Thursday, October 19, 2017

Raiders Week Becomes Bounce-Back Week for KC

Sunday stunk, so much so that my heart still stings as I try not to envision that ball bouncing off Phillip Gaines' face mask. Thankfully, there is no greater way to forget about gut-wrenching defeat than remembering that it's Raiders Week. It's a short week this time, sure, but the hate is still strong, and the stakes are high for both teams in this delicious rivalry. Here are this week's three quick predictions:

1. Trust Andy Reid, you guys. He's earned it. I know Sunday's game was brutal, but all that success doesn't just go poof and disappear after one ugly defeat. Andy and his shovel-passin', screen-happy offensive style developed a deep-pass threat this season that made KC's offense look impressive in all-but-one game so far this year. Last week was not a return to form. It was a momentary stumble. I think. I hope. I predict that the Chiefs will rip off a gain of at least 55 yards that helps the Kingdom remember just how lucky we are this year.

2. Let's also not forget that Alex Smith is enjoying the best year of his career to this point. This is largely because his rediscovered running skills force defenders to decide between crashing on the QB or staying on their man. He's not just extending plays - he's making big plays happen by threatening defenses with his legs. For whatever reason, that was extremely limited in the game-plan last season, but fans in KC should be ecstatic to see this happening consistently this time around. Alex ran for just 134 yards last season, and he's already racked up 121 through six games this year. I predict that Smith will surpass his rushing yards total from last year tonight.

3. The Raiders' season to this point has been...inconsistent. Oakland put up 45 in a win against the New York Jets in Week 2, then turned around the next week and scored just 10 against Washington. The Baltimore Ravens' average points/game of 19 is 24th in football, yet they scored 30 against Oakland in Week 5. A healthy Derek Carr has fans in Oakland hyped for this one, but the Chiefs' dominance over Carr throughout the Andy Reid era is well-documented. It could develop into an ugly, chippy game tonight, but the Chiefs will win and cover their 3-point spread. KC wins 26-20, and peace returns to Chiefs Kingdom.

Doug LaCerte didn't get much better about neglecting his Facebook page or Twitter @DLaC67. He'll do better eventually, maybe.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Can Desperate Steelers Squad Keep it Close in KC?

I expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to make this afternoon's game at Arrowhead interesting. I can only imagine that this week of practice in Pittsburgh was intense, and Chiefs-Steelers is flourishing into a serious rivalry. Big Ben Roethlisberger, not to mention many of his key targets, are looking for a bounce-back after an ugly loss in Pittsburgh last week. The Steelers will be desperate to right the ship and stay above .500, and desperate teams are dangerous. Mike Tomlin will undoubtedly have his guys jacked up for this. That's why I'm predicting KC to win a somewhat-close game instead of completely blowing the Steelers out.

Pittsburgh comes into Arrowhead with enough emotional fuel to keep things entertaining, but comparing their flaws to KC's strengths provides plenty of evidence of the Chiefs' superiority.

The Steelers' two ugly losses share a key element; when Pittsburgh's opponent kept the score close early on, thereby avoiding pass-heavy play-calling, those teams' ability to run the ball killed the Steelers. Pittsburgh was just crushed at Heinz Field at the hands of Blake Bortles and the Jags last week. Big Ben's five interceptions really turned that game sideways, but Jacksonville's consistent success running the ball is what ultimately earned them the W. Leonard Fournette gashed Pittsburgh for 181 yards last week, and he's not the only back to help his squad beat the Steelers this season.

In Week 3, the Chicago Bears' duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined for 35 carries and 218 yards as Chicago handed Pittsburgh a disappointing 23-17 defeat. In games when Pittsburgh gained an early lead, opposing QB's were forced to throw into a still-solid Steelers secondary. When that happens, Pittsburgh still looks legit, but when opposing teams get a chance to run the ball, Pittsburgh looks average-at-best.

