Wild Card Roundtable: Can KC defeat Baltimore

In this wild card playoff edition of the Warpaint Roundtable, we talk about the teams' next offensive coordinator, which starters might be replaced in 2011, how many coaches will be retained after the playoffs and finally which team wins on Sunday.

Who do you think will replace Charlie Weis?

Nick Athan: It has to be Josh McDaniels. But the real issue is can Head Coach Todd Haley work with anyone. There are rumblings that Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has already had conversations with the former Broncos head coach. However, McDaniels is interviewing for the OC job in Minnesota on Friday and I've also heard the Arizona Cardinals might have interest in retaining his services.

That aside the big issue ahead for the Chiefs, from what I've been told, is the next offensive coordinator must have one single skill, that's to develop a pipeline of quarterbacks. The Chiefs want to draft a young quarterback in April's draft and they want to do what the Patriots did in New England. They were grooming Matt Cassel once to someday replace Tom Brady. Obviously that didn't happen as Brady in 2010, in my view had his best season of his career.

So whomever gets the KC gig, is going to have to be able to keep Cassel sharp and also get the next quarterback in line ready should he be needed in the future. In my mind, McDaniels is the only answer. Josh Scotten: If I was a betting man I would say it's going to be offensive quality control coach Nick Sirianni. Sirianni works almost exclusively with Matt Cassel and I've often heard him referred to as the Chiefs "fourth quarterback".

The biggest scare about losing Weis is the possibility of losing Cassel as well. The obvious choice would be to bring in Josh McDaniels. Given his relationship with Cassel, it seems like the perfect fit, but another divorce from an offensive coordinator could spell the end for Haley if Cassel struggles next season.

Much like the role Weis played, the new coordinator needs to be a veteran coach who can hold his ground and serve as a buffer between Haley and Cassel. This can lead to ego battles however, so if Haley has his choice I bet its Sirianni or possibly even Mo Carthon.

Getting Pioli to sign on for this may be more difficult. Judging by his coaching hires from last season, it looks as if Pioli prefers to bring in a big name with some stroke. This will be a big test on the relationship between Pioli and Haley. It will be interesting to see who gets the final say.

C.E. Wendler: This is a difficult question to answer because the Chiefs are so secretive. My gut feeling is that Kansas City will promote someone that's already on the team, but that person will be offensive coordinator in name only. Haley would then resume play calling duties.

After the debacle that was 2009, that doesn't seem like a great idea. But the Chiefs are a far more stable program now, so that could play a big factor in the success of such a move.

Conor Crawford: The Chiefs will more than likely look in-house for Weis' replacement, and the most obvious choice would be offensive quality control coach Nick Sirianni. He's not the most experienced coach to hand over the reigns of an NFL offense, but Sirianni should get the most credit for Matt Cassel's development, not Charlie Weis.

He's only in his second year in the NFL, but the most important aspect of his role with the team is breaking down the opponent's defensive gameplans alongside Todd Haley. He also assists with the production of playbooks and the Chiefs' own gameplans, so if he so far has had a say in how the Chiefs' offense has performed this year, he'll probably have more say come next year.

What Scott Pioli and company look for is promising, young coaches. The best examples I can give: Josh McDaniels, and none other than Todd Haley.

Michael Ash: I honestly don't have a clue. I realize Nick Sirianni is the in-house favorite, but are they really going to make him a coordinator after only two years in the league? That would be a remarkably fast rise up the food chain.

If it's not Sirianni, it will probably be someone from outside the organization. But no matter who they get to replace Weis, at some point Sirianni could be ready to take over in the years ahead.

Which starters on this year's team do you think will be replaced next season?

Nick Athan: I think you're going to see at least three new starters on offense and at least two on defense. Despite his Pro Bowl year I think Brian Waters will be out and Jon Asamoah will take over in 2011. Barry Richardson, though he's been erratic, he's a cheap option for the Chiefs at right tackle. And right now there isn't a single offensive lineman that can replace him.

The addition of Mike Vrabel a season ago has served the Chiefs well. But he's probably not in the teams 2011 plan.
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Linebacker Andy Stuebaker will start for Mike Vrabel next season. I also think Jevon Belcher will be removed as a starter since I've heard the Chiefs were heavily scouting linebackers the last several months. Lastly Ron Edwards has to go. Good solid player but I think the Chiefs number one move on defense is to find a space eating defensive tackle.

On offense I like Thomas Jones but it's clear he's lost a couple of steps. Kansas City should make a run for the Raiders Michael Bush. Chris Chambers is out and I think KC's goes after either Vincent Jackson or Larry Fitzgerald. But don't rule out the recent addition of wide receiver Kevin Curtis in the starting line up next season.

Josh Scotten: The first guy that comes to mind is Thomas Jones. It's disappointing to say because Jones has been a workhorse for the Chiefs this season and the tutelage that he has provided for Jamaal Charles is invaluable. But the NFL has track record for breaking down over 30 running backs and Jones is starting to display the symptoms.

