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Ask Terez: Super Bowl or bust, first-quarter grade and LDT’s injury

Chiefs QB Alex Smith on winning drive: 'We spend a lot of time on all those situations'

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith answered questions following the team's 29-20 win over Washington on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017.
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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith answered questions following the team's 29-20 win over Washington on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017.

Following the KC Chiefs’ 29-20 win over Washington on Monday, KC Star beat writer Terez A. Paylor answered Twitter questions about the Chiefs’ Super Bowl chances, their first-quarter grade, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s injury and more.

Yes. I do believe this team has a legitimate chance to go to the Super Bowl, and to be clear, this is the strongest I’ve ever felt about that possibility during my five-year tenure as The Star’s beat writer. Barring an injury to a handful of key players –– and yes, that does include quarterback Alex Smith, who leads the NFL in passer rating –– I think the Chiefs should be considered the favorite in the AFC. New England won last season, and it’s really, really difficult to repeat in the NFL, so I don’t really think they’ll be able to do it again this year. That leaves the AFC open, and the Chiefs check a lot of boxes you want in a Super Bowl contender. They have a respected top-five coach in Andy Reid, a triumvirate of premier offensive weapons (Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt) and a quarterback who might be finally taking his game to the next level (Smith). They also have a capable pass rush (when healthy, at least) and lots of motivation following the divisional-round loss to Pittsburgh in January. Things can change quickly in the NFL, so remember that if a bunch of players get hurt and this optimism proves to be futile, but I think Chiefs fans should be excited.

Yes. They absolutely deserve an “A.” The Chiefs are the NFL’s last undefeated team, and they’ve largely looked good doing it. Past Chiefs teams could have lost against Washington and Philadelphia, but this year’s group showed an impressive amount of resiliency against both.

I reported shortly after the injury that Duvernay-Tardif will have an MRI on his knee Tuesday morning. The club hopes it is an MCL injury, but an injury to the ACL hasn’t been ruled out yet. Either way, Duvernay-Tardif will miss some time and he will be missed. The O-line settled down in the second half against Washington following his absence, but they will continue to be tested without Duvernay-Tardif and Mitch Morse, who has missed the last two games because of a foot injury. Morse’s replacement, Zach Fulton, is capable and the team seems to like Duvernay-Tardif’s replacement, Jordan Devey. But there’s no doubt the depth is being tested at this point, and that could be really bad with another injury or two at the position.

I wouldn’t put it all on Alex, who I think has been more aggressive downfield than he used to be. The last two weeks, the pocket has been collapsing quickly. The pass protection certainly hasn’t been as good as it was in the Chiefs’ Week 1 win over New England. The protection needs to be better going forward, or Smith will be running for his life more than he has been.

This upcoming stretch, if you didn’t know, is absolutely brutal. The Chiefs will take to the road to face Houston on Sunday, then face Pittsburgh at home before a brutal Thursday night turnaround against a motivated Oakland team. That game might be more winnable now due to Derek Carr’s back injury, but these are still three 2016 playoff teams the Chiefs will have to contend with in a row. A loss could be coming somewhere in this three-game slate, but when it happens, it won’t be the end of the world. It’s a long season, and the belief here is this Chiefs team is, again, well-equipped to have another memorable –– albeit longer –– season.