Chiefs Roundtable: Remaining Perfect at Home?

In our Christmas edition of Warpaint Illustrated's roundtable we tackle your burning questions about the Kansas City Chiefs.

Which of the Chiefs' two upcoming games will be more of a challenge: Tennessee or Oakland?

Nick Athan: No question it's the Titans. You never know how a team that under performs is going to respond late in the season. The Titans are a very dangerous team. In fact, they have the running game and a strong passing attack that could create havoc for the Chiefs.

As in any game this season, the Chiefs must get out in front early and take care of business in the first half by building a large lead against the Titans. Jeff Fisher, despite the fact he's on the hot seat, is still one of the game's best coaches. He could easily devise a game plan that can thwart K.C.'s high-powered offense.

The Raiders, though, aren't as problematic because the Chiefs coaches already know all about them. They know their strengths and weaknesses heading into the season's final game. Hopefully that game will be a tune up for the Chiefs and they can rest their regulars. The last thing K.C. needs is for this game to mean anything.

C.E. Wendler: The Raiders will fight tooth and nail to keep the Chiefs out of the playoffs. Sweeping the division will be a big deal to that team, and that's all they have left to play for. There's no way Tom Cable doesn't have his team up for that game.

To be honest, this matchup scares me, because the Raiders dominated Kansas City's offensive line in Oakland. Throw in the fact that the Raiders will have Zach Miller this time around, not to mention Nnamdi Asomugha, and you have to expect a tight game.

Michael Ash: For now I'll say the Titans, just because we know it's a must-win game. There is a chance, slight though it may be, that the Chiefs will have clinched the division before playing Oakland.

But if we make the likely assumption that the Chiefs will have to win both games, the Raiders are more of a concern. That's not to downplay the Titans at all, but Oakland will be far more motivated than Tennessee to play spoiler and try to ruin the Chiefs' playoff chances.

They also have Darren McFadden, who has been more explosive than Chris Johnson this year. And we can't forget that they've won their last three games at Arrowhead.

Will Romeo Crennel keep up the pressure in the coming weeks like he did against Sam Bradford?

Nick Athan: He has little choice. If the Chiefs are going to define themselves as an aggressive playoff team, they need to keep attacking opposing quarterbacks. They made some solid adjustments in the second quarter, shutting down Bradford and company.

Romeo Crennel has to stay in attack mode the remainder of the regular season.
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However, the key to the pressure and its effectiveness will be the Chiefs ability to play press coverage on the outside. It makes little sense to blitz if your starting corners are playing ten or twelve yards off the line of scrimmage.

Crennel can't play it both ways. It has to be one or the other. If the coverage is tight outside, then they cornerbacks can come up and take away the passing lanes for the receivers they're covering plus those that slip out of the backfield.

C.E. Wendler: I think you'll see him blitz Kerry Collins more than you see him blitz Jason Campbell. The Raiders have too much dangerous speed on offense to contend with, and their pass blocking isn't great to begin with. The Chiefs got a lot of pressure on Campbell in the first match up rushing only four.

Part of the reason the Chiefs blitzed the Rams so much is because that's worked against St. Louis all year. The Saints blitzed Bradford 20+ times the week prior to the Chiefs game.

Michael Ash: I expect that he'll do whatever's right for the situation. Going into the Rams' game, for instance, a lot of talk from the St. Louis side was about blitzing Matt Cassel. The Rams have been a blitz-heavy team this season, but Cassel has been very effective when teams send extra guys. He was coming off his surgery, though, so the debate was whether or not they should try to test him with extra pressure, despite the stats suggesting they shouldn't.

I'm not sure how effective Collins or Campbell have been against blitzes this season, but I certainly don't expect Crennel to blitz just for the sake of blitzing. Obviously, if either team has shown a susceptibility to extra pressure the way the Rams have, I imagine we'll see Crennel dial it up. But if the opposite is true and they're actually effective against the blitz, he's not going to play into their hands.

What's up with Chris Chambers? He finally had a few grabs against the Rams after disappearing for most of the year. Do you think he'll still be on the roster in 2011?

