hasn’t shown the ability to throw on time and drop the ball in over the linebackers or the fade routes to Crabtree Richard Sheman was talking about.

This is why you see so many of his interceptions by defenders undercutting his throws. Think back to the Monday Night game against Chicago. Kaepernick hasn’t developed the touch that failed him on that final throw in Super Bowl XLVII, and is still throwing the same way. Relies too much on running and scrambling instead of allowing the specificity of the planned offensive play to take shape.

As these two went on separate paths, the 49ers went 12-4 and did make it back to the NFC Championship Game. Not only did Smith have a better record the year before with the 49ers but went 11-5 with a new team and new offense. Yes the Chiefs lost in the AFC Wildcard 45-44 but it was the most points scored by a team that lost an NFL playoff game ever.

Is Harbaugh going to make it in San Francisco past this year??

Is Harbaugh going to make it in San Francisco past this year??

Last year Kaepernick threw for 3,197 yards 21 TDs to only 8 interceptions. Smith tossed 23 TDs, 7 interceptions and 3,313 yards. So the tale of the tape is close.

Isn’t it ironic that after a week in which the NFL community is questioning whether Harbaugh has lost his locker room, here comes what ultimately could be his demise in San Francisco?? The Chancellor of Football told you before the season, Harbaugh will be out after this year.

Both teams are showing up to today’s game at 2-2 and Smith knows this defense pretty well. If you think this game doesn’t mean a lot to him, look at last week’s footage between the Texans and Bills. Before that game Ryan Fitzpatrick passionately told the Texans what beating his former team meant.

If you thought the buzzards are starting to circle above Harbaugh now, don’t let them lose this football game. By the way…Joe Montana and the Chiefs won that game in 1994 too.

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The History of The AFL: Making Amends

As The Chancellor of Football, it’s imperative the history of the NFL and AFL is preserved and showcased for future generations. One of my favorite friends to Taylor Blitz Times is Chris Burford. Not only was he the starting wideout for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I, he was the first player signed in the history of the American Football League. He also suggested a great book to me last year. The Ten Gallon War which covered the days when the Chiefs / Dallas Texans battled the Cowboys for the heart of Dallas.

chris burfordAt the end of the highlight for Super Bowl I, he’s the one who puts on the Cowboy hat and heads out as John Facenda’s voice offers “In another year it will be the turn of the AFL. But this first spectacle of a sport belonged to Green Bay.”

These words echoed in my mind when Chris commented on an article which was the earlier incarnation of one I did on the ’66 Chiefs here.

“The major press were all in the NFL’s corner and denigrated our teams throughout the 60′s…however, when all was said and done after 10 years and 4 Super Bowls, the score was AFL 2 NFL 2…..(Chiefs 1-1), and the football world knew we could play with or against anybody….was a great time in pro football and a joy to have played in the AFL, from the beginning and through the emergence of the league….John Facenda, the Sabol’s, Pete Rozelle, Sports Illustrated, and the NFL propaganda machine notwithstanding.”

Full comment and original article here.

I thought it would be fitting to share with Chris one of my older archives where the late Steve Sabol had the late John Facenda narrate The History of The AFL. It’s told in a very respectful vain. The importance of this is even in the highlight for Super Bowl III, NFL Films narrated it with an NFL slant. Steve Sabol some time around 2000, later apologized for it. Going over the top about “One more moment for the master”- John Unitas trying to bring the Colts from behind instead of focusing on Joe Namath, the AFL, and the Jets victory. Which further validates Chris’ point.

So without further adieu lets take you back to this gem recorded in 1987 yet was produced in 1982.

Unfortunately I started two a day practice and didn’t get the other two shows recorded. What most folks don’t understand is there is still a battle between the AFL and NFL. For those that were there, some like Al Davis, didn’t want a merger. Others went on yet have their memories intact of the 10 year war and are fighting to be remembered and recognized. How the late DE Jerry Mays and FS Johnny Robinson were on the All Time AFL team, yet not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, are glaring omissions.

Websites like mine and Todd Tobias’ Tales From The American Football League do what we can to recognize these players. I know this doesn’t totally make amends Chris but something I wanted to share this Memorial weekend.

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SUPER BOWL IV CHAMPION 1969 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Super Bowl IV in ancient Tulane Stadium, the scene for Kansas City’s 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the last ever AFL game. The merger followed this game and to have the score after 4 games: AFL 2 wins, NFL 2 wins, was poetic justice since the two leagues battled for a decade. So many ironies during this era it’s hard to choose where to begin…but we have to start somewhere right?

sbiv

We’ll start with an epilogue I posted with the 1966 Chief’s AFL Championship ring on the origins of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings and the irony of those two teams facing each other in the last ever game of the AFL.

