Sunday, September 14, 2014

3 Things KC Must Do to Win in Denver


So we got this, right guys? Total trap-game, right? The Kansas City Chiefs bring a deflated team to Denver in the coming hours, and most would consider their chances to be sigh-inducingly slim. What can KC do to make this game competitive, or even pull off a stunner at Mile-High? Well, sadly, the gameplan for victory this Sunday involves some awfully lofty goals. If KC ends the day with a seemingly miraculous 1-1 record, a lot of things will have gone very, very right. Here are the three things that must happen for KC to win this afternoon:

 

3- Jamaal Charles gets 15 touches or more for 150 yards or more.

Andy Reid took some well-deserved flak for Jamaal having only 11 touches in Week 1, but he also deserves credit for being candid and honest about his failure in that regard. It should be clear that Reid will make #25 more of the offensive gameplan this time around, but a struggling offensive line must also succeed in giving their star player a seam on running downs. Despite this being the easiest goal on this list to accomplish, it’s far from a safe bet against an improved Denver defense that now includes Vince Wilfork stuffing up the center of the field.

 

2- Chiefs win the turnover ratio by at least +2.

Shaun Smith and Marcus Cooper are both polarizing starters in KC’s secondary that sometimes get burnt and sometimes make incredible, game-changing plays. As fans, we can only hope that we get the good side of that coin today. If first ballot Hall of Famer Peyton Manning helps us out with some errant passes, nobody in the Kingdom will complain, but the Chiefs clearly aren’t banking on that. To force turnovers, KC needs to go out and get them. This means pressuring Manning to get rid of the ball early and allowing the aforementioned guys in the secondary to go after that pick-six with reckless abandon. Maybe with a better team on paper KC would avoid such a rogue gameplan, but not this year, and especially not today.

 

1- Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dontari Poe combine for 3 or more sacks on Manning.

With the dreadful loss of both Mike Devito and Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs absolutely must see their other big-name defensive players step up if they want to be anything close to relevant this season. Multiple sacks, especially early in the game, can keep Peyton uncomfortable and lessen the chance of huge plays against that unproven secondary. KC’s chances to pull this off will begin and end at the line of scrimmage.

 

It’s an important sports day in KC, what with the Royals continuing their playoff race and the rival Detroit Tigers playing a day-game as well. Today could be remembered as a shining moment for both clubs, or the beginning of the end of their respective seasons.   

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wait...Is It Football Season?

The recent success of the Kansas City Royals got me thinking about something strange regarding this 2014 Chiefs season. In my limited time as a sports journalist, doom and gloom and disappointment made up at least a slight majority of the job. Despite reaching the playoffs in the first year of the Reid/Dorsey regime in 2013, we all know what happened to end that dream and leave us all with nightmares all through the offseason. At this point, it's too late to go back and reminisce on that historically pathetic defeat, but last Sunday the Tennessee Titans helped to prolong the pang of pain in the gut of every Chiefs fan.

As the Chiefs stumbled out of the regular season gates, I switched back channels continuously to my first place Royals as they held the Bronx Bombers scoreless on Derek Jeter Day. KC won that important series and claimed their first season series win against the New York Yankees since 1999. With the Royals now nearing the middle of September with a great chance to make the playoffs, I started to wonder if all my experience reacting to disappointment and failure would wind up going unused this year. Thanks to our Kansas City Chiefs, I now have no need to worry.

The first half of KC's first game mostly told the story of rust and regression. It all began promisingly enough- Jamaal scampered untouched for a smooth first down on KC's first drive. Dustin Colquitt buried the opposing offense inside their own ten yard-line, as he so often does, and Tennessee's first snap resulted in a false start in front of a wild Arrowhead crowd. Even when Cairo Santos bounced in his first NFL field goal, we thought KC could shake it off and be happy with a slim early lead. The Chiefs did follow this up with a long completion to promising TE Travis Kelce, after all. Then, there goes Santos again for attempt #2...

From that doink on, KC's numerous questionable areas of the roster were exposed. An apparently downgraded secondary eventually gave way to a single touchdown that gave the Titans the lead, if only because of Kansas City's complete failure to reach the end-zone. Chiefs fans had a few positives to take to halftime- most of them being sacks from key defensive stars- but the second half failed to bring amy significant improvement from the offense.

