Commentary

Quick Reads: Behind KC's success

Many didn't foresee Chiefs' rise. But the signs were all there entering the season.

Updated: December 28, 2010, 10:35 AM ET
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders
Matt CasselJamie Squire/Getty ImagesWho thought Matt Cassel and the Chiefs would win the AFC West? Football Outsiders, that's who.

The Week 16 leaderboards are full of Kansas City Chiefs. Matt Cassel ranked third among quarterbacks. Jamaal Charles had the best game of any running back. (To continue our theme from last week, Thomas Jones actually had the worst game of any back.) Dwayne Bowe placed second among receivers. But the team, of course, is happiest about finishing on top in another category -- the AFC West standings, as it clinched its division on Sunday.

The Chiefs serve as a sign of how rapidly the NFL can change: A 4-12 organization mired in the muck of a rebuilding project last season suddenly became one of the league's more talented teams. The Chiefs have 10 wins already and have a chance to make it 11 by beating the Oakland Raiders at home, where they are 7-0, in Week 17.

Nobody could have foreseen the Chiefs going from the AFC West's cellar to the penthouse in 2010, right? Well, not so fast. Although the bandwagon was creaky and desolate at the time, we at Football Outsiders predicted in ESPN The Magazine, as well as our summer annual, the "Football Outsiders Almanac 2010," that the Chiefs would win the AFC West by a narrow margin over the San Diego Chargers.

In our chapter on the Chiefs in the book, we identified five factors that were likely to drive a successful season. To various extents, each has played out over the course of the season, and they help explain the turnaround.


To read how the Chiefs made the leap plus FBO's list of the best, worst and most surprising performances of Week 16, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.