The first eight games are in the books.
As a whole, the first half of the Kansas City Chiefs 2015 season hasn't gone as many would have expected, or liked—with a 3-5 record, but after back-to-back wins heading into the Bye week, there's plenty of reason to feel good about what lies ahead for the Chiefs in the second half of the season.
That being said, here are five storylines to follow through the final eight games of the regular season.
No. 1 - Playoffs are within reach
Yes, the playoffs.
Despite the sting of losing some close games earlier in the season, the goals this team has set for themselves are still very much within reach.
There are currently only six teams in the AFC with more than the 3 wins the Chiefs have right now, and three of those teams have just 4.
Therefore, the Chiefs are currently just 1 game out of the Wildcard race as we stand today.
Also, the combined record of the Chiefs opponents through their first eight games of the season is 36-24.
The combined record of the teams the Chiefs will face in the final eight games of the season—20-26, and if you take out the game against the Broncos in Week 9—that record is 13-25.
With the Chiefs gaining some momentum with back-to-back wins, combined with a schedule that could allow for a steak much like we saw from them in the middle part of last season, there's still plenty of reason to feel good about what could happen for the Chiefs over the next two months.
No. 2 – Alex Smith finding his playmakers
There have only been three times in the past 30 years that two players on the Chiefs have had at least 1,000 yards receiving in the same year.
Through eight games this season, both receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Travis Kelce are on pace for more than 1,000 yards receiving.
We heard a lot throughout training camp and the preseason about the trust being developed by quarterback Alex Smith and his newest target, Jeremy Maclin.
Last Sunday against the Detroit Lions, that trust was put on display as Smith floated it up from 17 yards to a covered-Maclin in the end zone.
Maclin was trusted to go up and fight for the ball in the air, which he did.
"That was big time, a big time play," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said on Monday. "Maximum trust between the two of them. You could see Jeremy was covered on that, Alex just dotted it and Jeremy went and got it.
"Jeremy knew he was probably going to get hit, hung onto it, big time play."
Combine that with the plays Kelce has been making—both as he catches the ball, but also in his yards after the catch, which ranks among the best in the NFL, and there's reason to believe this passing offense will continue to make enough plays to put some points on the board.
No. 3 – Sack City establishing permanent residence in final 8 games
The Chiefs have dialed up the pressure over the past couple of weeks.
Whether it's safeties coming off the edge or linebackers coming up the middle, or some variation of either of those things, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has put guys in positions to make game-changing plays over the past couple of weeks.
They've intercepted 4 passes in the last two games after getting 6 all of last season.
"[Sutton] does a great job at that," Reid said on Monday. "That's really one of the reasons he's here. He's very good at all that stuff. Some of those were manufactured things, others were just pressures from the defensive front. Give credit there, too.
"The guys, they came in with a certain mindset, they've had that for the last few weeks where it's just a certain amount of grit and determination there."
The Chiefs defense has 8 sacks and caused 5 turnovers in the past two games, helping lead them to back to back wins.
Another player to watch over the next 8 games is rookie first-round pick, Marcus Peters, who is tied for fifth in the NFL right now with 3 interceptions and his 38 tackles rank second on the team.
Peters will need to play well if the Chiefs are to keep up this momentum they've created over the past two weeks.
No. 4 - Charcandrick West continuing to step up
It has been said a thousand times, there is no replacing Jamaal Charles.
But one of the guys who is trying to carry the load at running back right now for the Chiefs is second-year player Charcandrick West, whose development over the offseason was obvious to those watching him throughout OTAs, training camp and into the preseason.
Now, West is coming off back-to-back games with nearly 100 yards rushing and a touchdown in each, while also grasping the blocking and screen-game needed to play in this offense.
After finding a little success, don't expect this happy-go-lucky kid to change his approach.
"You'll never see him not smiling," Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy said of West. "Every time he's in the building, he's smiling, enthusiastic about learning and he's very professional.
"He understands that if you don't work, you don't eat. That's our mentality, that's our mindset.
"He comes to work every day with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove."
West has carried the ball 63 times for 288 yards and two touchdowns this season, and he's also added 9 catches for 53 yards in the passing game.
West's ability to play through an entire NFL season will be important for the Chiefs if they're to make a little run here in the final 8 games of the regular season.
No. 5 – Development of the offensive line
The Chiefs have used five different starting combinations along the offensive line in their eight games this season.
Whether it's because of injury or some other circumstance, the Chiefs haven't had the same group for more than three games at any point this season.
One player who has joined the group and started at two different places over the past two games, both of which resulted in wins, is veteran Jeff Allen, who started at right tackle against the Steelers in Week 7, then moved to left guard last Sunday against the Lions in London.
Allen's versatility has helped the Chiefs rush for more than 200 yards over the past two games and pick up back-to-back wins along the way.
"He's always had a certain amount of leadership," Reid said of Allen. "He's not afraid to let that part of his personality show."
Allen will need to continue to show that part of his personality as the Chiefs look to take on the Broncos and their defensive front seven, which is arguably one of the best in the league, after the bye week.