When: Sunday, Oct. 6
Time: Noon, CT
Where: LP Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
TV Broadcast: CBS (12:00 PM CT): Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots. NFL Red Zone; DirecTV – 711.
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: 125 (KC), 135 (Ten.). XM: 231 (Ten.).
The Kansas City Chiefs are on the road in Nashville, Tennessee – otherwise known as the Music City – to play the Tennessee Titans at Noon on Sunday and they are hoping to hit all the right notes in their unbelievable quest to start the season 5-0.
The Titans and Chiefs are mirror images of each other in most respects. They both have Pro Bowl caliber running backs, adequate passing games with no superstar receivers, stingy hard-hitting defenses that make the opponent earn every yard they get, and they are tied for the league lead in turnover margin with a +9.
The Chiefs have forced 12 turnovers from their opponents and have three turnovers themselves. The Titans are the only team in the NFL without a turnover yet, and the defense has gotten nine takeaways.
So why are many experts favoring the Chiefs to win on Sunday – if only slightly – considering they only won two games all of last year? In my opinion, it’s because of the head coaches and the quarterbacks.
Chief coach Andy Reid is a respected veteran coach in his 15th season in the NFL whose team has bought into his program completely. Reid is funny, personable to the fans, quick with a sarcastic joke, and seemingly is recharged to be coaching in the NFL after a bad three or four years in Philadelphia.
Titans coach Mike Munchak is … ummmm … errrrr … aaaaaa … probably a pretty nice guy who was an AWESOME player for the Houston Oilers and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Unfortunately, in his third year of being a head coach, the jury is still out. The one thing we do know about him is that he won 9 games in his first year of coaching and six games last year. With his current 3-1 record this year, that makes him 18-18 as a head coach. Zzzzzzzz ….
As far as the quarterbacks are concerned, the Chiefs are led by Alex Smith, who seemingly is the QB most talk show folks love to crap on. No doubt it’s because of his stormy first few years in the league with San Francisco and his demotion to the bench last year in favor of ESPN’s man-crush, Colin Kaepernick. Smith is an incredibly likable guy who is still immensely popular with his current team AND his former team, but in the gunslinger era of NFL QBs, Smith is the on-field equivalent of the color beige. Nice, clean, and goes with most decors, but rarely does anything memorable.
Oh wait ... except win games. Since 2011, Smith has the best starting record of any quarterback in the league at 23-5-1. Better than Brady, Peyton, Brees, or Aaron Rodgers. That's not to say that Smith compares favorably in throwing the ball with any of them, but quarterbacks are the only players in the NFL who have a team's record with them as a starter next to their name and Smith's is the best over the last three seasons. It reminds me of former coach Buddy Ryan dissing eventual Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter when he said all Carter could do was catch touchdown passes. Yeah ... all Smith does is WIN!
On the other side of the field is Ryan Fitzpatrick, formerly of the Buffalo Bills and the owner of a 4-1 career record against the Chiefs. Fitzpatrick had the misfortune of starting his Buffalo career off red hot and then literally the day after signing a HUGE contract with the team on Halloween 2010, became completely human and average. When the Bills cleaned house with a new coaching staff this year, Fitzpatrick was deemed responsible for the mess and was cut.
So what you have is two quarterbacks that are much better than their numbers might indicate and both have something to prove. While Smith tries to take care of the ball on every snap and may not go deep downfield on throws, Fitzpatrick will take many more chances. Smith is a huge reason the Chiefs are 4-0, but Fitzpatrick is only starting because the Titans regular starter, Jake Locker (aka, Alex Smith Lite 2.0) was injured last week and is out for possibly two months.
And that, in a nutshell, is why the Chiefs are seen as having an excellent chance to win Sunday. With Fitzy at the helm, the chances of the Titans finishing the day with zero turnovers is slim.
Here are three things Chiefs fans should be watching for Sunday if the Chiefs are going to stay undefeated:
- Time for Jamaal to take a game over. Say what you want about Tennessee, but their defense is for real and their secondary can be outstanding. That said, it’s highly doubtful that QB Smith will test the secondary with deep throws. One thing that will help Smith eventually air it out would be for RB Jamaal Charles to have a “Jamaal Charles kind of game” where he busts a few carries for big gains. The Chiefs need another game from Charles like he had against Philadelphia (172 total yards) because it is very difficult to beat the Titans throwing the ball.
- Put pressure on Fitzpatrick. People seem to be in love with Fitzpatrick and talk like he’s the reincarnation of Johnny Unitas just because he has a 4-1 record against KC. Unfortunately for Fitzy, his 4-1 record against the Chiefs was done under the old Chiefs defensive staff whose read-and-react scheme played well to Fitzpatrick’s strengths. Now the Chiefs are led by Bob Sutton on defense. If you weren’t aware of it, Sutton came to the Chiefs after a long tenure with the New York Jets. And do you know who the Jets used as a personal punching bag in the AFC East during that time? Yep ... it was Fitzpatrick. Fitzy has a career record of 2-7 against New York in nine games and one of those wins was in Week 17 last year when he beat the Jets in Buffalo long after the NY players had packed it in on the season. Fitzpatrick had a dismal career QB rating of 70.9 against the Jets. The 2013 version of the Chiefs defense can put pressure on Fitzy and get some turnovers. And in a tight game on the road, that might be the key to the Chiefs getting win #5.
- Special teams needs to tighten things up. Ok … so the week after Dexter McCluster’s 89-yard punt return for a TD might seem to be a weird time to dog the Chiefs special teams play, but the blocking that they’re doing on field goals – and especially punts – has been atrocious this year. Last week, Dustin Colquitt had his first punt partially blocked and he almost ended up with a bad knee injury. Luckily, he came back into the game and kicked the ball decently. This is a guy who only had a couple of punts blocked in his entire career before this year, but now has an adventure in every game avoiding blockers. The Chiefs cannot afford to give Tennessee any kind of advantage on special teams. In what will probably be a one-point game, a “gimme” to the Titans on a special teams gaffe will be too costly.
Prediction: This game has all the earmarks of being a dirty, nasty, hard-hitting, grind-it-out game between two similar teams. If something were to happen to the CBS network feed during the telecast and they ran Brad Pitt’s “Fight Club” movie, many people might not be able to tell the difference. I have much more faith in Andy Reid and Bob Sutton to come up with solid game plans this week than the Tennessee staff, so get ready for another nail-biter where the Chiefs prevail late in the fourth quarter – again!
Chiefs – 17, Titans - 16
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