Behind Enemy Lines: SD vs. KC II

Sandwiched between two games against the red-hot Broncos, the Chiefs have a home date against the slumping Chargers. Is this a trap game for Kansas City? Or a chance to take out some anger after tasting defeat for the first time this season? For this answer and more pre-game coverage, check out this back-and-forth between our team experts.

Michael Lombardo is the publisher of Nick Athan is the publisher of Warpaint Illustrated. To access Part I of their Q&A, where they discuss Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, D.J. Fluker and others, click here.

Michael Lombardo: The Chiefs are coming off their first loss of the season. Do you expect a renewed focus this week or did the Broncos expose some legitimate weaknesses?

Nick Athan: I think the word "expose" is overused. The Chiefs lost to a highly motivated Broncos team that was facing a must-win. Denver threw the kitchen sink at Kansas City and the Chiefs still only lost by 10 points on the road. The return of serve a week from Sunday will ultimately tell if the Chiefs' weaknesses are correctible.

That aside, the Chiefs will be focused on defeating the Chargers Sunday. They were fighting-mad after leaving some opportunities on the field at Denver. This might be one of those games where the Chargers end up taking the brunt of the Chiefs' anger.

ML: The big knock against Kansas City's offense is that it doesn't produce enough explosive plays. Is that a real concern and, if so, what needs to be done to correct the issue?

NA: The Chiefs' offensive woes boil down to one simple item: QB Alex Smith never knows if his receivers are going to catch the ball. With so many drops the last four games, including two on Sunday in Denver that could have resulted in touchdowns, this is a huge area of concern for Andy Reid.

Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery have been less than average as of late. What may occur on Sunday is a return to the running game featuring Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. Should the Chiefs have success running the ball, it may take some of the pressure off the receivers.

Head Coach Andy Reid
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
ML: Alex Smith has been a stabilizing, if unspectacular, presence. Do you believe he is capable of quarterbacking a championship team? Are the Chiefs comfortable with him as the unchallenged starter for the foreseeable future?

NA: Smith is a good quarterback. After all, he does have a 9-1 record and he's been exactly what the Chiefs expected he'd be when they made the offseason trade with San Francisco. The only people who complain about Smith are those that are trying to turn him into a stat-producing quarterback. He's a game-manager. Yes, he needs to take more chances down the field and that's probably something we'll see him do more in the coming weeks. But Reid has constructed an offense with limitations to maximize Smith's ability to run a mistake-free offense.

Now, is that good enough to get the Chiefs to the Super Bowl? Ask me that when the Chiefs face the Chargers in late December to end the regular season.

ML: Kansas City's defense has been dominant this year, led by a ferocious pass rush. What sparked the dramatic turnaround for that unit? Is it safe to say this team will only go as far as this defense can carry it?

NA: Even though statistically the Chiefs defense didn't post better numbers, the last two years had nothing to do with talent. You don't have a unit loaded with Pro Bowl players if they weren't some of the best at their particular positions. However, the last two years under Romeo Crennel, the players just weren't buying into the schemes of their defensive coordinator/head coach.

Under Bob Sutton, the Chiefs' new defensive coordinator, the defenders are held accountable. Sutton has done a remarkable job taking the players he inherited and adding three of his own to make the Chiefs' defense a powerhouse again. Granted, the sacks have died down the last several weeks, but I suspect Sutton will make the changes to get his unit back on track in that regard.

ML: The Chiefs have two games remaining against the Chargers. Does Kansas City need to win both of those games in order to win the division? Who is the favorite right now, the Broncos or Chiefs?

NA: Despite the loss to Denver on Sunday, the Chiefs control their destiny for the division title and for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. But defeating the Chargers -- at least on Sunday -- is critical to keeping that control intact. If they falter against San Diego at Arrowhead this weekend, then they could lose that edge. It's vital to them to win this game and to a man they know what's at stake.

With the Broncos rematch looming a week later, they know this is a must-win game. As far as round two against the Chargers, right now that's not even on the table.

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