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Because of Alex Smith’s play, Chiefs in Super Bowl conversation

SHARE Because of Alex Smith’s play, Chiefs in Super Bowl conversation
The sky is the limit for the Kansas City Chiefs. – Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis

STATELINE, Nevada — The statistical numbers are trending toward a very special season for quarterback Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The former University of Utah signal-caller goes into the 2016 season on the heels of the best three-year run of his pro career. Throw in the return of explosive running back Jamaal Charles from injury, and the experience and the consistency of tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Jeremy Maclin, and the Chiefs are a solid defense away from doing something exceptional this season.

As a result, some experts are picking the Chiefs to win the AFC West. Some even think the Chiefs have a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl.

“The sky is the limit for the Kansas City Chiefs,” said Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis. “If they can win the division, then they can take those next steps. They played the New England Patriots pretty tough last year in the playoffs, and I think they have the ability to win it all.”

One reason for Bettis’ optimism is that Smith has settled in nicely to coach Andy Reid’s offense. He’s led the Chiefs to a 30-16 regular-season record in games he’s started over the past three seasons. More importantly, he ended one of the league’s longest stretches between playoff victories when the Chiefs crushed the Houston Texans 30-0 last January for their first postseason victory since 1993. Incidentally, Joe Montana was the quarterback for that playoff win.

“Alex has found a home, and it’s working out for him,” said Marshall Faulk, elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and currently an analyst for the NFL Network. “He’s the same player. Being in the same system allows you to grow. The guy had four offensive coordinators in four years (in San Francisco). I’m not sure how you are supposed to get better like that.”

Statistically, Smith has been on the money. He’s thrown for 61 touchdowns against 20 interceptions while surpassing 3,250 passing yards in each of those seasons. Smith has also made teams pay with his feet, rushing for 1,183 yards and four TDs in his three seasons with the Chiefs.

“I think Alex can win a Super Bowl,” said NFL analyst and former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann. “He possesses the skills and athletic ability to do it; the question is, is there a team around him that can complement him.”

Smith prefers not to talk about Super Bowls before training camp even starts. From his 10 previous seasons, he knows there are many pieces that have to come together to be successful, and injuries can wreck a promising season on any given Sunday.

“So, really, it’s working backward because you can’t get to the Super Bowl all in one day, and I’ve learned that over the years,” said Smith, who followed his routine of playing in the American Century Championship near Lake Tahoe the weekend before the start of training camp. “So you just stay short-sighted, but certainly that’s the end goal.”

Smith, 32, remains under contract in Kansas City through the 2018 season. The four-year extension he signed in 2014 pays him $68 million. Hence, the Chiefs have some time to capitalize on a quarterback who is playing well in an offensive system suited to his skill set.

“Just play better and continue to get better,” Smith said. “I felt like it was better than the year before, which was better than the year before. Just kind of keep moving in the right direction and it really comes from executing the offense. We’ve got a lot of weapons, guys who have been in the system a few years, and we have a good opportunity.”

Smith certainly has a number of NFL experts who believe he is the right leader to take the Chiefs to the title game.

“I have been a big Alex Smith fan, even before he got to Kansas City,” said former Chiefs quarterback Trent Green, who works as an NFL analyst for CBS Sports. “I think he fits so well into what Andy Reid is trying to do offensively. I think all of the pieces are there, and because of Alex’s background and his understanding of what Andy is trying to get done offensively, I think it sets up very well for him to do that.”