The Chiefs have won 5 of their last 6 games despite having their starting quarterback Trent Green out for all but three games. The Chiefs currently hold one of the wildcard spots but only 2 games behind the Chargers; no one has given up hope of a division title. This is a must win game for the one of the hottest teams in football.
The Browns are circling the wagons after last Sunday. Head coach Romeo Crennel has been placed in a horrible situation. His team has played hard all year but came up just short. We saw the promise of what was to come and possibly a Panthers like turnaround in the near future.
The sideline blow up refocused the attention from the perception of a young team growing and coming together to a team that is 3-8 and out of control. It is not fair to the team or Romeo to judge him on the actions of one player. That however is happening whether it is fair or not.
Many players came forward this week in their support of Coach Crennel, along with general manager Phil Savage. Words are great but actions speak much louder than words. If the players want Coach Crennel on the sidelines next year, play like it this year.
The seeds have been sown for this team to completely implode. If Coach Crennel can turn the negative into a positive then this can be a rallying point. Use the "us against the world mentality" to solidify team chemistry.
The Kansas City Chiefs have replaced the Dick Vermeil offense with a dynamic rushing attack that is designed to punish defenders. This is an offense that will only improve during this the final stretch of the season. When defenders are bruised and battered from a long season, the last thing they want is to face a physical offensive line and a running back like Larry Johnson.
Larry Johnson currently leads the NFL in rushing yards. Larry is a truly special running back. He is special because he has break away speed in a 230 pound frame. He has tremendous power in his legs. Combine these factors with excellent balance and what you get is one of the most dangerous backs in the NFL.
When profiling backs the first thing that I look for is balance and watching Larry is a thing of beauty. He can take the vicious hit and never loses his footing. He will slide with the impact. Plant his feet and he is off to the races. Relying on the solo tackle to stop this monster back is fool's gold.
The key to stopping Larry Johnson is a gang mentality. Hit him low and hold on for the ride until help comes.
Paving the way for Larry Johnson is one of the best offensive lines in football. The Chiefs always manage to put together an elite offensive line. This is an experienced group that takes pride in not only keeping their quarterback upright but also in wearing down defensive linemen with the running game.
Kyle Turley has been the biggest surprise of this group. Turley is one of the smallest linemen in the league but he has been tremendous at solidifying the right side of the line. He has stonewalled defenders all year and just brings a different attitude to this group.
Quarterback Trent Green suffered a vicious hit against the Bengals during the opening week. The hit would sideline for the next 8 weeks, while he recovered from the concussion.
Coach Herm Edwards is protecting his pro bowl quarterback by asking him to simply move the chains and not to carry the team. Trent is capable of putting up huge numbers but that is no longer what the Chiefs are about. They can still spread the ball around especially when they shift into their hurry up offense but this is a run-first and run-second team.
The return of tight end Tony Gonzales is a must for this offense down the stretch. Tony is the complete tight end. Everyone talks about his ability to make the big catch but it is his blocking that makes him special. Tony loves to block.
If you want to see textbook blocking from the tight end position, observe Tony Gonzales. He not only blocks well at the line in picking up the blitz or chipping the defensive end but he is tremendous at blocking into the 2nd level. He keeps his body in position to shield the direction of the run. This is becoming a lost art as many tight ends get into the 2nd level but they tend to forget where the running back is coming from, that mistake leads to a holding penalty, instead of a huge gain.
The Chiefs receivers are having a down year, due to the change in philosophy on offense. They are however still very capable of making the big play especially coming off of the play action fake. Eddie Kennison holds back on his tremendous speed in order to set up the defensive back for the big strike down the field. He is one of those receivers that run routes hard but he holds back that extra gear until he sees opportunity.
Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is a bit of a mad scientist. He excels at confusing quarterbacks. He will show blitz and drop players back into the short routes. He will set up the short zone and send everyone just before the snap. His defensive is a great learning experience for any young quarterback as it requires the quarterback to speed up his reads.
The Chiefs defense no longer brings the blitz on every play. This is due to a tremendous overhaul of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
The front 4 has been outstanding for the Chiefs. The defensive tackles aren't putting up great numbers but they have controlled the line of scrimmage and forced plays to the outside. On the outside opposing running backs are met with two up and coming defensive ends.
Jareed Allen is coming into his own. He is tremendous at sliding with the run and has a quick first step that has allowed him to gain inside position on the left tackle. Allen isn't blessed with the great athleticism that you expect from defensive ends but he is intelligent and makes few mistakes.
Rookie defensive end, Tamba Hali is a force versus the run but he has also shown pass rush ability. Tamba will be a difficult match up for any of the Browns offensive tackles. He has enough speed to get outside the tackle but his outside move is more of a setup move than actually getting to the quarterback.
