Nick Athan: I think the Chiefs are going to play and be on top of their game. Something tells me last Sunday's ugly victory at Washington will serve this team well.
The Chargers don't match up well against the Chiefs. You could say in both losses by Kansas City a year ago that the mistakes the Chiefs made in the first game defensively and in the second game on special teams had more to do with not making a single play to change the outcome. Kansas City easily could have won both games and I expect that the Chiefs will easily beat the Chargers on Sunday in Kansas City.
ML: Has Kansas City seen enough out of Matt Cassel -- one way or the other -- to know whether he's the long-term solution? What questions still need to be answered?
QB Matt Cassel
There was some issue in Week 2 when Todd Haley wanted to start backup Brodie Croyle, but Pioli flexed his muscles and insisted his $63 million man start the home opener. But the jury is still out on Cassel and likely will be until the season ends.
ML: The Chiefs brought in an offensive-minded coach, yet rank No. 30 in total offense. Where does the team need to improve most on that side of the ball?
NA: I like Todd Haley as a head coach, but when you expand the duties of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach to his name plate, it's simply too much to ask of a rookie. Even the great ones can't handle it.
The offense is poorly designed at the moment because the offensive line might be one of the worst units in the NFL. It does not block well for Cassel and he's taken a beating. It doesn't do a good job in the run game, either, so that's handicapped the playbook of Haley. If he returns in 2010, he needs to relinquish some of his coaching duties or the offense will continue to suffer in mediocrity.
ML: How is Kansas City's transition to the 3-4 defense going? Which players have benefited from this move the most?
OLB Tamba Hali
Tamba Hali, a converted defensive end, is the team's best pass rusher. Outside of that, unless the Chiefs allow linebacker Derrick Johnson to get in the game and bring pressure, the Chiefs' pass rush is non-existent. The rest of the defense is good enough, especially the young secondary. Still, they need another offseason to shore up the holes and complete the transition.
ML: At 1-5, the Chiefs are unlikely to be a playoff team this season. How quickly can Scott Pioli & Co. realistically rebuild this team into a contender?
NA: Unless they start spending money on free agents in the primes of their careers, it could take years before this team can compete. Thus far, only one draft pick -- the last man taken in the draft, K Ryan Succop -- has made any impact whatsoever on the field of play.
Pioli, known for aggressive trades and smart draft picks in his tenure in New England, has done very little but to try to force the "Patriots way" into a Chiefs culture that will never fit. So, he along with Haley are going to have to change the plan in the offseason and be very aggressive in free agency and much better at evaluating draft talent.
ML: As someone who's covered the Chiefs for a long time, what's your assessment of the AFC West as a whole right now?
NA: The Broncos are shocking the world. The head-strong ways of Josh McDaniels -- who narrowly became the Chiefs' coach had it not been for the delay in getting a contract done with Pioli -- has proven all his critics wrong. They are the class of the division right now in what is one of the division bottom-feeders in the NFL.
This used to be the best four teams in any division, including the NFC East, but all the teams have fallen. The Raiders are an enigma; the Chiefs and Chargers are both underachieving; and the Broncos are cleaning up on the misfortunes of the other teams trying to find their winning ways again.