When: Sunday, Oct. 27
Time: Noon, CT
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
TV Broadcast: CBS (12:00 PM CT): Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts – commentators. NFL Red Zone; DirecTV – 707.
Radio Broadcast: Over 60 radio stations on the Chiefs Radio Network; Mitch Holthus, Len Dawson, Kendall Gammon, commentators. Chiefs Spanish Radio: La Gran D (1340 AM); Play-by-Play: Enrique Morales, Color Commentator: Oscar Monterroso, Sideline Reporter: Ricardo Soto.
SIRIUS: 132 (Cle.), 85 (KC). XM: 228 (KC).
The Kansas City Chiefs sit on top of the NFL world with the only perfect 7-0 record in the league. Despite beating a focused Houston Texans team 17-16 last week, however, the Chiefs still aren’t getting love in some corners of the NFL.
Critics call out the Chiefs soft schedule and lack of a passing game as reasons the team is the biggest fraud in the HISTORY of the NFL!!!! (All caps and exclamation points emphasize how the Chiefs should give back all seven of their victories this season for being pretenders to the throne – according to non-KC fans that like offense … and who might live in Denver, San Diego, or Oakland.)
Frankly, what all the critics are forgetting is that this Chiefs defense is playing at a championship-level pace and might just be rewriting NFL record books by year’s end. The naysayers chime in that there is NO WAY the defense can continue at this pace and that the Chiefs will crash back to earth because the offense is so bad.
Ummmm … two things. First, why can’t they continue to play this well? You have Pro Bowl level talent playing in a tough and aggressive scheme that constantly pressures the other team’s offense. Will they have a bad game at some point? Probably. But to say they cannot continue to do this is ludicrous. At this point, only injuries will derail this from being the best defense in the NFL.
Second, you cannot say the defense won’t keep up their play in one breath and then not acknowledge that the offense could turn it around and play better. Critics ASSUME that Jamaal Charles will end up on the IR if the Chiefs keep using him this much. Maybe … maybe not. But if he never does, it’s a moot point. I suppose Sam Bradford and Reggie Wayne touched the ball too much because both of them were wiped out for the season last week?
They assume that Alex Smith won’t possibly find a comfort zone with his receivers and start pushing the ball downfield more. With the way the defense is playing, I can see Smith getting more comfortable throwing downfield. He’ll realize that an interception 30 yards down field isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but he needs someone besides Donnie Avery to get open downfield.
Does Smith need to play better?? Heck yeah. Does he scare some Chiefs fans with his tendency to check down to running backs and tight ends and a short passing game? Definitely.
Smith reminds me of Trent Green in his first season in Kansas City. In getting 11 men accustomed to a new offense, Green struggled badly in 2001 and ended up throwing 24 interceptions against only 17 touchdowns. One local columnist even nicknamed him, “Tr-INT Green” because of all the interceptions.
But once Green and his offense got experience playing together and the coaching staff figured out their strengths, the best offense in the history of the franchise was born. Remember that this offensive line is almost criminally young and inexperienced playing together. Many of them spent most of last year injured. If they can stay healthy, they should start to gel here soon and Smith won’t be on the run so much. More time in the pocket helps the downfield passing game.
So that brings us to Sunday and the game with the Browns. Unlike last week’s game against Houston where I felt the Texans’ personnel was a bad match-up for KC, the Browns at Arrowhead is an excellent fit for the Chiefs.
The Browns offense has scored more than 17 points twice this season – a 31-27 win in Minnesota in which they easily played their best game of the year. They also managed 23 points against the Bills three weeks ago in a 37-24 win. In that game, the defense and special teams both contributed a touchdown on punt and interception returns.
The Browns defense has been good overall this year, but admittedly are in a bit of a slump over the last three games where they have given up 86 points to Buffalo, Detroit and Green Bay. Worse still for facing the Chiefs, they are suddenly susceptible to giving up chunks of yards to running backs catching the ball out of the backfield. (Hello Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster!)