This team isn't as awful as many Chiefs fans will believe following this ugly loss, but there's a fundamental problem with making that argument; I still don't think the Chiefs are good enough to make a playoff run this year. This season's schedule, as we'll review in the coming week, is undeniably harsh, and nobody can seem to find an area in which KC legitimately improved their roster. It's no wonder to me why I keep trailing off mentally during analysis of this blowout to daydream about the next Royals game.

Here's the good news: the Chiefs held a sneaky-good Titans offense scoreless for over thirty minutes of game-time. The bad news was, you know, the rest of the game. The worse news is the terrifying feasibility of the Chiefs falling into a huge hole early this season. Kansas City's next six opponents include five playoff teams from last season and the Miami Dolphins, who just beat New England by double-digits. This goes without mentioning the two awful, season-ending injuries to Mike Devito and Derrick Johnson.

Losing in such an embarrassing fashion surprised many, but to avoid falling to 0-7, the Chiefs have to pull off an equally surprising upset against a superior opponent. So, why not do it next week in Denver? Stay tuned in the next few days for analysis of that upcoming inspirational upset victory/ humiliating bloodbath defeat.

Doug LaCerte operates this blog, writes for Rant Sports and occasionally speaks of himself in third-person for the sake of fake professionalism. Feed his fickle ego by following him on Twitter @DLaC67, troll him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google, because they're gonna make you use that shit, anyway.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Luck Be a Lady Today, I Hope

A week after Jamaal Charles ran rampant on the Raiders, KC comes home for their last regular season game at Arrowhead. In what is probably a playoff matchup preview, the Chiefs welcome Andrew Luck and Indy to the snowy wasteland of Kansas City. Both teams say they won't save anything for the playoffs, and both teams are justified in their lies. Nonetheless, this game still has a chance of affecting playoff seeding for KC and Indy, so both teams will be going 100%.

For a division champ, the Colts are unremarkable. They rank 22nd in overall offense and 19th in defense league-wide, but Andrew Luck's 21/9 TD/INT ratio has helped to keep them in games, and his prowess as a comeback cultivator pushed them to a 9-5 record. Only five teams in the NFL have given up less sacks than Indy, which has allowed the talented youngster to stay accurate and smart in the pocket. Although he's harder to hate than any Raider, forcing Luck to fail today is historically relevant in a way that a win against Oakland could never be.

Not since the Montana years have the Chiefs won a playoff game, and today they're matched up against their probable opponent in this year's first round. A win today encourages a team and a fan base enough to think a deep playoff run is possible and a win in the first round is probable. Just try to wrap your head around how big a difference that is from how you felt as a fan this time last year. It looks like KC's Santa Claus is actually a Mormon with a walrus-style mustache.

Here are today's five predictions:

1- Indy upgraded their core of offensive skill players this offseason, but they're still mediocre at best without Reggie Wayne. T.Y Hilton will be today's biggest threat, and the Chiefs know it. KC will force Luck to beat them by spreading the ball around or running through them. Expect Luck to give four Colts not named Hilton at least two receptions each today.

2- Robert Mathis is the only linebacker in the league with more sacks than Tamba Hali or Justin Houston. Look for Smith to get dropped by this beefy, underrated vet at least once today.

3- Although Luck's been well-protected and kept picks to a minimum, he still fumbles the ball too often. In 30 NFL starts, he's fumbled the ball 15 times. Look for DC Bob Sutton to send a blind-side blitz that causes a key turnover today.

4- Because of Indy's familiarity with Donnie Avery, who played with the Colts last season, his production will be limited. The entire passing game, in fact, will be stymied by today's snowy, icy conditions in Kansas City. That leaves the door open for 25 to strengthen his bid for Offensive MVP. The Colts have the league's 27th ranked rushing defense, so look for Jamaal to average more than 6 yards per carry in this game.