How Scott Pioli distributes contract extensions will have a lot to do with who is in the starting lineup next season. Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are all up for contract and all play marquee positions that will demand top dollar. It will be possible to resign all, but the question is does Pioli think they are worth it?

C.E. Wendler: Barry Richardson, Ron Edwards, Mike Vrabel and Chris Chambers. All have been average at best and three of the four are getting long in the tooth. Vrabel and Richardson, you can argue, are big liabilities against playoff teams. Just watch Vrabel in space. He moves like an old man.

The Chiefs need a new starting wide receiver and a new outside linebacker at minimum to compete against a tough schedule next season. They need complements to Dwayne Bowe and Tamba Hali.

Conor Crawford: Chris Chambers, for sure, will be replaced in the offseason. I expect the Chiefs to go after a big-name wide receiver—possibly Larry Fitzgerald or even Vincent Jackson—or manage to get a young receiver in the draft. It's funny to think that before the season we all thought that Chambers fit Todd Haley's vision of a dependable receiver, but now that Dwayne Bowe has made us forget all that pre-season talk, Chambers will see the door.

Another starter who I think will be replaced is Barry Richardson on the offensive line. Whether or not the Chiefs are confident in slipping Jon Asamoah into his position, I think Richardson will be playing elsewhere in 2011. Richardson has been at the brunt-end of way too many false start penalties this season, and his public blow-up to his players and coaches against the Denver Broncos on December 5 is the cherry on top.

Michael Ash: What happens on Sunday will surely factor into the equation, but I think as many as three spots on the offensive line could change. Barry Richardson has struggled (hello, Terrell Suggs) and Casey Wiegmann hasn't held up against the kind of strong defensive fronts that Oakland and San Diego have (greetings, Haloti Ngata).

Plus, they didn't draft Jon Asamoah to ride the bench, so you have to wonder how long Brian Waters will still be around. Then there's the #2 receiver spot, which obviously needs someone new.

On defense, Mike Vrabel's days as a starter have to be over. A nose tackle would certainly be nice, but who knows if it'll actually happen?

Will there be any other changes to the coaching staff? Maybe a new special teams coach?

Nick Athan: I've already heard rumblings there could be as many as four or five changes on the staff. Beyond special teams coach Steve Hoffman. I think that when Charlie Weis departs for Florida, he might take offensive line coach Bill Muir with him. If that happens, Pioli must hire former Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable to run the Chiefs offensive line.

On the defensive side of the ball I can't see too many changes. That is unless Romeo Crennel isn't interesting in partaking with some of the drama that has unfolded at seasons end.

Kansas City Chiefs Special Teams Coach Steve Hoffman hasn't been able to do much with KC's ability to score points on kick-off and punt returns in 2010.
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But keep this in mind; even though Todd Haley has been extraordinary this season, he still has to find a way to spin his way out of the Weis drama. Should the Chiefs get embarrassed at home on Sunday, I would not assume that Haley is 100% safe.

Should that indeed be the case then there could be even more coaching changes ahead for Kansas City.

Josh Scotten: Special team's coordinator Steve Hoffman would be the first to come to mind given the ineffectiveness of the kick/coverage units. The problem is with Weis leaving I highly doubt that Haley shakes anything else up.

The Chiefs have a good thing going here and they need to keep as many of the pieces together as possible. This is why the hiring of the new offensive coordinator is so important. If Haley and the new coordinator can get along for the foreseeable future, the train just keeps moving along. If not, whether they want to or not things are going to start shaking up.

C.E. Wendler: The Chiefs have an excellent special teams coach in Steve Hoffman. I don't think he's in line to be replaced.

By all accounts, Todd Haley has put together an outstanding coach staff in Kansas City, perhaps the best since the early Schottenheimer years. If there's a need outside of a new offensive coordinator, it's not obvious.

Conor Crawford: I'm expecting the Chiefs to relieve Steve Hoffman of his duties on special teams, but besides that, maybe there will be a change in the secondary. I don't think the Chiefs would be willing to fire their own legendary hero and Hall of Famer Emmitt Thomas, but they may be forced to look elsewhere. I don't think they should blame Thomas for the young secondary – especially two rookie safeties – but coaches always get the ax if their players don't perform well. It's a sad reality in the NFL.

Michael Ash: I don't expect Steve Hoffman to get replaced. If there's any coach who has underperformed this year, it's offensive line coach Bill Muir. I was singing Muir's praises a year ago for getting the offensive line to come together in the second half of the season, but this year the total opposite seems to be happening.

Barry Richardson actually seems to be playing worse now than he was when he first got thrown into the starting lineup. And I wouldn't go as far as saying that Branden Albert has taken a step backwards this year, but I'm quite sure he hasn't taken a step forward.

Those are the two youngsters on the Chiefs' line, so they're the two we should be seeing progress from. Unfortunately, we aren't. In fact, the poor performance of the two young tackles is making me worry what kind of coaching Jon Asamoah is getting.

