Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs
1. Browns head coach Butch Davis has suspended running back William Green after his arrest on Marijuana charges last week. It appeared that Green was caught with his hands in the cookie jar during the bye week. I give credit to Davis, who is under major fire in Cleveland, for having the guts to suspend their best running back. The Browns also announced that they are benching their best wide receiver, Kevin Johnson. He has fallen out of favor with his head coach and Andre Davis will get the nod instead.
2.Kelly Holcomb appears to be the man behind the center this Sunday against Kansas City. Holcomb, who torched the Chiefs last year on opening day, has been the on and off and on again starting quarterback. He's battled former #1 draft pick Tim Couch to reclaim the job he lost earlier in the season. Holcomb and the Browns have spent the bye week getting prepared to face the Chiefs. Davis feels that Holcomb gives the Browns best the chance to end the Kansas City's undefeated season.
3. Nobody will forget the game the Chiefs and Browns played last year in Cleveland. With the Chiefs trailing 39-37 with just seconds left in the game, Trent Green appeared to be sacked for the games final play. But the ball fell to the ground and offensive tackle John Tait scooped up the ball and ran for a twenty yard gain. The game appeared to be over until Browns linebacker Dwayne Rudd threw his helmet to the ground with time left on the clock. His was flagged for a 15-yard penalty and the Chiefs kicked the game winning field goal with no time on the clock for a 40-39 victory.
4. The Chiefs are coming off their most impressive victory of the season against the Bills. Trent Green had his third straight solid performance and he appears to be back on track. The difference for Green is better patience in the pocket. The first five weeks he seemed uneasy and unsettled. But he's moving around the pocket much better that can be attributed to his offensive line. They've played at a higher level in the passing game the last three weeks as well.
5. As I stated last week, Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil has elevated Larry Johnson to the back-up running back position behind Priest Holmes. Johnson has done an amazing job in practice and with so many injuries occurring in the NFL each week; Vermeil wants to get Johnson battle tested in the event he's needed in a big game. Johnson has all the tools to be a great NFL runner. He has handled the frustration of the first half of the season with class and Vermeil is rewarding him for his hard work. Derrick Blaylock never established himself as someone who could carry the load on offense. I fully expect the Chiefs to give Johnson some significant playing time over the next four weeks. The Chiefs face four of the worst run defenses in the NFL with consecutive games against the Browns, Bengals, Raiders and Chargers.
6. Dante Hall back from his Late Night appearance on the David Letterman show, continues to be the talk of the NFL. With his 67-yard touchdown catch and run against the Bills last Sunday night, Hall should be a fixture in the Chiefs offense the rest of the season. It might be the only way Hall gets his hands on the ball. Teams are now kicking and punting away from Hall and unless he takes some unnecessary chances, he might not break the return record of five this season.
7. The Browns rush defense is so bad that the Priest Holmes has to be licking his chops. But this will be a good test for the Chiefs. With the weather getting colder, Kansas City is going to be relying on Holmes in the second half of the season. Teams who run the ball well in November and December have a huge advantage. Holmes has 12 touchdowns at the half way point in the season and he'll need to get battle tested to carry an even bigger offensive load. If the Chiefs can dominate on the ground, then their passing game will dominate. The Chiefs need to start that dominance with Holmes this week.
8. The Chiefs defense will be without Mike Maslowski for at least this week and probably next week against the Bengals. Rookie Kawika Mitchell is likely to get his first NFL start. Mitchell has the tools to be an impact middle line backer. Mitchell is fast, strong and can stop the run. He also has the ability to blitz the quarterback. Where Mitchell struggles is in covering backs and tight ends in passing situations. He would have had even more playing time had it not been for two pulled hamstrings. Like most rookies the pace of the NFL practices is a shock to their bodies and it takes time to adjust to the added work load.
9. Former Kansas City Chiefs running back and recent Hall of Fame Inductee Marcus Allen will be honored at halftime of the Browns game. Allen will receive his Hall of Fame ring in front of the Kansas City home crowd. Allen who went into the Hall as a Raider still has fond memories of his days in Kansas City. He still has local ties to the community and he was able to address his appreciation to the Chiefs organization in his inductee speech. He could see his franchise TD record tied this weekend. If Priest Holmes scores three time this weekend, he'll tie Allen for the top spot with 44 career touchdowns as a Chief.
