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Have The Kansas City Chiefs Been Pretenders All Along?

The Chiefs have four wins and every single one of them came against either a winless team or in a questionable situation.

For some, maybe even for most, there's no real reason to panic. The Kansas City Chiefs are still tied atop the division in the AFC West. They still control their own destiny. They are 4-4 in a season in which they lost arguably their greatest impact defender (Eric Berry) and offensive MVP (Jamaal Charles) within the first two weeks of the season. They also overcame a historically poor start to reclaim the division lead and the defense has looked unbeatable at times.

But there's a flip side to that coin, and it's one that should be concerning, quite frankly. The Chiefs are 4-4, sure, but one look at each game on the schedule thus far (as well as the incredibly difficult stretch ahead) and a different picture comes into view. Let's take a closer look by examining each of the Chiefs' wins and the case against it, so to speak.

Minnesota Vikings - Week 4 (Chiefs win 22-17 @ Arrowhead)
This was the game that the Chiefs defense really came alive. They held Adrian Peterson to 3.5 yards/carry and kept the Chiefs in the lead despite numerous offensive failures that led to five field goals for Ryan Succop rather than end zone trips. Let's not forget the Vikings were winless coming in and remain 2-6 with wins over the Cardinals and Panthers. One team simply had to come out with a victory here and the Chiefs earned it in this match-up.

Indianapolis Colts - Week 5 (Chiefs win 28-24 @ Lucas Oil)
Two weeks, two winless teams. The Chiefs schedule could not have gotten any easier than the Vikes and Colts and they took advantage to win two in a row. The Colts were actually up for most of the game until the Colts defense tired quickly and Matt Cassel rallied the offense for 17 unanswered points to win on the road. It was a major boost for a team with .500 in sight, but again, the Colts are now the worst team in the league at 0-8 and they look worse each time out.

Oakland Raiders - Week 7 (Chiefs win 28-0 @ Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum)
This is the most impressive win on the Chiefs resume so far. Shutting out the Raiders on their home turf is a big win for any team, and the Chiefs defense looked incredible. But a closer look at the situation reveals the Raiders had no quarterback to speak of (Carson Palmer had three days of practice with the new team and Kyle Boller as the Oakland options) and Darren McFadden was injured. Meanwhile, the Chiefs offense looked absolutely pathetic as well. Matt Cassel had a 38.3 rating (throwing 15 of 30 for 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) and the Chiefs rushed for 3.6 yards/carry as a team. One wildcat trick play with Javier Arenas and two pick sixes account for the real offense here.

San Diego Chargers - Week 8 (Chiefs win 23-30 in overtime @ Arrowhead)
This one needs no explanation since it's still so fresh. But for the sake of argument, the Chiefs were just plain lucky -- as in miraculously, ridiculously, unbelievably lucky. The game was finished. Philip Rivers just had to ice the game in the final seconds and the Chargers would own the AFC West. Instead, The Phumble took place and everything went haywire. Kudos to the Chiefs on offense and defense in overtime (where they looked amazing), but this one is an anomaly for sure.

That's four wins and every single one of them came against either a winless team or in a questionable situation. The NFL is full of these sorts of things every week and very few teams can come out of a game with no excuse whatsoever given that every team deals with injuries and that any team can win from week to week. But it's interesting to note that the Chiefs get blown out by the good teams they've faced, find ways to lose games they should win (Week 3 against the Chargers) and then don't even show up against one of the NFL's two winless teams just yesterday.

What will be most telling for the Chiefs isn't the scrappy wins against other teams with holes the size of Arrowhead. It's clear at this point that the AFC West is a giant crap shoot where no one knows what's up or down. Instead, we will see the character, the talent, the coaching ability of the Chiefs when they face the brutal schedule coming up that includes the Jets, Packers, Patriots, Bears and Steelers.

If the Chiefs can even play those games close and/or come away with a win or two, that will go a long way toward validating this season and the grit the team showed despite the early devastating injuries. If not, the Chiefs will be labeled pretenders in the few games that they did win and will be looking at a long off-season wondering what went wrong.