The AFL was originally going to have a franchise in Minnesota and in a move of espionage out of James Bond, cold war, double agent dealing, the NFL told the owners of that franchise to stay quiet and at the last minute award them an NFL franchise in 1960 to try to sink the new league. The AFL couldn’t’ operate with only 7 teams. Fittingly the last game in the history of the AFL, Super Bowl IV, Kansas City beat Minnesota 23-7 to offer some payback.

super-bowl-logo-1969

 

What happened to the team that would have been in Minnesota you ask? They went west and became the Oakland Raiders the Chiefs main rival. As irony would have it, they too bested Minnesota in a Super Bowl winning the 11th edition 32-14. So when you think of the Vikings of the 70’s and their 4 Super Bowl losses, karma caught up to them for what happened in 1960…folks I can’t make this stuff up.

sbiv2This game was significant because NFL loyalists still weren’t giving the AFL its due after the crushing loss in Super Bowl III. Thought it was just a fluke. One of the great things about the AFL was its close camaraderie between the players and teams, knowing they were only part of an overall league fighting for their respect. They each played their part and they represented their league.

Joe Namath recalled when the New York Jets returned to their hotel after beating Baltimore in Super Bowl III, he could remember being greeted by Emmitt Thomas, Buck Buchanan, and Willie Lanier (Chiefs) as told on HBO’s History of the AFL circa 1995. Len Dawson (Chiefs QB) was also in the stands for the Jets monumental win over Baltimore so to have this group carry the banner into the last Super Bowl and last game in the AFL’s history had personal weight, league-wide weight, and TOTAL legitimacy for the AFL’s legacy with another win.
sbiv3Another significant point to this team is that this was the first Super Bowl champion that African American’s comprised half their roster and had the first Mexican American QB to get a ring in Tom Flores. However the 1969 Minnesota Vikings sported the first Mexican American to quarterback his team to the Super Bowl in Joe Kapp (never understood why they don’t have larger Hispanic followings with these significant historic backdrops).

The Minnesota Vikings had departed with Fran Tarkenton and brought Joe Kapp (California Bears) from Canada to play quarterback. He threw ugly passes and played football from his gut and as a fearless leader who avenged a playoff loss the year before against Baltimore. In 1968 the Colts were regarded as the greatest team with the greatest defense ever. The Colts beat Minnesota 24-14 in a divisional playoff match where they sacked and hit Kapp repeatedly.

In 1969, game 2 he threw for a record 7TDs in a rematch with the Colts to wrest the NFL dominance mantle from them winning 52-14. The Vikings went on to finish the season on a 12 game winning streak and break the Colts 1968 defensive record of 144 points allowed with 133. The 12 game winning streak to finish the season was the longest the NFL had seen in 35 years. Yikes, they were steamrolling to the Super Bowl…all they have to do was win this last game.

Kansas City, like Green Bay before them resembled what future NFL teams would look like. That defense with Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, and Jim Lynch at the linebacker spots. Two that are in the Hall of Fame (Bell and Lanier…in fact Bobby Bell was the first outside linebacker inducted into the Hall of Fame) and one that should be in Jim Lynch. Jim Marsalis, and Emmitt Thomas at the cornerback spots. To imagine Emmitt Thomas, think of a little lighter Mel Blount. Johnny Robinson and Patrick Kearney were interchangeable safeties.

Then you have the front four: Aaron Brown, Jerry Mays (AFL all decade team member), Buck Buchanon, and Curley Culp were as physical as the Steelers of the 70’s with less notoriety because they played in the AFL. They made it to the big stage this day. All this before I get into Hall of Famer Len Dawson and WR Otis Taylor who should be…then versatile Mike Garrett, Warren McVea, and Robert Holmes running the ball as a group. This was a complete team and one of the most powerful Champions ever.

Thanks for reading and by the way if you wanted to see Super Bowl IV in its entirety, click the link “Super Bowl IV” at the start of this article.

Enjoy

AFC Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts

Playoff time in the National Football League begins now and you can smell it. Listening to all the pundits talk about the team no one wants to play, they keep talking about the wrong team. The team no one wants to play isn’t the San Diego Chargers, it’s the Indianapolis Colts. They are the giant killers that toppled Denver from the ranks of the unbeaten, beat the Seahawks, bludgeoned the 49ers, and three weeks ago upended the Chiefs to keep them from winning the AFC West.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Keep in mind they are coming into this playoff match-up with a higher defensive ranking than the Chiefs. They have to contend with Jamaal Charles who represents 35% of the Chiefs offense. Today Andy Reid has to get Alex Smith to go downfield with DeWayne Bowe while the Colts are keying on Charles.