5- Thanks to favorable weather conditions, a fantastic home field advantage and an offense that's finding its stride, the Chiefs should come out with a win today. KC wins 30-24 in a gritty, exciting ball game. At least that's what I'm hoping, since only a Broncos loss to Houston or Oakland can make next week anything more than a meaningless scrimmage in San Diego.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A New Reason To Hate

Thanks to a Denver defeat on Thursday, the rest of the regular season just became a hell of a lot more interesting for Chiefs Kingdom. KC is again technically tied with the Broncos atop the AFC West, but they'll need to win out and witness another Denver loss to claim that sexy #2 seed. That makes this afternoon's game in Oakland far more relevant than most Raider Haters imagined it would be entering the week. After a borderline-pitiful trouncing of the Redskins, KC should be coming into The Pit or The Black Zone or whatever with plenty of confidence on the offensive side of the ball. Don't tell me what they call it. I don't care.

This Chiefs offense has finally started to find their rhythm in the last few games. Regardless of what many will say about a lethargic effort from Washington last week, KC has been playing their best offense of the year, ever since that exciting but ultimately infuriating loss to San Diego. It's no surprise that Jamaal Charles' best rushing performance of the year coincided with the Chiefs' highest scoring game. Thanks to some relentless early-game scoring, the Redskins' chance of winning dropped below 1% in less than 20 minutes of game-time (according to the game's Win Probability graph.)

The defense obviously did their part, holding a listless Redskins offense to 10 points and 257 yards and sacking RGIII five times. Last week's game and this weeks game, alike should serve as confidence boosters for the Chiefs D, as well as further proof that they can succeed without Justin Houston – against subpar opponents, at least. The real test will come when Houston is healthy and facing off against Andrew Luck and the Colts, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. For now, there is still plenty of friendly, good-hearted competition to be had with those highly-respected and well-renowned Oakland Raiders.

With another loss last week, Oakland guaranteed themselves another losing season and a full decade of being losers. The Raiders haven't recorded a winning season since 2002, which is a stat that makes any jokes about them just seem cheap at this point. That's not like kicking a man while he's down, it's like kicking a crippled, syphilitic old woman after she falls down the stairs. So, I refuse to stoop to that level. No talk about their embarrassing QB situation, not from me. No mentioning their loss earlier this season against the same team KC just dominated last week, no sir or madam. I'm better than that.

Here are my five predictions for today's game.

1- Most KC fans are confident in their defense by this point, especially when Houston returns, so it seems clear that the offense's improvement will largely determine their chance of success in the playoffs. Only 8 teams give up more points per game than Oakland, which means this game shouldn't be much of a test. Nonetheless, the Chiefs need to avoid playing down to their competition and dominate this game. Expect KC to extend their 3-game streak of scoring 30+ points.

2- Not to be outdone by Knile Davis' franchise record-tying return, Quintin Demps brought one back in Washington to give KC the most touchdowns from kickoff and punt returns of anyone in the league. While they may not get a chance to return another one this afternoon (if the Raiders are smart), they should still dominate on special teams. Look for KC to average at least 8 more yards per return than Oakland.

3- The surprisingly decent Matt McGloin will get his fifth start today. Expect him to complete at least 58% of his passes, but also expect a KC defender, maybe Marcus Cooper, to bait him into an interception.

4- While McGloin has been mildly successful, Oakland's offensive line still struggles to keep him safe in the pocket. The Raider's O-Line has allowed the 5th-most sacks in the NFL. Expect Tamba to get at least one of at least 5 sacks on the Raider rookie QB today.


5- It would only make sense, in a frustratingly poetic kind of way, for the Chiefs to lose today. Regardless of their record and overall hopelessness, the Raiders are going to want this game bad. Beating their playoff-bound rivals in Oakland is probably the last thing the Raiders have to play for this season. However, that Thursday loss from Denver should be enough to keep KC playing hard and staying focused against inferior competition. Chiefs win, 30-17, and hope for that #2 seed stays alive for at least another week.