10. This latest stat is one for the ages. The Kansas City Chiefs can make history with their ninth consecutive win to open a season. If they beat the Browns, they will match the start of their parking lot mates the Kansas City Royals with nine wins to open a season. The Royals ran off their first nine games in the victory column and the Chiefs can do the same. That will mark the first time a city has had two separate franchises open the season with nine consecutive wins. Consider all the leagues, teams in the history of professional sports and Kansas City has a chance to establish a record not likely to be broken by any city in our lifetimes.
Around the AFC West
1. The Chiefs gained ground on the entire AFC West this weekend. The Broncos lost at home to the New England Patriots 30-26. The Raiders limped out of Detroit with a 23-13 loss and the Chargers rounded out the hat-trick with a 20-7 loss in Chicago. Ouch!
2. The Danny Kanell experiment appears to be over in Denver. Jake the Snake Plummer is expected to return to the Broncos after the bye week. Plummer should be able to spark the Broncos offense and get them into the playoffs. Denver has four of their next five games at home and need to win at least five out of their last seven games to make the post season with a 10-6 record.
2. The Broncos defeat to the Patriots at home on Monday Night was a bitter pill. After Kanell was able to move the offense in the first half and Deltha O'Neal's punt return for a touchdown, seemed to be enough to carry the team to victory. But after a safety by the defense, a muffed punt and three poor offensive plays, the Broncos had to punt the ball back to the Patriots. They marched down the field because they could not put pressure on New England quarterback Tom Brady. Look out the Patriots are on a roll.
3. The Broncos despite their poor quarterback performance by Kanell; didn't help his cause by dropping balls and running poor routes. Numerous times Ashley Lelie and Rod Smith were unable to corral difficult catches. Of course the Patriots defense was part of the problem. The Broncos need to correct their defensive woes in the secondary if they want to take make the playoffs.
4.The Oakland Raiders loss on Sunday officially put the franchise in peril. After cornerback Charles Woodson called out head coach Bill Callahan last weekend, the beleaguered Raiders head coach did nothing to defend himself. Not one player came to his defense. Yesterday rumors were flying that Callahan would be fired but apparently that might not happen until after the season. It's obvious that the Raiders coaching staff has not recovered from the blitzing they took in the Super Bowl and Callahan thought he had to change the offense. The fact is the team is old and played at such a high level for three years that it was inevitable they would fall sooner or later.
5. The Marquez Tuiasosopo experiment did not last long. He injured his left knee and could miss two or three games. Even if he had stayed in the game, the T-Man looked awful. It was obvious playing against the worst team in the NFL that is not ready to be a prime time player. Tuiasosopo had the classic deer in the headlights look in the time he was in the game.
6. When Tuiasosopo went down, third stinger and former first round draft pick Rick Mirer led the Raiders offensive attack. He wasn't much better than the man he replaced. Mirer is likely to get the starting nod this week at home against the New York Jets.
7. The Raiders ability to abandon their running game is the most perplexing aspect about their four game losing streak. When Charlie Garner carries the ball he averages nearly five yards per carry. Tyrone Wheatley has the ability to get four yards per carry. But Oakland keeps trying to throw the ball and that's costing them field position and the ability to keep their aging defense off the field.
8. The San Diego Chargers reached a new low on Sunday with their loss to the Bears in Chicago. They suffered their seventh loss of the season. They've lost 11 of their last 12 games dating back to last year. It's not talent. It's execution. This team should be much better with Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson and David Boston on offense. But this team relied on Tomlinson to carry them without developing a passing plan for Brees. Schottenheimer's smash mouth offense and reliance to stick to a plan that no longer works, has led to the teams down fall.
9. But any hopes of the Chargers making a comeback this year to respectability was lost in the Chicago game. When Schottenheimer pulled Drew Brees from the game in favor of the Doug Flutie, he set back the organization another year. Flutie should be a mentor to Brees instead he's trying for playing time to extend a career that never materialized in the NFL. The only way Brees is going to learn anything is to play every down on offense and grow from his mistakes.
10. The Chargers return home on Sunday to face the Minnesota Vikings. This will be the first home game in San Diego since September. The team has had to work around the blazes that have ravaged California. It will be interesting to see the response from the San Diego community. The Chargers hope the recent events rally the spirits of the team. If not, their will be many empty seats in Qualcomm stadium.