Yes or no: do we win on Sunday? What's the final score?

Nick Athan: Yes the Chiefs will win. I say that for one single reason. After every single punch in the gut they've had this season, they've responded. After the Houston game, they whipped up on the Jaguars. When they got orange crushed by the Broncos they went on to win three games in a row.

If the Chiefs defense can hit Ravens QB Joe Flacco in the mouth a couple of times, he could serve up the ball to KC's defense.
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Lastly after San Diego, the team rallied and won their next two games clinching the division. Sure the Ravens are an imposing team but they're also a team that is relying on an aging defense. And with three of their starters nowhere near 100% for Sunday's playoff game, they are vulnerable.

But the Ravens are expected to win. In the end, that will be their undoing. I'm told Kansas City has been working on their playoff game plans since the Rams victory. So Baltimore is going to see a few wrinkles on both sides of the ball that hasn't shown up on game field. And that'll be the difference for the Chiefs as they'll defeat the Ravens 24-16.

Josh Scotten: First off, I absolutely hate making predictions. Whatever could and should happen rarely manifest and the conduit to the results is always what you least expect. For example, on paper this looks like Charles vs. the Raven defense, but I bet 10 to 1 that's not what we are talking about Monday morning. Cassel will probably end up passing for 350 yards and recently acquired off the street WR Kevin Curtis will be the next David Tyree.

With that being said, I won't skirt around the question.


As much as I want to have faith in these guys, I just don't believe they are at the point yet talent wise to compete with a perennial playoff caliber team like the Baltimore Ravens. This 2010 squad has accomplished so much more than anyone expected, and if they go on continuing to shock the world, it would probably be on par with the rest of their year.

I just think the fairy tale season ends here.

C.E. Wendler: My heart says yes, but my brain says no. I don't see the Chiefs running on the Ravens and that spells doom for KC's offense and defense. If the Chiefs can't control the clock, the Ravens will eventually wear down Romeo Crennel's defense and the Chiefs will fold late in the game.

Ravens 20, Chiefs 13.

Conor Crawford: It will be close, regardless of the Chiefs winning or losing. The Ravens are going to be the first team with a winning record that the Chiefs have played all season, but obviously not the first team with prior playoff experience. I see a Chiefs 23-21 victory in part to a big turnover coughed up by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Realistically, the Ravens enter the game as favorites, but the game's deciding factor will be their quarterback. If the Chiefs' defense gets their hands on Flacco and roughs him up good, he'll lose his composure and try to be a gunslinger late the game. It will make Flacco nervous if, say, Tamba Hali gets his hands on him at least twice. However, the Ravens are an experienced playoff team that plays very well on the road. If the Arrowhead crowd is into it, Flacco may lose control of the game clock and get called for false starts and delaying the game.

The thing is, Baltimore has played in very close games all season, and in some games when their offense goes to sleep (against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati), they blow it. Their defense is the heart and soul of this team, but Flacco is their weakness. So far I'm expecting a close game offensively in the first half, but the Ravens' defense has a costly turnover which the Chiefs score on and punch their ticket to the next round of the playoffs. I'm counting on a big forced fumble from Tamba Hali that will give the Chiefs ample field position, enough for them to squeak by with a two-point deficit.

Michael Ash: If you look at the situation objectively, there aren't that many reasons to think the Chiefs will win. Baltimore is far more talented. They're far more experienced. They're just a better team. Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter which team has been better all season – it only matters which team is better on Sunday.

The Chiefs should be fired up after last week's embarrassing loss. Having dropped a home game could actually help them, as they won't have any thoughts of "Of course we'll win, we're at home!" in the back of their minds. I think that's hurt other Chiefs teams in the past, as evident by their streak of home playoff losses after going undefeated at Arrowhead.

I'm expecting it to be a close, fairly low-scoring game. The Ravens' offense has been struggling lately and a motivated Chiefs' defense should be able to keep them in check. I think Romeo Crennel will be more aggressive than usual, particularly in sending blitzes from the secondary. Not only do the Chiefs lead the league in pass defense when the secondary brings pressure, but blitzing defensive backs have been a bit of an Achilles' heel for the Ravens this year, most notably with the Troy Polamalu strip-sack that cost Baltimore their division. Former Chief Bernard Pollard even made a similar play against the Ravens a week later.

Unfortunately, I also expect Cassel to struggle, which will prevent the Chiefs from being able to run. We're going to see a lot of punts and battling for field position. But as long as it stays close, the Ravens will be vulnerable late in the game. They've blown eight fourth quarter leads this year, and on a few of those occasions they've looked downright old and slow in the process.

That's when we'll see Charles bust a big run, or Cassel hit a big play action pass, or maybe something as simple as the running game finally getting on track and allowing the Chiefs to control the clock. And when the final whistle blows, K.C. will be on top, with the final score something like 13-10.

Do you think the Chiefs will beat the Ravens on Sunday?

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