Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs
1. Trent Green continues to climb up the AFC charts as one of the conference's best quarterbacks. Green has been on fire and last weekend against the Browns he threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns. His final touchdown pass to Eddie Kennison was picture perfect. Only a quarterback in the prime of his career can complete a pass like that into double coverage into the waiting hands of wide receiver in the end zone.
2. Priest Holmes again did not reach the century mark in rushing but ended up with 92 yards and two touchdowns. He only carried the ball 19 times and he looked better than he has all season. The bye week did him some good and with seven games to go, Holmes has a legitimate shot to get the NFL touchdown record. He leads the NFL with 14 and is ahead of the pace of he was on last year.
3. Eddie Kennison had his best game as a Chief. He caught seven balls all over the field for 117 yards. His touchdown catch was his best but his catch earlier in that drive was even more impressive. With the Chiefs facing a third down on their last drive, Kennison saw that Green was moving in the pocket. Kennison had two Brown defenders in front of him and three behind him. He simple slid to his right into an open area and Kennison caught the ball for a fist down keeping the drive alive.
4. The Homer Simpson award goes to linebacker Gary Stills. With Dante Hall headed to a record fifth return for a touchdown this season, he failed to block rookie Chris Crocker who was the only man still chasing Hall. Stills moved inside and Hall followed him and all he had to do was look back and get a piece of Crocker and Hall would have had the NFL record in front of the home crowd.
5. Linebackers Scott Fujita and Shawn Barber continue their dominate play. Fujita had eight solo tackles. His linebacker mate Barber had six solo tackles and a sack. They along with Mike Maslowski have the best trio of linebackers in the NFL as a unit. Their play the last two weeks has led to the Chiefs best back to back defensive performances of the season.
6. It was good to see Eric Hicks get a sack. Hicks was hurt earlier in the first half but came back strong in the second half. On the Browns opening series, Hicks nailed Browns quarterback Kelly Holcomb on their fist series of the third quarter and that seemed to set the tone for the Chiefs defense in the second half. Hicks also had two solo tackles.
7. Tony Gonzalez laid claim that he is still the best pass catching tight end in the NFL. His 14-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was a thing of beauty. With Trent Green in trouble he stepped up in the pocket and threw a quickly diving ball that Gonzalez dove in front of a Browns defender and scooped the ball up before it hit the turf. Gonzalez is playing his best football of his career and he's scored touchdowns in five of the last Chiefs six games.
8. Though he didn't get but two carries, Larry Johnson was activated this week as Dick Vermeil promised. Johnson is now solidly the #2 option behind Priest Holmes and it was good to see Johnson get in the game if only for a few plays. If the Browns had not scored two first half touchdowns, Johnson would have played more in the second half.
9. The Chiefs at halftime paid homage to Marcus Allen. The all time leader in Chiefs touchdowns was given his Hall of Fame induction ring in front of a very appreciative Chiefs crowd. Allen who enjoyed a renaissance in Kansas City after departing the Raiders franchise made it very clear how much he appreciated the Chiefs fans. In his speech he referred to them as his ‘Big Red Family.'
10. Last but not least. Praise to Dick Vermeil. He gave his team not only an entire week off after the bye but also allowed the Chiefs to take their regularly scheduled day off on Tuesday this past week. The Chiefs had a light workout on Monday but Vermeil's trust in his players is his greatest strength. There is not a better coach in the NFL today outside of Vermeil and Bill Parcells, the Cowboys coach. Both are masters of their teams and they do it in different ways.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Cincinnati Bengals
1. Wide receiver Chad Johnson all but predicted a Bengals victory over the Chiefs on Sunday. After Cincinnati beat the visiting Houston Texans 34-27, Johnson claimed that his team would beat the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, CBS announcer Don Criqui announced the same thing. He said it several times as the game was winding down. With comments like that, no wonder Criqui continues to work ‘D' games for the network. The Chiefs can't do anything about Criqui but they can lay some heavy hits on Johnson when he comes over the middle. You think Jerome Woods and Greg Wesley might have something to say to Johnson after they knock him on his tail. I hope an NFL film crew has a microphone on Johnson during the game. The results could make for a classic TV moment.
2. Seriously the Bengals are playing well. Jon Kitna is one of the top passers in the AFC and he's always given the Chiefs problems. It was Kitna who knocked the Chiefs out of the division win back in 1999. Kitna has some big play wide receivers in Johnson and former first round pick Peter Warrick. Kitna has also shown great resilience and seems to not be making the dumb throws like he did in Seattle. He's already beaten division rival Baltimore and Seattle at home. He plays much better in Cincinnati then on the road but after a 0-3 start; the Bengals have rebounded to win five of their last seven games.
3. The Chiefs will learn a great deal about their offensive line depth on Sunday. Marcus Spears will fill in for John Tait who might miss the next two games with a low ankle sprain. Tait was hurt during the second half of the Browns game and Spears did a solid job filling in for him. Spears can get the job done for a one, two or three game stretch but not for an entire year. Though Spears is the back-up for Willie Roaf and Tait, he is much better suited to handle the chores as the right tackle instead of the left.
4. Former Chiefs defensive end Duane Clemmons is now a star in Cleveland. The former and often injured Chiefs is leading the Bengals with four sacks. Clemmons fell out of favor with Vermeil at the end of last season as he only managed two sacks last year. Clemmons was once a standout defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings and he appears to have rededicated himself with the Bengals. He is a player to watch on Sunday.