This makes the game-plan for the Chiefs seem oddly simple. Of course, play-calling in an NFL game is never simple. The Steelers expect a heavy dose of Kareem Hunt, and since they've yet to prove they can stop someone like him, that's what they'll get. Thing is, Pittsburgh spent all week focusing on how to stop the run, as this is clearly their biggest concern for all the aforementioned reasons. Fortunately for fans in Chiefs Kingdom, Andy Reid will be ready with some tricky short passes when the Steelers defense is focused on Hunt, which should lead to a solid, balanced game for KC's offense. That impressive offense plays a big part in my predictions this week:

1. Pittsburgh holds opponents to 139.6 passing yards per game this season, which is the league's lowest average by a full 20 yards. Current MVP front-runner Alex Smith is deftly commanding the league's 8th-best pass-attack and 2nd-best overall offense, so despite my expectations for a big day for Kareem Hunt, I also predict that Smith will gain at least 175 yards through the air.

2. Let's just make my expectations for Hunt to dominate into an official prediction: Kareem will have his fifth game with at least 100 rushing yards this season, and he'll break off a long run for at least 35 yards. This should lead KC to a 30-20 victory.

3. Marcus Peters isn't all that bad, right? I predict that he'll bounce back with a strong performance at and least one pick today, which will help us all get over this "attitude problem" stuff quickly. Don't forget that this guy who people seem to despise right now is the same guy that everyone wanted to hug when he ripped the football out of Kelvin Benjamin's monstrous hands and stole a game for us in Carolina last season. Peters didn't break any laws or hurt anyone as far as I know, so as far as I care, I just want to see him shut down half the field and ball-hawk his way to more pick-sixes. Don't let his apparent attitude problems stop you from enjoying his awesomeness to the fullest, this week and every week.

Doug LaCerte still has a Facebook page for some reason, and he still uses Twitter @DLaC67.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Can KC Stay Hot in Houston?

The 2-2 Houston Texans host your undefeated Kansas City Chiefs just hours from now, and it's shaping up to be a close, tense game. Vegas considers KC the favorite by 2 or 2 1/2 points, with a spread between 44 and 45. If all goes well, fans in Kansas City could enjoy the Chiefs winning against a tough opponent the same night they enjoy the New York Yankees getting swept out of the postseason. Loving your hometown teams is really the only better sports-inspired emotion than hating the Yankees.

The Chiefs come into NRG Stadium tonight with the only unblemished record in football, but they're once again facing a serious challenge in a primetime game. These two teams have history, and they both have great potential to end the regular season as one of the league's best teams. Let's look over the biggest factors in tonight's game while I give my three quick predictions:

1. Deshaun Watson's performance tonight will go a long way in deciding the winner, so KC's ability to disrupt his effectiveness could be what keeps your Chiefs undefeated. The Texans have allowed their QB to be hit 29 times, which is the 7th-most in football. The Chiefs, for comparison's sake, have seen Smith get hit 25 times, which is 13th in the league. Both offenses feature QB's with remarkable mobility, but both defensive fronts are among the league's scariest.

I'd bet on KC to hold Watson and the Texans to waaay less than the 57 points they scored last Sunday, partly by making the rookie quarterback uncomfortable. Despite the absence of Dee Ford this week, expect at least four QB hits from a combination of Justin Houston, Chris Jones and KC's aesthetically terrifying rookie edge rusher Tanoh Kpassagnon.

2. KC ranks 4th league-wide in turnover differential at +5, while Houston sits at an even 0. Most analysts are calling for a close game tonight, so expect the winner of the turnover battle to win the game. Alex Smith is almost-inexplicably the league's best QB right now, and he's yet to throw a pick, so he should give his team the edge in that turnover battle tonight.

3. Numerous injuries to KC's offensive line makes them additionally susceptible to the Texans' formidable defense tonight. Andy Reid knows this, however, and he'll plan accordingly. Expect the quick-moving, shovel-passing, option-happy Chiefs play-calling to continue its consistent success and earn KC a hard-fought victory. Chiefs win, 20-16.

(Bonus prediction: Carlos Carrasco throws a gem for the Indians tonight, and the Yankees lose 5-2. Stupid Yankees.)

Doug LaCerte still  fails to use his Facebook or consistently tweet @DLaC67, but he's trying, damn it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Skins Could Make it Close in KC

Our Kansas City Chiefs are off to one of their best starts in franchise history, but the Washington Redskins team they'll face tonight looks impressive. Washington dropped their season opener 30-17 against a pesky Philadelphia Eagles team that played KC strong to the very last snap. The Skins then beat a surprisingly solid Los Angeles Rams team 27-20, then crushed the Oakland Raiders 27-10 last week.