Doug LaCerte runs this blog and writes for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @DLaC67, send him your distasteful Raiders jokes on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Welcoming the Return of Winning Ways in Washington

Okay Chiefs fans, time to move on from all that Denver drama. Believe it or not, the regular season continues this Sunday, and the Washington Redskins have no sympathy for KC's recent woes. The last three games were all hard-fought losses that shouldn't shake KC's personality as a football team overall. A loss to the struggling Redskins could send the Chiefs on a desperate search for their lost identity.

Washington struggles defensively and through the air on offense, but their rushing game is at the top of the league. A combination of RGIII and Alfred Morris makes Washington the #1 ranked running team in the NFL. It's a poetic sign of the times that this elite rushing attack has earned the Skins a 3-9 record and a firm grasp of last place in their division. Griffin has thrown 11 picks this year, and an uninspiring offensive line has allowed him to be sacked 15 times in the last 3 games.

While the QB deserves much of the blame since he will always earn the credit for success, but RGIII shouldn't be the only Redskin held accountable. AdvancedNFLStats.com ranks only one Redskin receiver within the top 75 (Pierre Garcon at #20) in order of Win Probability Added. For the sake of comparison, three Chiefs receivers rank in the top 75, but all of them (Avery, Bowe and McCluster, in that order) rank below Garcon. With both teams boasting strong running games and iffy pass attacks, viewers of tomorrow's game can expect the clock to keep running and this game to move very quickly.

Here are my five predictions for Sunday's game in Washington:

1- Alfred Morris ranks 6th league-wide in Win Probability Added by a running back. Look for Morris to gain at least 80 yards and Griffin to make up the rest to make it five consecutive games in which KC gave up at least 100 yards on the ground. This should keep the game closer, and lower-scoring, than most would expect.

2- Another matchup that should keep this game competitive is Redskin linebackers vs. Chief offensive tackles. Branden Albert is injured for Sunday's game, leaving Donald Stephenson to fill his place on the line. Stephenson has impressed many in the past few weeks as a fill-in, but the Redskins will do whatever they can to utilize Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan in this game. Although I'm expecting a win, I'm also expecting at least two sacks allowed by KC's offensive line.

3- The Washington defense ranks 23rd in yards allowed per game and gives up the 2nd most points per game in the league. Despite some pressure on Alex Smith, expect the Chiefs to score 30+ points for the third straight week.

4- An angry secondary with a bruised ego should bounce back against a less imposing QB this week. Expect RGIII to give up at least one pick and gain less than 250 yards through the air.

5- After limping into the first face-off with Denver after two ugly games against subpar opponents, the Chiefs were sent reeling on a three-game losing streak. This Sunday, the opposite effect should take place. After standing strong against two powerful teams in three weeks, KC should come into tomorrow's game with plenty of confidence and a huge chip on their shoulder. An emerging Chiefs offense should be able to outscore the struggling Skins. KC finally returns to their winning ways with a 30-20 win in Washington.


Oh, and if you're wondering, KC needs to win out and see Peyton lose twice against the Titans, Chargers, Texans and Raiders in order to reclaim the #2 seed. While the odds aren't in KC's favor, a Denver loss to Tennessee tomorrow could make the rest of the regular season waaay more interesting for fans in the Kingdom. Stay tuned to CBS after tomorrow's noon-time Chiefs game to see if the Broncos can choke enough to keep KC's hopes for a home playoff game alive.

UPDATE: Actually, if you're a SureWest subscriber like myself, you won't be seeing the Broncos game. Instead, CBS will be showing the Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest. Fantastic.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Distillation of Hope

I had admittedly low hopes heading into last Sunday's game against Denver. After joyously shouting at my TV screen through the first 20 minutes of that game, I started to think myself a pessimist. Then, as Manning continued to lob bombs through KC's secondary for score after score, reality set in and confirmed my most pressing fears.

Last week's game was tightly contested, and the offense deserves a bulk of the credit for keeping it close. While the defense gave up 35+ points for the second week in a row, the offense never looked better. With a balanced passing attack and a healthy dose of Jamaal, the Chiefs scored 21 points in 20 minutes and gained 452 yards. Five different Chiefs caught at least 3 passes from a remarkably accurate Alex Smith. Donnie Avery's heartbreaking drops happened, but holy crap, let's just never talk about that.

