Sunday, October 23, 2016

3 Must-See KC Week 7 Matchups

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.

Friday, October 21, 2016

3 Ways to Win in Week 7

Our Kansas City Chiefs won comfortably last week against the 4-2 Oakland Raiders, but it won’t be a walk in the park facing Drew Brees’ 2-3 New Orleans Saints in Week 7. Despite the Saints coming to town with a genuinely intimidating offense run by a future Hall of Famer, there are still ways KC can convincingly claim victory at Arrowhead this Sunday. The Chiefs will win…

1-      …if Alex Smith comes anywhere close to the game he had last week. Smith gave us the most efficient performance in franchise history, and he did it without completing four passes to a single Chief. Seven different Chiefs caught two of Smith's 19 completions, and Alex finished the day without a touchdown pass. It was a strange way to be great, but we witnessed a glimpse of greatness from KC's franchise quarterback last Sunday.

2-      …if the altered defensive line dominates the line of scrimmage like they did last week in Oakland. Chris Jones, Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe all stayed on the field for extra snaps because of Allen Bailey’s injury, and the result was a stifled Raiders offense that mustered only 10 points. The increased playing time for these defensive linemen helped KC earn a commanding victory at a critical point in the season.

These extra snaps are particularly noteworthy for Chris Jones, since KC’s next opponent is the league's pass-happiest. Bailey is strong against the run, but scouts say Jones is a better pass-rush option, and my amateur eyeballs agree. The next three teams on KC’s schedule rank first, third and sixth respectively in team passing play percentage, so the loss of Allen Bailey may actually help the Chiefs.

3-      …if KC keeps the turnover ratio in their favor. Yeah that’s cliché, but the Chiefs haven’t won a game this year in which they lost the turnover ratio. Drew Brees, leader of the NFL’s second-greatest offense and its best pass-attack, will undoubtedly look to burn KC’s Marcus Peters on more than one occasion this Sunday. The Chiefs can still win with Peters getting beat on big plays a couple times, but only if he can claim vengeance with a pick, which he’s proven capable of doing more often than not. The guy’s on pace to be the greatest interception threat of all time, so sure, he can occasionally gamble and lose without costing his team the game.

It’s not quite the same feel as Raiders Week, based largely on the joy of hating Oakland and the inability to hate Drew Brees. I’ll do more research on the Aints and get back to you with more hatred before this Sunday’s noon kickoff.

Doug LaCerte sometimes uses Twitter @DLaC67 when it's not being cyber-attacked or whatever, and he still has a Facebook page.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Good, The Bad and The Awesome from KC's Week 6 Win

This season’s first installment of the decades-old rivalry between the heroic Kansas City Chiefs and the dastardly Oakland Raiders resulted in a comfortable, important victory for the good guys. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the really, really good from yesterday’s satisfying stomping in Oakland:

The Good – Almost everything? Let's get specific and give some love to KC’s offensive linemen, who comfortably controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game. Their dominance allowed Alex Smith to complete 19 of his 22 pass attempts (a franchise record for completion percentage) and allowed Spencer Ware to run for 131 yards. Only five people on the planet currently have more 2016 yards from scrimmage than Ware. Any team in the NFL would struggle to beat the Chiefs on a day when Ware has room to run and Smith records a 109.1 passer rating.

The Bad – The questions that Chiefs fans must ask through the week paint the picture of a team with tremendous potential but too many concerns to be considered elite. While Pats fans wonder how many touchdowns Tom Brady's about to throw next week, fans in KC are asking more daunting questions. 

We still don't know when Justin Houston will be himself again, and despite a hope-inducing nine carries against the Raiders for Jamaal Charles, nobody knows how often #25 will be able to contribute going forward. We also don't know if the offensive success KC enjoyed against the Raiders can be replicated against a more legitimate defense. As the Star's Terez A. Paylor wisely pointed out, Oakland's passing defense was the NFL's worst heading into yesterday’s game, and their run defense ranked 27th.

Also, Amari Cooper’s 10 catches for 129 yards makes him the first player with over 100 receiving yards against KC since Week 2, which could reignite fears regarding KC’s weakness against elite wide outs.

The AwesomeMarcus Peters’ feast-or-famine style of play continues to work in his favor, and his fifth pick of the season is a perfect example. After Amari Cooper burned Peters on a double move, Marcus trusted his safety help and immediately reacted by deciding to play the ball, confident that Raiders QB Derek Carr couldn't successfully reach Cooper with the pass. His initial failure and immediate decision to gamble resulted in a momentum-shifting interception.

