Where The Chiefs Stand

With the Chiefs' bye week coming near the mid-point of the season, it allows everyone an opportunity to stop and reflect. From the coaches and players to the fans and media, we all have a chance to look back and assess how things have gone, and – perhaps more importantly – take a look at what's yet to come.

Where We Stand Certainly, the Chiefs' 1-6 start hasn't generated much fanfare. In fact, it's led to a fair amount of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing, with a minority of the enraged radio-caller fringe actually questioning whether the early-season losing will call Todd Haley's job status into doubt.

If we can, let's put aside those types of over-reactions and ask ourselves one key question: is the team's woeful record really that different from what we expected before the season?

If you've been reading Warpaint Illustrated over the last several months, you know the answer to that question is a resounding "no." In our 2009 season preview, we had the Chiefs entering their bye week at 2-5, just one game off their actual mark.

As low as those expectations were, the funny thing to keep in mind is that 2-5 was actually an optimistic prediction. One of the two victories we called was an upset win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5, which was certainly no guarantee. The second forecasted win was over the Oakland Raiders in Week 2.

The Chiefs lost those two games, of course, but had a realistic shot at winning both. Their lone win finally came in Week 6 against the Redskins.

Last week's stomping at the hands of the San Diego Chargers dampened some of the optimism that rose from the victory in Washington. But for all the disappointment that comes with a 1-6 record, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that the Chiefs' season has gone pretty much as expected to this point.

Over the first half of the season, we predicted them to win a game and pull off an upset over a better team in Dallas. In reality, the Chiefs did win a game and nearly pulled off that upset before losing in overtime.

So if things have nearly gone to plan so far, how are things shaping up for the rest of the year?

We predicted the Chiefs winning four more games after their bye. Now that we've seen seven weeks worth of action, that figure doesn't seem totally unreasonable.

Some of the games on the schedule – namely the tilt with Denver – seem far more daunting than they did before the season. On the other hand, a few games that looked bleak suddenly seem like possible victories.

Next week's game against Jacksonville, for example, looks better than it did when we first made our predictions. While the Chiefs can hardly be considered favorites, the Jaguars have struggled mightily in their two most recent games, getting pounded 41-0 in Seattle and needing overtime to squeak past the winless St. Louis Rams at home. If they play that poorly again, the Chiefs could pull out a win that few expected prior to the season.

It's off to Oakland a week later, where Kansas City hasn't lost a game since 2002. Statistically, they dominated the Raiders in their first meeting – if they can avoid shooting themselves in the foot this time around, they should be able to get the win that slipped away in Week 2.

Jumping to mid-December, the Chiefs get both Cleveland and Buffalo at home. The Browns, who have an identical 1-6 record, are actually worse than Kansas City on both offense and defense. The Bills do have a solid victory under their belt – a 16-13 win over the New York Jets – but it took overtime and a five-interception game from Mark Sanchez for them to pull it off.

Those games represent three or four possible wins, which would raise the season total to the 4-5 win range. That's nothing to write home about, of course, but after a two-win season last year, we'll take progress wherever it comes.

So, yes, while the first half of the season has been difficult, we have to remember that it's nothing we didn't see coming. The team's true test will come in the latter stages of the season, as the schedule softens and expectations start to rise.

Will the Chiefs keep up their end of the bargain and put up a few more wins, as we've expected them to all along? Or will they continue struggling despite easier competition? It's the answers to those questions that will ultimately tell the story of the 2009 season.

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