He led the Chiefs in rushing (1,227 yards) receptions (70) and the league in touchdowns with 19. Right now Reid’s offense is too one dimensional. Dexter McCluster could be a wild card here but we have to see some new wrinkles.

Today the Colts will win 30-21 as they are plus 5 in takeaways at home. Take out the aberration when they turned it over 5 times in a 38-8 loss to the Rams, that number jumps to plus 10.  In the last seven games, Kansas City has forced only 6 turnovers in 6 games and 7 versus the Raiders. The problem is they’ll be missing Tamba Hali although LB Justin Houston is back. The playoffs start with a win in Lucas Oil by the Colts.

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Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year: Andy Reid

The late Bum Phillips when discussing Don Shula’s coaching abilities once said “Shula can take his’n and beat your’n then take your’n and beat his’n.” In layman terms he could beat any opponent no matter the personnel he had or was given. This fits the 2013 season for several National Football League coaches but the one who’s coaching style best illustrates this is Chief’s coach Andy Reid.

Coach of the Year is Andy  Re....wait that's not Reid.

Coach of the Year is Andy Re….wait that’s not Reid.

Consider the fact Kansas City was coming off of the worst season in NFL history. Not only was the coaching staff headed by Romeo Crennel escorted out the door. The players left behind endured a 2-14 season, along with the suicide of former teammate Jovan Belcher. At the practice facility no less. In 2012 this team had lost 13 of it’s last 14 and scored just 211 points all year. Good for dead last in the NFL.

All Reid did was breathe life into an organization with a forgotten quarterback in Alex Smith. Whom San Francisco discarded when Colin Kaepernick stepped to the fore midway through last season. Consequently he provided Smith with his 6th offensive coordinator in 8 years.

2013 TBT Coach of The Year: Andy Reid

2013 TBT Coach of The Year: Andy Reid

Just as he had with Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Brett Favre, and a resurrected Michael Vick, he got the most out of his quarterback and made the playoffs. Smith finished with career highs in yardage (3,313), touchdowns (23) and nearly eclipsed his career low in interception percentage (1.4% in 2013 v 1.1% in 2011). By the way that led the league

It took awhile for the offense to get into a groove as the defense led the Chiefs to a 9-0 start. They finished 11-5 while scoring 430 points, good enough for 6th in the league, while allowing 305 points good enough for 6th defensively.

Aside from Smith, he performed this with players that had been with the Chiefs the previous year. His career was at a crossroads after being dismissed in Philadelphia. His message had grown stale as his Eagle’s free-fell from playoff contention losing 11 of 12.  Reid has his team heading to Indianapolis for a wild card tilt with the Colts this Saturday. However that game turns out this has been a successful season for both he and the Chiefs.

By the way… Taylor Blitz saw this coming: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/13/2013-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-tools-for-a-resurgence/

Honorable Mention:

2. Bill Belichick – What else needs to be said about Belichick’s coaching abilities?? In 2013 he began the season without the top 5 receivers from the year before. He endured the awful controversy that is the Aaron Hernandez murder case and steered his team onward. Then he loses two of his leaders in perennial Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork and leading tackler Jerrod Mayo for the season. Yet here they are 12-4 entering the playoffs as the #2 seed having already beaten #1 seed Denver in the regular season. He’s two wins away from coaching a record 6th Super Bowl and participating in his 9th.

Kiss the rings.

Kiss the rings.

He’s the greatest National Football League coach since Vince Lombardi without a doubt. Under normal circumstances he would be runaway coach of the year. He’ll have to settle for second on my list because he did have Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady to help guide the ship. The Patriots have played in the last two AFC Championship games and we had them predicted to make it to this one as well. Their missing key contributors and roll into the playoffs having won 5 of their last 6. One of those is over the Denver Broncos. Please don’t underscore that for it’s importance if they play again.

3. Chip Kelly – “Man he’s not going to win with that gimmicky college offense in the pros.” You can remember hearing that before the season and it died somewhere around week 7. I had my reservations as well but no one counted on Nick Foles becoming one of the National Football League’s best quarterbacks. Yet they have the NFL rushing champion in LeSean McCoy and the defense is making timely plays. He infused a new atmosphere in a place Andy Reid used to call home but he is using Reid’s old players. How he does in the NFL playoffs will dictate how he’ll take command of the NFC East next year.

Congratulations to Andy Reid…Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year

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