Like the Chiefs this year, the Browns lack explosive players outside of WR Josh Gordon. Tight end Jordan Cameron is having a marvelous year, but he did almost all of his damage in three early games, where he had 25 catches for 265 yards and 5 of his 6 touchdowns. In the last three weeks, he is a bit more mortal with 15 catches for 155 yards and 1 TD. Still good, but not mind-blowing stats.
The biggest key on offense is their inability to get much out of the running game. After trading former first-round pick Trent Richardson to the Colts (a freaking STEAL for the Browns, if you’re asking me), Cleveland is dependent on the ancient legs of Willis McGahee and the unproven Chris Ogbonnaya. Neither runner is on par with some of the RBs the Chiefs have already played this year.
Here are three things Chiefs fans should be watching for during Sunday’s game if the Chiefs are going to improve to 8-0:
Special teams must remain special: The Browns on the road will need a special teams score or a blocked kick to have a chance for the upset. The Browns offense is currently ranked 26th in the league and are starting their third quarterback in eight games. And they’ve already skipped over starting Jason Campbell not once, but twice this year. Not good. What the Browns do have are good kick and punt return units, as they currently rank #4 in the NFL and are led by one of the league’s better return men, WR Travis Benjamin. If punter Dustin Colquitt and kicker Ryan Succop can keep returns to a minimum – and force the Browns offense to travel 80 yards or more for a score – it will be the key to KC picking up their 8th win.
Chiefs need to score 17 points or more: Hey, for all the griping and groaning people are doing about the Chiefs’ offense, ProFootballReference.com does have them rated as the #10 offense in the league. 95% of the problem has been the inability to get chunks of yards through the air and their touchdowns in the red zone percentage is the other 5%. Last week, when Alex Smith held the ball too long on 4th-and-goal and his pass to TE Sean McGrath was caught out of bounds, it was the play that made even a Smith-supporter like me bang my head against the wall. If Smith hits McGrath in the end zone WHEN MCGRATH WAS ACTUALLY OPEN, then the team doesn’t sweat out the last part of the fourth quarter because KC would have had a bigger lead. This week, they play a Browns team that doesn’t score much and the KC defense is giving up fewer points than any team in the last 25 years, so getting to 17 or more points should win the game for KC.
Defense just keeps on rolling: Why should KC apologize for winning with defense? Seattle doesn’t. San Francisco hasn’t the last two years. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have dominated the AFC with defense on the years Tom Brady doesn’t take the Pats to the Super Bowl. So welcome to the club, Kansas City. Deliver body blows to your opponent for three quarters and then go for the haymaker knock-out in the fourth. The Chiefs are scary-good at pressuring the quarterbacks, and the league has an eye-popping 75% failure rate on third downs against this team. That's just sick. Fans knew that the team would be susceptible to big plays occasionally with this style of defense and sure enough, from the Cowboys game to Houston, KC has been burned with some long touchdowns. But if you only get burned once or twice a game and you shut down the other team the rest of the time, in today’s NFL you are going to win. This week, they have to make sure Josh Gordon doesn’t burn them and keep Jordan Cameron in check. By the fourth quarter with 75,000 red-clad screamers in full voice, the Cleveland offense will implode.
Prediction: Having been born in a Cleveland suburb 51 years ago and with most of my late mother’s family still living in Cleveland, it pains me to say that my head is telling me that the Chiefs win 31-17. My heart says not to be too confident this week and that the Browns could beat KC. Sure … it could happen. However, I might have been born in Cleveland, but my family moved to KC 49 years ago and I’ve been a Chiefs fan since I was 4 years old. The Chiefs will follow the same formula they have all year long and a somewhat close game in the third quarter becomes a blowout. Chiefs go 8-0 and start the second half of the season on top of the NFL.
Score: The head says Chiefs – 31, Browns– 17, the heart says Chiefs – 24, Browns - 20.
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