5. Third year back Rudi Johnson continues to solidify the Bengals rushing attack. With Corey Dillon spewing the same crap that is going to lead him to a new team next year, Johnson has become the toast of the town. Though he's not a big back, he's elusive and he can exploit the one true weakness of the Chiefs defense. He is an excellent cut-back runner and Kansas City has fallen pray to that type of back this year. Johnson averages nearly four yards per carry and has scored five touchdowns so far this season for the Bengals. The Chiefs will not their linebackers to keep an eye on him.
6. The Bengals due have a pair of good linebackers. Brian Simmons leads the team in tackles with 60 and former Jacksonville Jaguar star Kevin Hardy is second with 48 tackles. Both can run, tackle and blitz. But they've never faced a duo of Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez in a game this season and they'll need to be on top of their game. The Bengals defense is nowhere near that of the Bills and Browns and the Chief offense destroyed both of them at home.
7. In the secondary the Bengals have two solid cornerbacks. Both Jeff Burris and Tory James can make plays. They've held their own against some very good receivers this year. But their success was based on facing teams with only two solid receivers. With Marc Boerigter getting back into the offensive mix last week and Dante Hall the week before, the Chiefs could expose the Bengals passing defense when they line up four wide receivers, Gonzalez and Holmes in the backfield.
8. Bengals head coach, Marvin Lewis, has done a remarkable job getting the Bengals back on track this season. He has stood his ground with Dillon and brought a fresh air of confidence to a team that has not even been on the NFL radar the last ten years. Though he lacks the experience of Vermeil, he has his teams playing hard on every down. Even after they lost their first three games of the season, the Bengals went all out for sixty minutes.
9. The one advantage the Chiefs have to their current nine game winning streak is that have one games in every conceivable manner this year. All three phases of the game has contributed to winning a game or two or more. The Bengals have relied on their offense to score more points than their opponents. That has been a good plan but not their defense is playing better. Still the Chiefs are the most dominate team on the field and in the league and even if the Bengals give them their best, they still will likely loose.
10. With the Indianapolis Colts loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, the Chiefs hold all the tie-breakers for home field advantage. They currently hold a two game lead over the Colts and Tennessee Titans. A win on Sunday would give them nine AFC Conference wins on the season. The first one to 10 conference wins should be in the drivers seat for home field advantage in the post season. The Chiefs only have three AFC games left this season. They face the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos in consecutive weeks. If they win three out of four, they should clinch home field advantage before they close out their 2003 season against three NFC opponents.
Around the AFC West
1 The San Diego Chargers finally won at home. After blazing fires, bad play and an inept offensive game plan, San Diego turner the reigns of the franchise over to 41 year old Doug Flutie. He only threw for two touchdown and shuck out the cobwebs in his legs to score two rushing touchdowns in route to a 42-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
2. The win was costly to the organization. Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer pulled wunderkind Drew Brees from the starting lineup and has killed any chance of getting any major contributions out of him this season or quite likely ever. Brees will likely be released before next year. Schottenheimer has sacrificed his future to garner a few wins and to continue to muddle the franchise into obscurity. Rumors continue to swirl that Schottenheimer will get the hammer at seasons end. After his performance on Sunday picking Flutie over Brees, he made it very clear that the game has passed him by.
3. One person who loved to see Flutie on the field was wide receiver David Boston. The Chargers top free agent and trouble maker caught seven balls for 82 yards and a touchdown. He's starting his push to be released after the season so he can play for a contender. He'd like to rejoin his Cardinals mate Jake Plummer in Denver.
4. The Chargers balanced offense worked wonders for running back LaDainian Tomlinson. He ran for 162 yards on sixteen carries including a 73-yard touchdown run. He also had a one-yard plunge. If the Chargers can limit his carries to 20-25 touches per game, he'll be more effective than giving him the ball 30-35 times.
5. What can you say about the Oakland Raiders. They found yet another way to lose on Sunday. After leading 21-10 in the third quarter, they allowed the Jets to outscore them 14-3 in the final quarter and lost in overtime 27-24.
6. Raiders head coach Bill Callahan was so nervous about putting the ball into third string quarterback Rick Mirer, ordered the Raiders offense to run the ball 21 straight times before throwing a pass. Give him credit it worked until the Jets came back and Mirer was not equipped to get the team in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
7. The Raiders defense yielded 155 yards rushing to the Jets. They had no answer to stop the Jets running back by committee. Both LaMont Jordan and Curtis Marin gained over 60 yards each.
8. The Denver Broncos will get signal caller Jake Plummer back on Sunday at home against the visiting San Diego Chargers. Plummer who injured his shoulder in week five against the Chiefs is still recovering from his foot mishap in his home four weeks ago. Plummer practiced at full speed on Monday and is expected to play the entire game. The Broncos offense was anemic in his absence as the team managed only one victory in the five games he missed.
9. The NFL suspended fullback Mike Anderson for four game for failing a drug test. The NFL claims that Anderson tested positive for Marijuana and he will miss the game against the Chiefs in week #13. Anderson claims it was second hand smoke. Did we not hear that from President Clinton as well?
10. The Broncos despite a 5-4 record are on the drivers seat for the playoffs. They won't win the AFC West but they have four their next five games at home before closing out the season on the road against the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers. The Titans or Colts are a lock for the other wild card slot and the Broncos with a five wins in their last seven games should lock up their first playoff spot in years.