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Turnaround keeps hope alive in Kansas City

Kansas City's Cassel lifts teammate Breaston after he scored on the Colts during an NFL football game in Indianapolis

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel lifts Chiefs wide receiver Steve Breaston (15) after Breaston scored a touchdown on the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Indianapolis October 9, 2011. Colts defensive back Joe Lefeged walks away at left. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)


We’re checking in with each team as they hit their bye week to look at the state of their season. Kansas City is on the clock.

We’ve already looked at the Broncos and Chargers this week.
Was rebound a mirage?

The Chiefs looked like the worst team in football the first two weeks of the season, getting outscored 89-10. Their season essentially looked over at 0-3. Two wins later, Kansas City gets to catch its breath and note that they are only one win away from .500. (All thanks to a beanbag game.)

Of course, Kansas City’s two wins came against winless opposition (Minnesota and Indianapolis). The team is still 30th in points scored and 32nd in points allowed. It’s unclear if the Chiefs are any good or whether they just aren’t the worst team in the league.

Running strong

Despite Jamaal Charles’ season-ending injury, the Chiefs are still a good running team. They are seventh in rushing yards and eighth in yards-per-carry. Jackie Battle, Thomas Jones, and Dexter McCluster won’t make dazzle you, but it’s been an effective trio the last three weeks. Kansas City’s offensive line can run block.

Linebacker leaders

It’s hard to find a better inside-outside linebacker tandem in the league than Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. Both are playing at a very high level and have keyed Kansas City’s defensive competence the last three weeks after their rough start.

Need more from the Brandons

Losing safety Eric Berry for the season hurt. But the Chiefs still expect more from their starting cornerback duo of Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. The Brandons have been good, not great. Flowers especially has potential to play like a Pro Bowler.

Cassel consistency

Matt Cassel has improved his play of late by limiting his mistakes. But he still doesn’t have great pocket presence and it’s worth wondering if he will ever get much better. Cassel’s performance has actually become consistent, but it’s consistently average.

The Bowe condundrum

Dwayne Bowe dazzles with highlight reel catches, but the Chiefs haven’t always been in love with his approach. He’s set to be a free agent at the end of the year. Even a monster season may not be enough for the Chiefs to give him big money.

Lost starpower

The Chiefs didn’t exactly have a surplus of top-shelf talent. The drop-off in talent when Charles, Berry, and tight end Tony Moeaki were hurt was pretty severe. This was an overachieving team a year ago that was helped by an easy schedule. They don’t seem to have the firepower to deal with losing their stars.

Haley’s last stand?

Coach Todd Haley appears to be on the hot seat. So how much does he have to win to keep his job? Last year’s division championship raised expectations and “playing hard” by beating bad teams may not be enough.

With home games in early November against the Dolphins and Broncos, the Chiefs could hang around .500 a while longer. But we’ll believe they can beat a quality opponent when we see it happen.

Kansas City seems more likely to get involved in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes than contend for a playoff spot.