I would be remiss if I didn't also reflect on an all-time great scoring his first touchdown of the season and increasing his workload to nine carries. The next two teams on KC’s schedule – the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts – rank 25th and 24th respectively in rushing yards allowed per game this season. These next two weeks should be a great indicator of how much Jamaal still has in the tank. If KC scouts are to be believed, we will all witness the resurgence of one of NFL history’s greatest talents within the month of October. Now that would be awesome.

Doug LaCerte occasionally remembers that he exists on Twitter @DLaC67, and he still uses his Facebook to find good Raider Hater memes.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

KC Success in The Steel City?

Our 2-1 Kansas City Chiefs face off tonight against the recently enigmatic 2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. To better understand the 2016 Steelers, we need to take a quick look at the team that dominated them just a week ago. Pittsburgh lost 34-3 to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3, and rookie QB Carson Wentz threw for 301 yards. Pittsburgh was arguably Philly's first legit test of the year, since the Eagles began the season with wins against the Browns and Bears. Maybe Wentz runs an offense that will go on to consistently burn good NFL defenses. Maybe the Steelers' defense is officially "no good". It seems like there's some truth to both possibilities.

Only four NFL teams have allowed more yards per game than Pittsburgh. Despite that, the Steelers have only allowed 22 points per game, which puts them right in the middle of the pack statistically. Only five teams hold their opponents to a lower 3rd down conversion percentage, but despite the veteran presence of OLD James Harrison and others, the Steelers D won't instill fear in the Chiefs quite like they did in years past.

For the record, Philadelphia averages 9 points allowed per game this year, which is the lowest average in the NFL. It sounds like Pittsburgh got beat by a balanced, impressive Eagles team last week. However, KC surely had the flaws that Philly exploited in mind when designing this week's game plan. KC's offense has the weapons necessary to exploit Pittsburgh's flaws, and KC’s defense has the ability to suddenly change the game with a timely interception or six.

According to, bookies will give KC between three and four points in this Week 4 faceoff at Heinz Field. For once, I have more faith in my Chiefs than Vegas does. I expect KC's offense to have a good day, thanks in part to that red-hot secondary keeping the turnover ratio in the Chiefs' favor. I'm predicting a 27-24 win for our Chiefs, a high-five-inducing interception for Marcus Peters while he's guarding the league's best wide out Antonio Brown, and a huge smile on millions of Chiefs fans' faces when Jamaal Charles takes the field for the first time this season.

No matter what happens, let's enjoy the return of #25 tonight. Every snap Jamaal takes is important to NFL history.

Doug LaCerte makes fun of the Raiders on Twitter @DLaC67, and he still uses his Facebook page to hustle for those sweet, sweet pageviews. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Turnovers Torture Jets Fans, Chiefs Fans Witness Wild Week 3 Win

Well, I did not expect that. I won't feel too bad about predicting a close game and even a loss for our Kansas City Chiefs yesterday, but sometimes I really love being wrong. Travis Kelce and the rest of the tight end corps made me look sorta smart with 10 combined catches for 113 yards, then KC's defense made me look real dumb by forcing roughly a bajillion turnovers and never giving the New York Jets a chance.

Yesterday's Chiefs victory surely incited plenty of happy shouting and high-fives for all, but it does bring up an intriguing and disturbing question: can you bank on a team that's built around creating turnovers? I don't know the answer to that question, and I assume the answer's you'll get are rather philosophical, but forcing turnovers thankfully is not the Chiefs' only way to win. The offense displayed its explosive comeback potency with that Week 1 comeback win over Sandy Eggo, and the defense reacts positively to high-pressure moments nearly every week. But yeah, if you force 9 turnovers every game, you probably don't need the world's best offense or defense.

In case you missed the ridiculous totals, KC's defense was responsible for 8 total turnovers, 3 interceptions in the end zone, 4 consecutive drives that ended with KC picks and countless frowns on the faces of Jets fans.

The two successful, highly-regarded QBs facing off in yesterday's Week 3 battle probably experienced two very different ranges of emotion as they went to bad last night. Alex Smith only missed on eight of his 33 pass attempts, and his grand total of zero interceptions is precisely six less than the total thrown by the opposing QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick entered yesterday's game as the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week. He then exited Kansas City with a Week 3 loss, six more picks on his stat sheet and a fresh reminder that Arrowhead Stadium is the toughest NFL road game environment in the entire universe.

Smith can sleep soundly after guiding his team to victory, largely by utilizing the tremendous advantage afforded to him by the Chiefs’ defense. Fitzpatrick can only dream of the next time he gets to throw a pass that doesn't land in the hands of someone wearing a red jersey.

KC's effectiveness in creating turnovers yesterday puts the rest of the league on alert. You better believe this game affects the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 4 game plan in a major way. If KC can still stifle the Steelers by forcing even more turnovers next week, we could witness one of the best Sunday Night Football games in recent history. If not, I think the Chiefs will probably lose, but I clearly know nothing.

