The Kansas City Chiefs have put together a two-game winning streak and that is a promising for a team that had only won 10 out of 48 games between the last playoff game and the end of last season. However, I am not calling the Chiefs a playoff team yet. For the Chiefs to get to the playoffs this year, they will have to win at home and beat the teams they should beat.
How will the Chiefs win today’s game? The 49ers are a lot like the Chargers except Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates are better than Alex Smith and Vernon Davis (keep his guarantee in mind) but the Niners defense may be better than the Chargers’ defense. It is still a 3-4 defense but having to run away from Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes (questionable for Sunday) in the middle and also having to watch out for Nate Clements, who will be pestering the Chiefs‘ wide receivers, will be a challenge for the Chiefs offense.
Let’s explore how the Chiefs have arrived at 2-0:
- Turnover Battle: The Chiefs have protected the ball. Matt Cassel has been the only Chiefs player to give up the football (twice). The Chiefs opponents has given the ball up three times, giving the Chiefs a +1 turnover rating. More importantly, the Chiefs have converted the three turnovers into 17 points while not allowing either interception Matt Cassel has made to be converted into points.
- Special Teams: In the first game, the Chiefs returned a punt for a touchdown and had some drives start in Chargers territory as a result of good returns. Special teams weren’t much of an advantage in the Cleveland game but the Chiefs didn’t need it. Nobody doubts that the Chiefs have a potent return game but it’s not something that can be relied upon.
- Strong Running Game: Both games require the Chiefs to guard a slim lead and they kept the ball on the ground. They have dependable power in Thomas Jones and ridiculous speed in Jamaal Charles. You can’t win a Super Bowl running the football anymore but you can win games on the ground. The Chiefs seemed to stash Dexter McCluster away last game. Are they going to let him loose today?
- Discipline: The Chiefs have been the 6th least-penalized team in the NFL this year. Minimizing penalties certainly helped the Chiefs in these two games (and one less third-down Mike Vrabel penalty might have made for an even more impressive day for the defense) but it didn’t help last year’s team as they were the 5th least-penalized team. It is a testament to Todd Haley’s coaching that the team is so disciplined because this team needs every advantage it can get.
The Chiefs have played some efficient football in their two wins but they are going to have to be better. Matt Cassel is going to have to read the field better and release the ball quicker. Charlie Weis is going to have to be more creative and less predictable. I don’t know how correct my thinking is on this but I have a feeling that these first two game plans have been opportunistically conservative where Weis has been “lying in the weeds” (a lot of weeds) and today’s game plan for the Niners game will be a surprise aerial attack. It’s one explanation on how run-heavy and conservative the offense has been.
The Chiefs can be run-heavy if it means Jamaal Charles will get more touches. The coaches may have been conserving Charles and McCluster for this game because last week, they were playing the Browns. On defense, the front seven will have to find a way to bother Alex Smith. Not because he is good but any QB looks good when the defense isn’t pressuring him. Overall, the team has played well but they will have to be better in coming weeks, especially the players who have been overshadowed thus far.
The 49ers will eventually win a game and the Chiefs will lose one but it doesn’t necessarily mean that these outcomes will occur today. I don’t have a good feeling about the game but it is noteworthy that the Niners are travelling, they will be two time zones ahead with the game time at 10 am their time (PST) and they have one less day of practice than the Chiefs. I think that the 49ers are the better team than the Chiefs but this match-up seems even enough that having the home-field advantage should push the game the Chiefs’ way. It’s hard to discount a team that will be as hungry for a win as the Niners though.
I know one thing is for sure: if the Niners win, it won’t be because Mike Singletary out-coached Todd Haley. Iron Mike is a nutcase that I have added to a short but slowly-growing list of coaches that I wouldn’t want to coach the Chiefs instead of Todd Haley. Today’s game feels like it will go into overtime. I have a feeling that we will know more about the Chiefs after this game is over with than we have learned from the first two games. This game will not be handed to the Chiefs; they will have to take it and run away with it.