When the tackle makes the mistake of setting his feet too early in protecting the outside move, Tamba uses sheer power to drive the tackle into the lap of the quarterback. He isn't producing huge sack numbers but he is providing excellent pressure and forcing the quarterback into making the poor throw.
The Chiefs linebackers are run to the ball defenders. They have exceptional speed across the board led by outside linebacker Derrick Johnson. Johnson is a playmaker in every since of the word. He can make the solo tackle, cover the tight end and strip the ball with ease. Whenever you have the ball you must protect it with both hands or it is coming out.
The Chiefs secondary consist of experience and talent. Ty Law, Patrick Surtain, Greg Wesley and Sammy Knight combine for 29 years of NFL experience. They may not have the speed they had a few years ago but this group can dominate a game by not making the big mistake. They don't allow receivers to beat them deep. They play a wall off approach keeping everything in front of them.
If the quarterback telegraphs the pass, they will jump the route with ease. If the quarterback gets greedy, they will make him pay. If the quarterback hangs out the receiver, they will unload.
The Browns offense is struggling to put it kindly. The most troubling aspect is that the only position that seems to be solidified within the offense is the tight end position. The Browns are not running the ball well. They are not passing the ball well. The offensive line is neither pass blocking nor run blocking effectively. Receivers are not finishing routes. Running backs are out of position and completely missing their blitz assignments.
Quarterback Charlie Frye now has 16 games under his belt but the progression is not where we hoped it would be. The game is still too fast for the young quarterback which leads to most of his struggles. As I have stated many times this year, at some point the game will slow down for Charlie and when it does the hectic flow of the game should disappear.
All young quarterbacks go through this process and while it is frustrating to watch, it is a process that must be completed. Facing this defense will be difficult for Charlie but it could be the game that breaks the rookie syndrome.
With right tackle Ryan Tucker out for the season, the Browns find themselves in a bad situation but it may be time to test some of the young offensive linemen. Frankly they could not do any worse than what we have seen from some of the starters.
If rookie Isaac Sowells has anything to offer, now would be a good time to insert the young man into the left guard position. If Nat Dorsey is ever going to be more than a backup, now would be a good time insert him into the right tackle position. It is a tough decision to make but young players need experience and when the veterans aren't getting it done and there is no chance for the playoffs, it is time to find out what you have.
Reuben Droughns should be ready to take back the majority of carries this week. Reuben has been disappointing this year but his physical style of running will be needed against the Chiefs. He can set the tone for the offense by punishing defenders and absorbing some of the pressure from the back of Charlie Frye.
Charlie will look to use his tight ends quiet a bit this week. The Chiefs play the run to the ball style of defense which does allow for the short gains. If tight end Kellen Winslow is allowed to catch those cheap dump offs, he will have a huge day. He is difficult to bring down in the open field. Kellen has also put together his best games when facing teams with the great tight end. Facing Tony Gonzales should be all the motivation needed for another tremendous performance.
The defense will have its hands full this week trying to contain Larry Johnson. The defensive line must control the line of scrimmage and allow the linebackers an opportunity to fill the holes. Big Ted Washington is the key to this game. If Ted is able to shut down the middle, the Browns will have success.
Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson had his breakout game last week against the Bengals. He shot through the gaps and made plays against the run. His coverage was solid. Jackson just seemed to control everything near the line of scrimmage. It was one of the best performances that I have seen by a Browns linebacker in some time.
Andra Davis is also having his best year as a Brown. His numbers are down but it isn't always about the number. He is showing tremendous improvement at playing with discipline and filling the gaps. Plays are being redirected because those gaps are being filled by the two inside backers.
Outside linebackers Willie McGinnest and rookie Kamerion Wimbley must control the outside run. Larry Johnson has that bounce out ability when there is nothing in the middle. By using a controlled pass rush, they will be able to seal the outside on the way to the quarterback. If they sell out to early, it becomes a footrace.
Sean Jones is having a special year and should be a strong pro bowl consideration. He has brought new life to the safety position for the Browns. He has shown the ability to blitz the quarterback, support the run and make plays on the football. Not only will he often be asked to cover Tony Gonzales one on one but his run support is vital. Jones is excellent in making the solo tackle.
The key for the Browns defense is to get off the field. The Browns do not have the depth to give up long sustained drives and still be effective in the 4th quarter. If they can keep the Chiefs in third and long, it will go a long way in deciding this one.
The Browns have the best special teams unit in football. They have managed to put the Browns offense in great position, while keeping opposing offenses pinned back. Josh Cribbs and Dennis Northcutt are having tremendous years as special teams' aces. The Chiefs are suspect in the return game and will give up the big one.
The Chiefs are on a playoff run and need this one to stay in that hunt. Any slip up in the AFC and you may be watching the playoffs from home, even with a 10 win season.
The Browns are coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh and total disaster against the Bengals. They also play the Steelers on Thursday night. It will be a difficult game simply from an emotional standpoint.