The Kansas City Chiefs were handed their first loss on Sunday but they haven’t lost too much respect from the rest of the league and it’s fans. The Chiefs held their own as they kept the Colts’ offense at bay, generated a quick drive at the end of the first half and stayed with the Colts for most of the game. Some called it the Chiefs most impressive game but a loss to me isn’t impressive. The Chiefs showed that they do indeed have the ability to compete against a superior opponent.
Before the season started, I had written about how the Chiefs could take steps forward by improving facets of their game to average. One of the most important facets of the game is the pass rush and the Chiefs have made some strides in that area. The rest of the defense appears to be solid, the special teams are an asset, the offensive line is impressive and the running game is strong. The only thing the Chiefs don’t do well is pass the ball and convert third downs. The Chiefs rank 27th in passing yards per game and 29th in 3rd down conversions. While the Chiefs won’t be the best passing teams in the league, they at least need to figure out how to extend drives by converting on third down.
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These weaknesses can be attributed to Matt Cassel but it isn’t completely his fault. However, the majority of the blame should be attributed to him because this is the NFL. He is the quarterback and he has sucked. Wide receivers are going to drop passes for any quarterback. The Colts wide receivers did so for Peyton Manning last Sunday. Completion percentages for NFL quarterbacks should be in the 60′s but that doesn’t mean that the quarterback can get away with making good throws 60% of the time. Forget how wrong it was for Todd Haley to go for 4th and 2 (and Haley burnt a time out) on the first real Chiefs possession of the game, can anyone tell me whether Matt Cassel was throwing to Dwayne Bowe in triple coverage or was he trying to hit Tony Moeaki behind Bowe but his throw fell drastically short? Taking that risk is a luxury afforded to a team with a quarterback that can make that pass.
The limiting factor in the passing game (and the team’s success) is Matt Cassel yet I don’t know if Cassel can be hidden once the regular season ends. That is what the coaching staff is going to have to do though. Todd Haley attempted to to defend Matt Cassel this week but his attempt was a feeble one and him saying that Cassel should be judged on the win-loss record is off-base and it flies in the face of Haley’s “right 53″ message. Cassel is going to get some opportunities to bolster his confidence. This Football Outsiders article suggests that the passing game invariably stands to improve because the Chiefs next five opponents have horrible pass defenses.
Cassel may have to be hidden against teams with great pass defenses but this is the time where the Chiefs should test their abilities on what they can do. This is a gift that Cassel and the Chiefs might never receive again. I want to see more confidence built in Cassel and the receivers because the next five opposing teams, the Chiefs’ offensive lineman and the NFL rulebook are enabling the Chiefs to throw the ball well. I don’t care how far Charlie Weis wants to throw it; I just want them to find out what they can do and improve themselves. Cassel may not take a leap to greatness but he can be an average QB in this league by the end of the season.
Moving on to today’s game, the Chiefs face a similar opponent to the Colts in the Houston Texans. Matt Schaub is not Peyton Manning but Andre Johnson is the best wideout, Arian Foster is a machine and the Texans defense is better than the Colts defense. The Texans have OLB Brian Cushing back which makes them even stronger. The Texans have a long list of injured players but the Chiefs will be facing many of the better ones on the list. Bernard Pollard will be lurking in the secondary today against his former team. Pollard was a class act in his interview and Haley was probably being honest but his decision, for the record, was wrong (at least concerning last year’s team).
If you liked last week’s test, today’s should be just as compelling. The Chiefs aren’t done if they lose to the Texans because the Chiefs are superior to every other team on the schedule hereafter (not a plug) except for the San Diego Chargers and the Tennessee Titans and these two teams are comparable in caliber to the Chiefs. A loss will make it difficult for the Chiefs to shake the reputation as a team that is benefiting from a soft league and a soft schedule. As it stands today, the Chiefs still don’t seem to have the ability to score touchdowns via offensive drives on the road. They are capable of doing so but I am leaning towards them not being able to get it done.
Today, I am keeping my eye on Tony Moeaki (because he may be one of the better tight ends in the league and we just don’t know for sure yet and he may be covered well by Cushing), Tyson Jackson (because it’s clear the Chiefs don’t need him to start but I think he can still contribute when he gets on the field again) and the cornerbacks named Brandon (because they are both impressive and one of them is going to be taking on Andre Johnson if he plays). Ryan O’Callaghan might “get his spot back” at right tackle but I doubt that happens.
Who will you be watching today? Feel free to chime in and thanks for reading!
Update 10:42 CT: Here is the list of inactive players for today’s game. I guess instead of Tyson Jackson, we’re going to watch Shaun Smith snatching nuts. Chris Chambers being out is a bit of a surprise but I think Jackson being out is even more surprising considering he practiced all week. Oh well….