In that latest game, Washington looked more-than-worthy of respect. Kirk Cousins completed 25 of his 30 pass attempts for 365 yards and 3 touchdowns, while the Redskins defense held Oakland to only 128 total yards. However, that same defense looked mediocre before last week's game, allowing at least 332 yards to both of their previous opponents.

They'll face some solid competition tonight, but the stats back up KC's legitimacy to this point. The New England Patriots just supplanted KC as the league's highest-ranked offense, all while taking an L against the Carolina Panthers yesterday. KC still holds the #2 spot for highest yards-per-game average, and they're still comfortably leading the league in rushing yards per game.

That should translate into a victory for KC, but this remarkable Redskins defense won't make it easy tonight at Arrowhead. KC's league-leading rushing yards-per-game average is 162, but Washington's rush defense allows an average of just 62.3 yards per game. Only two teams hold their opponents to fewer yards per game this season, and only the Broncos hold teams to a lower average of rushing yards.

A stout defense and a legit QB aren't the only Washington assets worth worrying about in this matchup. Arrowhead Pride's Joel Thorman wrote that Washington's highly-touted new play-maker Chris Thompson currently averages 12.96 yards per touch. Although Thompson doesn't play every down, he can make a huge difference on second and third downs, and he also returns kicks. The Chiefs' ability to stop Thompson from making any game-changing plays could decide the winner of tonight's game.

It could all come down to whether or not KC's "bend-don't-break" style of defense continues to pay off. Only five teams in the NFL allow more yards per game than Kansas City, but only seven teams hold their opponents to fewer points per game. Your Chiefs are currently the best football team in the universe because they're hitting home runs on offense and stopping them on defense. I hope you like segues, because that leads me to my three quick predictions for tonight's game:

1. Each team will break off a gain of at least 50 yards. Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith both look very comfortable throwing downfield right now. The emergence of our guy Kareem Hunt and Washington's Chris Thompson adds factors on both sides of the ball that can change games instantly. If not for some clutch KC defense so far this year, I'd say this game could turn into a shootout.

2. Vegas puts the over/under for tonight's game at 48.5. I'm wrong every damn time I pick overs, and both these defenses are solid, albeit in very different ways, so I'm picking the under tonight. I'm once again putting faith in KC's defense to keep making big stops in the red-zone, because if they don't, this prediction will probably go badly for me.

3. If all goes well, we'll see another balanced attack with Hunt and Smith that helps KC continue their winning ways. The Chiefs will win a close, exciting game, 24-23, and stand alone as the only 4-0 team in football.

Doug LaCerte neglects his Facebook slightly more than he neglects Twitter @DLaC67.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

3 Quick Predictions for KC in Week 3

The Chiefs and Chargers kick off at the StubHub Center just moments from now. Here are my three quick predictions for Week 3:

1. The Los Angeles Chargers gave up 230 yards through the air to Jay Cutler last week and 219 to Trevor Siemian in Week 1. Alex Smith has thrown for over 250 yards in each of the first two games this year. Smith will continue this success and rack up more passing yards against the Chargers than any other QB this season until Week 8, when the Chargers visit the Patriots.

2. No running back has averaged more than 4.4 yards per carry against the Chargers defense this season. Andy Reid's creative play-calling with Kareem Hunt, and possibly Tyreek Hill, will change that today.

3. The Chiefs have the 10th-highest average of points allowed per game, and only three teams have allowed more yards per game this year. This bend-don't-break stuff could come back to bite us this week. The Chargers scored 21 points against Denver and 17 against Miami, but Philip Rivers and Company could break out any week. I expect San Die-err, uhh, the Chargers, to score more than 21 today. I still predict them to lose to our Chiefs, 27-23.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

KC Can't Sleep on Eagles in Week 2

Don't sleep on these Philadelphia Eagles, Chiefs fans. It may feel like KC can't be beat after that sweet victory in the reigning champs' backyard, but the way the Chiefs and Eagles match up gives us serious potential for a wild game today.