Nick Athan: It's good to see Chambers out of the doghouse. If there's one player they need to step up the next month, it's indeed the man who Scott Pioli gave $15.5 million dollars to last March.

The Chiefs offense could get a big boost from veteran receiver Chris Chambers.
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If the Chiefs' offense is going to be effective in the playoffs, then another receiver has to take some of the pressure off Dwayne Bowe. If Chambers makes catches like he did against the Rams, Bowe won't garner such tight coverage down the field.

It's imperative that the Chiefs get Bowe back on track the final two weeks of the season. And the way they might be able to get that done is by throwing the ball more to Chambers.

C.E. Wendler: Chambers signed a two-year deal so he'll still be around. Based on the fact that he clearly hasn't quit, he could be a valuable commodity down the stretch. You never know when an offense will need someone to come up with a clutch reception.

The Chiefs definitely need to replace Chambers as a starter this coming offseason, however. He's clearly lost a step.

Michael Ash: If the season ended today, I would think Chambers might be in some danger of being cut. Obviously that would be pretty disappointing just one year after they re-upped him, although it could be much worse: just look at the Redskins and Donovan McNabb.

I think Chambers is supposed to make around $3 million in each of the final two years of his deal, so given that he's sat out a few games as a healthy scratch and has hardly contributed in the games he's been active for, what would be the point of keeping him around at that salary?

But the season doesn't end today, of course, so there's still time for Chambers to show that he still brings something to the team. And if the Chiefs play into January, another solid veteran with some playoff experience on the roster certainly can't hurt.

What's the one thing the Chiefs absolutely have to do this coming offseason?

Nick Athan: I'd say that the Chiefs must either sign wide receiver Vincent Jackson or trade for Larry Fitzgerald. In addition, I'd look for a stud nose tackle to put in the middle of the Chiefs defensive line. Though Ron Edwards has played well this season, Kansas City needs a guy that can split a double team and get to the quarterback.

Aubrun DT Nick Fairley would be a good fit for the middle of the Chiefs defensive line in 2011.
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Outside of that I'd up the contract offers to the likes of Dwayne Bowe, Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr and Wallace Gilberry.

Of all those guys Bowe's situation might be the most tedious. There are still people in the organization that believe he's not a long-term solution. I disagree and I think if the Chiefs added a Jackson or Bowe's good friend Fitzgerald, he'd be worth every penny.

C.E. Wendler: Find a nose tackle. Ron Edwards play is up and down every week depending on the level of the opponent. He was awful in San Diego, but better last week against a lousy Rams' offensive line.

If the Chiefs are going to take the next step towards being an elite defense, Edwards fits more as a backup. I don't know where Scott Pioli will find a nose tackle, because if you look across the league they come from everywhere be it draft, free agency or waiver wire pickups. But considering the high picks the Patriots spent on Vince Wilfork and Ron Brace, the Chiefs might go that route.

Michael Ash: There are obvious areas where the Chiefs need to upgrade – receiver, pass rush, nose tackle – but after what's gone on the last few weeks, I'd say if they do nothing else, they have to get a competent backup quarterback.

It's rare these days for a starting quarterback to play in every game, let alone every snap of every game. A solid backup is a necessity, even if it's just for a quarter or two. And the Chiefs' game plan against the Chargers suggested that the team has little to no confidence in their #2. Contrast that to the Rams game, where they came out and immediately had Cassel drop back and zing passes around just 11 days after his surgery.

If they have no confidence in their backup, it's going to lead to overly protective, conservative, unlikely-to-be-successful game plans like we saw in San Diego. And the lack of confidence won't be lost on the backup or the other players on the team. That's not a formula for success.

The Chiefs dodged a bullet this year with Cassel only missing one game. What if something happens next year and he misses four or five? The continued need for a receiver or a pass rusher is not going to completely derail the Chiefs' season, but losing Cassel for any length of time without a competent backup would. The Chiefs have to heed the warning they were given and do something to prevent themselves from ending up in that situation.

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