One of the more interesting things about sports is the tale of the underdog. The team that has defied all odds, against many hardships, to do something that is considered truly remarkable. We love that. How could you not?
How could you not love witnessing the 2006 Saints win their first game back at the Superdome after Hurricaine Katrina? How could you not enjoy seeing Steph Curry become one of the best basketball players in the world after almost being cut a few years earlier because he could not stay healthy?
In short, we love underdogs because many of us see our ownselves as the underdog. That is why we root so hard for these incredible stories. And there is no doubt that Eric Berry and the 2015-2016 Kansas City Chiefs are that underdog this year in the NFL.
On October 12, 2015 Chief fans—and my fantasy football team—were crushed by the devastating news the star running back Jamaal Charles was out for the season with a torn ACL. Six days later Kansas City lost its week six match-up against the Vikings dropping its record to 1-5.
At the time, their chances of making the playoffs was zero percent. Hope seemed gone, analysts said they were done, fans were hoping for a high draft pick and management was hoping they would get to keep their jobs. That’s when safety Eric Berry stepped up.
Berry knows all about overcoming adversity. In 2011, after a solid rookie campaign, the former Tennessee safety tore his ACL and was out for the season. He ultimately came back in 2012 and continued his great play and became recognized as one of the best young safeties.
Unfortunately, in late 2014 tragedy struck Berry again, but this time much worse, as he was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Once again, he fought back. “Fear nothing, attack everything.” This is what Berry said right after he beat cancer less than a year later. He was playing by the second week of the regular season.
Just like Berry, The Chiefs chose to fight for what they truly wanted, a playoff spot and a chance to win their first Super Bowl since 1969. By the end of week 16, that dream came true. After defeating the Browns on December 27th, Kansas City secured the fifth seed in the AFC.
The Chiefs have rallied off 10 straight victories and are a team that everybody would like to avoid. They are giving up 13.2 points per game since week 5 something that has only been accomplished five times the turn of the century, of which two of those teams made it to the conference championship.
Another reason for the great defensive play is the emergence of rookie Marcus Peters. In 2014, the Chiefs defense combined for six interceptions on the season. In 2015, Peters had eight interceptions by himself.
It also helps that Quarterback Alex Smith is playing the best football of his career this year. He has already set career highs in yards and advanced metrics like Total QBR. And even without its star RB, Kansas City still ranks 6th in the NFL in rushing behind Charcandrick West.
Analysts make the case that the reason for the Chiefs rise is the fact that their schedule got easier after week 7. Since then, the combined records of the 10 teams Kansas City has played is 67-91. However, it should be noted that this is the NFL, no game is an “easy” win. The Chiefs had to win 10 straight games, a feat that only on two other NFL teams accomplished therefore implying this isn’t something that happens everyday.
I’ll repeat that by week six Kansas City had a zero percent chance of making the playoffs and were 300:1 odds in Vegas to make the Super Bowl. Fast forward to today and the Chiefs are in the playoffs with now 14:1 odds to make the Super Bowl.
I don’t think I am wrong for assuming most teams would’ve given up once your record falls to 1-5 in the NFL and that most fans were already ready for the next season. However, when your team leader is a man who overcame a devastating illness that kills millions of people each year, how could you ever possibly justify giving up on him and on the season?
The Chiefs did something that has only been done once in NFL history and that is make the playoffs after starting the season 1-5 or worse. Eric Berry did something that, unfortunately, many people cannot do, and that is beat cancer. Both underdogs will be looking to end the long 22-year drought without a playoff win that has plagued Kansas City and its fans.
Something tells me this is the year that its going to happen.