Doug’s all the way up to….shit, still just 16 Twitter followers @DLaC67, and he occasionally uses his Facebook page to pimp these articles.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chiefs vs. Jets: Week 3 Preview and Predictions

Injuries play a big role in each NFL matchup, but this week’s report could tell us who wins this Week 3 meeting at Arrowhead between our 1-1 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1-1 New York Jets.

Veteran Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall is listed as questionable as of Sunday morning, but the same goes for KC’s #3 cornerback Phillip Gaines. Three pieces of the Chiefs offensive – all guards – are also listed. Jah Reid and Parker Ehinger will not play, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is listed as questionable. Two injuries to Jets inside linebackers could give Travis Kelce and KC’s offense extra opportunities for big plays, but overall, this week’s injury report exposes KC far more than New York.

More injuries to the Chief’s offensive line makes things even harder for a team who failed to score a touchdown last week. New York’s defense shouldn’t pose the same threat to KC that Houston’s did, but the Texans and Jets offenses attack in a similarly balanced manner. Marshall’s aforementioned knee injury could hamper the potency of New York’s trio of Eric Decker, Marshall and emerging weapon Quincy Enunwa, but through their first two games, KC’s secondary looked weak against offenses with even two high-quality targets. Decker and Marshall both have at least 8 catches and over 130 passing yards this year, yet Enunwa leads the team with 13 catches and ranks second in reception yards.

New York balances this passing game with a heavy dose of veteran back Matt Forte, who shows no signs of decline in his ninth NFL season. Only three players in the league have more 2016 rushing yards than Forte, and of them already played his third game of the season. New York’s combination of a strong running game and a dynamic passing attack has earned the NFL’s 4th-highest yards-per-game average.

The Chiefs have only played one quarter of winning football this season, so it’s tough to predict victory against another worthy, tested opponent. New York looks frighteningly capable of executing a gameplan that tears up KC’s secondary, while the Chiefs offense encouraged precisely zero Chiefs fans last week. I predict that KC will limit their mental mistakes after last week’s struggles, which should keep this game close and fun. Sadly, I once again will guess that our Chiefs lose a close one to a good team. Official prediction: the Jets win a thriller 23-20, and I become much too sad to properly enjoy the night game.

Don’t be like me, Chiefs fans. Enjoy your day, even if our Chiefs lose, and even if they’ll probably lose again next week in Pittsburgh. Anyways, have fun!

Doug LaCerte has 16 Twitter followers @DLaC67 and a Facebook page. He often forgets about both until he does this, but he's working on that.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Week 2 Preview and Predictions: Houston Texans

I’m scared about our Kansas City Chiefs facing off with the Houston Texans in this Week 2 road game. I recently talked about how KC matches up against the intimidating defensive playmakers for Houston, but the offensive line won’t be 100% today. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Parker Ehinger, KC’s starting guards in Week 1, haven’t practiced in the latter half of the week and will not see the field in Houston. With or without all their pieces, the Chiefs would still be facing a tough test today.

The injury concerns aren’t the only reasons to worry. It took KC 21 fourth-quarter points, numerous punting gaffes from the San Diego Chargers and all of Spencer Ware’s 199 total yards just to send that game to overtime. KC pulled off the largest comeback in franchise history to win against an objectively sub-par team last week.

Houston was a legitimate playoff team last year – at least before being plagued with injuries – and most analysts can agree they’ve gotten better. The addition of new QB Brock Osweiler, fantasy football favorite Lamar Miller and dangerous first-round pick wide out Will Fuller makes the Texans’ offense dynamic. The Texans defense clearly has a better chance at limiting KC’s offense than the Chargers did, so Osweiler’s ability to run Houston’s new, multifaceted offense could decide the winner of today’s game.

The fact that Vegas only gives the Chiefs between 1 and 1.5 points actually makes me more impressed with KC’s Week 1 performance. This improved Texans team looks frighteningly talented, and our Chiefs looked woefully ineffective in three of the last four quarters they played. I think KC needs a turnover to keep this one close, but they’re due for at least one, so I am predicting a close game. We’re lookin’ at you, Marcus Peters.

I regret to say that I predict a 27-24 win for the Texans today. Expect KC to keep things interesting with that aforementioned turnover, and expect the Chiefs to target the middle of the field often with veteran middle linebacker Brian Cushing injured this week. I sincerely hope Travis Kelce proves my initial prediction wrong and scores you fantasy footballers a bajillion points today.

Feel free to publicly shame me when all my predictions go wrong @DLaC67, or head directly to my Facebook page.