Thursday, September 26, 2013

Are the 3-0 KC Chiefs and Miami Dolphins Ready to Be the 2013 NFL Surprise Teams?

Every year some NFL team comes from out of nowhere to stun the league and put on a successful winning season.  During each offseason, there becomes a fun game of speculation in which media pundits and fans guess on which team will be next year’s surprise.  While most predictions are hugely wrong, time and time again the following NFL season comes equipped with a fun and new surprise team that threatens the established group of top football squads.  So far this year, the two surprises have been the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, two teams with 3-0 records and hopes that are building up for a seat in this season’s NFL playoffs.  Are these teams for real, or are they among the many that got off to a hot start before fading back into oblivion down the season’s stretch?
One clear truth is that regardless of their hot starts, both teams have the unfortunate reality of being in the same division as a premier NFL quarterback.  The Dolphins will be competing against Tom Brady and the inspirational New England Patriots, winners of 9 of the past 10 AFC East division crowns.  Meanwhile the Chiefs are residing in the AFC West, a division marred by Peyton Manning’s arrival to the Denver Broncos, who are nearly everyone’s favorites to win the Super Bowl.  So will either team even have a hope of winning their division or is a wildcard position a more realistic goal?
I think the Chiefs have the strongest hopes for playoff success this season.  New head coach Andy Reid is a proven winner as shown by his previous work leading the Philadelphia Eagles.  Quarterback Alex Smith is going to be playing with a massive chip on his shoulder.  He was surplus to requirements with the San Francisco 49ers last year, even though he had led the team to a 6-2 record before a concussion resulted in his benching for Colin Kaepernick to take over.
Alex Smith is the ultimate “game manager” quarterback, who thrives when supported by a strong defense and great players around him.  The Chiefs have several key offensive playmakers like running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.  With 4 touchdowns to 0 interceptions, Smith and the Chiefs have avoided turning the ball over all season long, and though they’ve yet to face a tough opponent, they have won all their games through tough defense and consistent offensive production.  Therefore, I feel the Chiefs are in a great position to sustain their success and have a real shot at the playoffs this year, which would complete a remarkable turnaround from last season’s 2-14 mark.
I’m less optimistic about the Dolphins’ hopes.  Their statistics reveal a rather average team, although their 4th quarter comeback to beat the Atlanta Falcons was heroic.  Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is young, and while he will still be a bit error-prone as he develops, this season’s start bodes well for his future, and his play has been decent.  His offensive line needs to improve in protection though, as Tannehill has been sacked 14 times through just 3 games.  But, one hopeful statistic is that the Dolphins’ defense has produced 5 interceptions, showing they can make a play.  Also, the team has won close games, which will become all the more important in big games down the stretch, especially the two against the division rivals Patriots.  I would say there is still just a 50% chance that the Dolphins make the playoffs.  They will certainly be tested in their two upcoming games against the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens.
Late September is still way too early to really know which teams are going to be the exciting turn-around stories in the NFL.  Injuries and tough division games can change these team’s prospects in a real hurry, but fans of the Dolphins and Chiefs should be feeling a heck of a lot better at 3-0 than they would at 0-3.  Let’s see if these teams can keep up their good play as the temperatures start to drop towards winter.  Also, we can look forward to the real tests as these teams play intense divisional matchups against the Broncos and Patriots!
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