Man, I just can’t whip up the disdain this week for the visiting 2-3 New Orleans Saints like I did for Oakland in Week 6. It’s to be expected I guess, as the Raiders are organically fun-to-hate, while Drew Brees is just, like, a great guy, you know? I still want him picking Arrowhead Stadium turf out of his facemask after each of the 30 painful sacks he suffers today, but you know, a really awesome guy. So, putting aside today’s fundamental matchup of Brees vs. each member of the Chiefs defense, let’s take a closer look at three must-see matchups:
Marcus Peters vs. Brandin Cooks
Brandin Cooks is one of just five guys in the NFL with more than 13 catches and an average yardage per catch over 17. Only two players have a higher average and as many receptions as Cooks' 17.1 yards and 25 catches. I already predicted that the good guys would win today if KC's star cornerback Marcus Peters manages to pick an errant Brees throw to keep the turnover ratio in the Chiefs' favor. However, if any type of receiver can exploit Peters' all-or-nothing playing style, it's a guy like Brandin Cooks (especially when a guy like Drew Brees is throwing the football.)
Alex Smith vs. Cameron Jordan
The Saints enter Week 7 with injured players on every level of their already-ineffective defense. This puts even more pressure on the few New Orleans defenders who consistently contribute, such as linebacker Cameron Jordan. This two-time Pro Bowler and member of the 2015 All-Pro Team needs to slow KC's offensive down without much competent help around him. Slowing down Alex Smith and Company at Arrowhead seems like a tremendously tough task for Jordan or anybody else after last week's remarkable performance from the Chiefs offense.
Alex Smith's incredibly efficient game against the Raiders is still the talk of the town, and many Chiefs fans can't help wondering aloud whether or not he can repeat it, or at least build on it. KC doesn't need him to complete north of 85% of his passes again in order to beat the 2-3 Saints. The Chiefs just need Smith to convert at key moments against the NFL's second-worst defense. Only a top-tier talent like Cameron Jordan should get the chance to stifle Alex's mojo today.
Spencer Ware vs. Craig Robertson
Okay, so the last matchup technically wasn't even a matchup. To be clear, Eric Fisher and the rest of KC's offensive line is responsible for physically matching up against Cam Jordan today, because duh, I know that. Maybe I should call them something other than matchups? I'll find a smoother-sounding version of "3 Must-See Player Duos Who Significantly Influence One Another’s’ Performances" and I’ll get back to you. This last entry is another non-matchup. That's my only point here.
While Ware isn't exactly matched up against Saints middle linebacker Craig Robertson, they'll be seeing each other often today. Robertson leads his team with 33 combined tackles, and Ware (not to mention Jamaal Charles if he's feeling healthy) should get enough up-front blocking to reach the second level of the New Orleans defense. This is where Robertson's ability or inability to wrap up Chiefs in space could decide this game.
KC's simple, obvious key to success today is running the football with conviction and consistency. If the Chiefs run the ball successfully, they can burn the clock with a tie or the lead, thus keeping the opponent's future Hall of Fame QB on the sideline. A consistent running game limits Brees' chances to hurt KC, and also keep the Chiefs defense well-rested. So, to keep that running game going, KC needs third-down conversions on the ground, and nobody has a bigger defensive impact on the success or failure on third downs than a middle linebacker that leads his team in tackles.
I will go on with this “fool’s errand” of making week-to-week NFL predictions by picking the Chiefs to win at home today. As a bonus, I also predict that Chiefs fans will continue to hit up Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s Twitter feed with love after he suddenly lost his mother earlier this week, because Chiefs fans are awesome, and we can all sympathize with that kind of pain, whether or not it’s something we want to acknowledge within the sanctum of football Sunday.
Doug LaCerte sometimes uses Twitter @DLaC67. He still has a Facebook page, and he loves his momma very much.