The Eagles defense ranked 13th in yards allowed per game in 2016 and 12th in points allowed. The 2017 squad currently ranks fourth with four sacks. In Week 1, that defense held the Washington Redskins (who ranked 3rd in the NFL in yards per game last year) to just 17 points and 264 total yards. The Eagles blitz often on defense, and their offense revels in attempting deep passes. Carson Wentz' effectiveness at turning those attempts into big gains for Philadelphia will determine the Eagles' ability to stay in this game. That brings me to my three quick predictions:

1. Doug Pederson's game plan will target Chiefs CB Terrance Mitchell numerous times, and it will pay off for a disappointingly big play for Philly at least twice. KC's game plan will counter with plenty of secondary help for Mitchell when Wentz is in passing situations, but he's gonna get burnt. I can just feel it.

2. Kareem Hunt might not break records today, but he should still have a solid outing against a Philadelphia run defense that ranked 15th in rushing yards allowed per game in 2016. New England, for the record, finished 3rd in that category last year, and we all know what Kareem did to them in Foxborough last week. Stopping Eagles DT Fletcher Cox from stuffing up run plays will be crucial today, but Hunt will still rush for at least 80 yards and finish the day with more than 100 yards total.

3. I think we'll see more of a shootout than Vegas predicts. Because of a greater potential for turnovers, potent passing offenses on both sides of the ball and a KC defense that will sorely miss Eric Berry and Steven Nelson, I predict a 30-24 Chiefs victory.

Doug LaCerte still kinda uses Twitter @DLaC67, and he barely, barely looks at his ole' Facebook any more.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

KC Faces Predictably Tough Task in Week 1

All the experts think the Chiefs are gonna lose tonight. You already know that. You've probably already heard that stat about how Tom Brady is 579-1 or whatever when facing AFC opponents in Week 1 home games (50-1 since 2007, actually). You've probably also heard that Andy Reid is nigh-unstoppable when given extra time to plan for his next opponent. KC looks good, but the defending champs look better than they did last season. All this adds up to something fun but predictable - a close game and a victory for New England - unless the Chiefs' defense can force enough turnovers to break the game.

How can the Chiefs blow minds tonight by beating the defending champs in their own backyard? If they can, which they probably can't, it will come down to turnovers. The sad truth for fans in the Kingdom comes when you look at last year's turnover rates; sure, our Chiefs finished tied for first place in turnover differential, but New England finished third. Tom Brady knows he shouldn't throw in Marcus Peters' direction when under duress. He knows Justin Houston is coming for him. It's just illogical to bet against the best quarterback ever, especially when you don't have a fully healthy secondary.

If KC doesn't break the game with an obscene turnover rate, or maybe some special teams chaos, New England should win by 3-13 points. Right now is a horrible time to place your #2 cornerback on the IR. Bob Sutton says it will be a team effort to fill Steven Nelson's shoes tonight, which means there isn't a perfect plan in place, which means Brady will have more ways to pick apart KC's defense. That's, uhh, not good new for the Kingdom.

Despite the reigning champions' clear advantage here, I'm mostly dismissing an overhyped element in this game. I won't put too much into the narrative of the Patriots getting extra gametime mojo tonight just because they're donning their Super Bowl rings in front of apparent archnemesis Roger Goodell. It's a tired story by this point, and whoever's returning from last year's Super Bowl-winning roster had an offseason to reflect and celebrate. If anything, this gives KC a good reason to embrace that eternal sports cliche of having that chip on their shoulders, or collective shoulder, I guess? Whatever. It's an awful cliche. Point is, the Chiefs get to be underdogs, while still being one of the 2-5 best teams in the AFC.

The Star's Sam Mellinger did well to point out that this game is a kind of blessing, in that if KC wins, holy crap, and if KC loses, nobody's devastated or shocked. The Chiefs' playoff hopes remain very strong no matter what happens tonight. If they actually pull off the improbable and beat the champs - the modern era Yankees of the NFL - on their own turf, mere moments after they receive their rings, then this Kansas City Chiefs team will reach a level of confidence never before seen this century.

That sets the stage for the Chiefs and the Kingdom, alike to embrace the "nothing to lose" mindset for tonight's game. I predict a 27-20 loss, but if this thing stays close for more than two quarters, we'll still remember it for a long time. Consider tonight's game fuel for the rest of the season, regardless of the outcome.

Doug will try hard not to neglect his Twitter account @DLaC67, but he'll definitely keep neglecting his Facebook page.