Sometimes, it's best to just lay what you have to say out there. So here it goes: the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs are on the same path with the same numbers and identical fortune as the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
There, I said it. This year's Chiefs are essentially numerically compatible to the team most people age 30 and under remember as being the most dominant in any single season. It's a unit that produced one Hall of Famer (Rod Woodson) and another member in five years (Ray Lewis).
Now, you may be shaking your head at your computer screen. If you will though, indulge me for a moment. I realize it's hard to compare two teams or in this case, two units who are separated by at least a decade. And while I'm not necessarily making a straight comparison, the circumstances wind up more of a supporter than a detractor.
So what makes me write a bold and perhaps crazy statement? Let's take a deeper look at the raw team numbers. Of course we remember the Ravens as not having that dynamic of an offense under Tony Banks and the man who led them through the playoffs, Trent Dilfer.
Baltimore ranked 14th in the NFL in 2000 in points per game. Where do the Chiefs currently rank? 14th. Both teams' strengths were (or are) their respective running games. Jamal Lewis averaged 4.4 yards per carry on 309 total totes while ranking 7th in the league. Jamaal Charles? He's 5th in the league in rushing this year, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and is on track to have 302 carries this season.
But enough about the offense. Let's get to the bread and butter for both teams. The 2000 Ravens topped the league in points allowed, turnovers forced, average time of possession, and points per possession.
While the Chiefs will surrender considerably more yards than that suffocating defensive front the Ravens had, both teams kept opposing ground games out of the end zone with great success. Baltimore allowed five rushing touchdowns all year. Kansas City has allowed two to date.
It's not all about numbers though. It's about players. While there may not be a perennial all-pro and Hall of Famer (at least not yet) on this unit, there is talent on every level. They get after the passer with great success as evidenced by their 36 sacks, and they force teams out of their element. They have a solid inside linebacker in Derrick Johnson, a nose tackle in Dontari Poe who is a strong, durable mountain of havoc, and a strong pass rush led by experienced Tamba Hali (who at 30 is one of the elder statesman along with the 31-year old Johnson on this unit) and budding Justin Houston who now has back-to-back seasons of double digit sacks.
Now that I've filled your head with a bunch of numbers, it's time for maybe the most compelling point in the comparison. That would be not only the teams, but the opposing quarterbacks both units had to face.
What sometimes gets lost in Baltimore's run in the new millennium was that they had a stretch where they faced the likes of Spergon Wynn, Akili Smith, Kent Graham, Tim Couch, and Ryan Leaf. This was also before the NFL went to four divisions in each conference. The only NFC opponents the Ravens played? Washington, Dallas, and Arizona who were a combined 16-32.
In the last five weeks, the Chiefs are on a run of having faced four quarterbacks who started the season as backups on their respective teams. (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Jason Campbell, and Jeff Tuel). The Chiefs are facing the NFC East this year which is currently a combined 16-22.
Obviously, the success can be attributed to Andy Reid who brought a model of consistency to Philadelphia. He has revamped his offensive style in Kansas City to fit the comfort level of Alex Smith, who has led an offense that is actually far less turnover prone than the 2000 Ravens were.
Now I know what you're thinking- the Chiefs have struggled to score against the pits of the league. How are they going to muster up enough offense in the playoffs? Maybe they don't. If a defense is that superb, then that's less pressure on the offense to go out and think they have to put up 30-plus points.
Then the question becomes, do I actually believe this unit is as good as the numbers suggest? This weekend, with their first meeting against Denver, is going to be the ultimate litmus test. However, with each week that has already passed, my belief has uncontrollably grown more.
It's also important to remember the maestro behind this transformation of what was one of the worst teams in the league a year ago. Reid didn't have much of a receiving corps to work with, but he had a quarterback he could trust and a top tier defense at the height of his tenure.
Plus, who do you trust in the AFC? We've seen the peaks and valleys from Cincinnati. Indianapolis is a much different team sans Reggie Wayne, and New England is still finding ways to win, but there's more of a vulnerability associated with the Patriots. And just for the sake of filling out the field, could you really trust the inconsistent Jets to make a sustained playoff run? They would be the last team in as it stands. Besides Denver (whose defense has been called into question), there isn't a team that the Chiefs should fear.
Are the Chiefs really a Super Bowl team? While I admit I had Denver pegged for that honor before the season started (although my picks this season have well...stunk so I'm not sure how much credit that statement holds). Still, I'm certainly not going to outright dismiss their division rivals who avoid mistakes in one phase of the game while being dominant in another. Sure they're not flashy on offense, but I subscribe to the belief in any sport that if you're truly that suffocating in keeping teams limited on the scoreboard that can still equal success of the highest order.
I just can't leave you all without this final side note that you may or may not know. Reid's first job was as a graduate assistant at BYU in 1978- the same school, and four years later, the same beginning path for 2000 Ravens head coach, Brian Billick.
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