All the offensive productivity witnessed last Sunday was unfortunately trumped by failure on the defensive side of the ball. An injury-riddled KC defense gave up an embarrassing 535 yards for 35 points against the dreaded Peyton-led offense. While it was nice to see the team get hits on Manning with such a pieced-together blitz game, those moments were few and far between. In the end, the longest play in Chiefs history and a positive turnover ratio still weren't enough to help KC outscore the vaunted Denver offense.

After all their defensive struggles, KC still found themselves within one red-zone reception of tying the game with 1:51 left in the game. Getting that close may have proven some things to Kansas City and its fans, but it didn't earn the team a win.

So is it time to panic, Chiefs Kingdom? After a wondrous, undefeated beginning to the 2013 season, KC is now reeling from three straight losses. Although the sky is not yet falling, the ceiling on expectations for this team has certainly been lowered. The Chiefs are all-but locked into the #5 seed, thanks to that defeat at Arrowhead last Sunday. That means road games in the playoffs, and that means greatly diminished chances for KC's first Super Bowl in more than 40 years.


The Chiefs now need to focus on finishing the season strong. One or two late-season losses against inferior opponents could send the Chiefs limping into the playoffs. If you can remember how that usually turns out for KC, you're probably cringing at the possibility right now. That makes the matchup on every coming Sunday just as important as the last three insanely dramatic games we've just witnessed. Stay tuned for a look at the upcoming face-off with RGIII and the struggling-but-talented Washington Redskins.

Doug LaCerte operates this blog and writes for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DLaC67, "Like" his awesomely cheesy "Feel Good Songs of the Day" on Facebook and add him to your network on Google. Credit for the linked photo goes to GIFD Sports.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Chiefs/Broncos Round 2: An Arduous Attempt at Arrowhead

Well, shit. I didn't see that coming, but who did? Who would have predicted that the Chiefs would lose the cornerstones of their blitz game, and the offense would put up 38 points in a losing effort? Last week's game with the Chargers was about as fun as they get, until the very end. If only the Chiefs could have bled a few more seconds off the clock, we could be talking about a one-loss team with an offense that's finally coming to life. Instead, KC heads into their second game with Denver with some serious doubts and concerns.

If not for some lofty injuries, KC could be looking at this game with confidence in their ability to make things interesting. Unfortunately, after the roster went largely unblemished throughout the first half of the season, the Chiefs will again be seriously hindered today by injuries. Justin Houston will definitely miss this game, and Tamba Hali, Eric Fisher, Jon Asamoah and Mike DeVito are all questionable. Devito missed Friday practice for non-injury reasons, and the rest of the aforementioned players had limited participation in practices throughout the week.

If the Chiefs can make this game close, it could be one for the history books. Do they really have what it takes to limit Peyton with a downgraded defense and make this a tight game? My five predictions inspire less hope than I'd like to admit.


1- KC needs to win the turnover ratio to stop this game from getting out of hand, let alone winning. Their failure to do so over the last two weeks has resulted in KC's only two losses of the season. I'll try for a third time to predict a positive ratio for KC that helps them keep this game close.

2- Jamaal finally went off last week, after getting a chance on some screen passes and getting some holes to shoot through on running downs. Denver isn't stupid enough to let #25 burn them today, so look for other options to come open with much of the attention on Charles. Dexter McCluster and Donnie Avery should combine for at least 6 catches and 150 yards of offensive production this afternoon.

3- The Chiefs have been steadily productive on special teams, but they need to pull out all the stops to win today. Expect one big play to flip the field for KC and keep things tense for Peyton and the Broncos.

4- Whether it's Moreno or Montee Ball at RB, Denver will continue its success with running the ball. DeVito is an undervalued veteran on that defensive line whose impact will be sorely missed on running downs today. Expect Denver to pick up at least 90 yards on the ground against that hobbling KC defense.


5- Without the ability to get pressure on the league's best QB, KC's secondary is bound to struggle. Manning's ability to shred the Chiefs through the air will be the key to a disappointing loss. Peyton throws for at least 375 yards to win 38-24 and hand the Chiefs their third straight loss. Ugh. I'd really love to be wrong about this one.