Big Test in Tampa for KC

It's pretty easy to assume the Chiefs will come out on Sunday with a renewed confidence and vigor. After all, they've exploded back into the AFC West and the AFC playoff picture for that matter after back to back victories over NFC power Atlanta and AFC Power Indianapolis.

But the road has not been kind to the Chiefs in Florida and on Sunday they'll have to play as well or better as they did the last two weeks if they intend to get out of Tampa Bay with a much needed victory.

Forget the fact that Kansas City has a far superior offense to the Bucs who are lead by former Denver Bronco Brian Griese who has owned the Chiefs in the past. He's not flashy or as gifted as Chiefs quarterback Trent Green but he has something to prove on Sunday. He's taken over as the Bucs number one starter with the demotion of veteran Brad Johnson.

Bucs current coach Jon Gruden has had to make some tough choices since Tampa Bay started the season with four consecutive losses. Still they have a talented defense that can create turnovers and make plays. That's something that has stifled the Chiefs offense this season. Though the Jaguars defense is not nearly as talented as the Bucs, they found a way to shut down the Chiefs offense in the first half. Tampa Bay can do that the entire game if Kansas City is not sharp.

The recent Chiefs winning streak can be contributed to a variety of factors. The rushing game behind Priest Holmes has been electric and Trent Green has been razor sharp. But the key to this offense has been the emergence of tight end Tony Gonzalez in the Chiefs offense. Last week he scored a pair of touchdowns and his down play ability has been bolstered by the impressive play of wide receiver Johnnie Morton and the steady hands of Eddie Kennison.

The Bucs corners are decent behind Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly but they are very weak at the safety position and that means the Chiefs if given time to throw can make plays downfield. But their strength is up front with defensive tackle Anthony McFarland and defensive end Simeon Rice who continues to play at a high level year in and year out.

Kansas City must establish that ground attack but they must also take some shots down the field. What this team has to avoid is what they did in Jacksonville and that's to pass first and run second. They have the best running back on the planet and they need to get him the ball either on the ground or on screen passes. Make no mistake about it the Bucs defense won't be fooled easily like the Colts did a week ago.

Jon Gruden may not have the talent as he did a year and half ago when he led his team to a Super Bowl title but he knows how to beat the Chiefs. Chucky as he is referred to by many writers in the NFL, was solely responsible for breaking up the Chiefs dominance over the Raiders when he was their head coach back in the late 90's up until he left for Tampa Bay.

On defense Kansas City must get into the grill of Brian Griese. He has the ability to hit open receivers and if given time can carve up any secondary. Like in Denver he has some weapons on offense most notably rookie standout receiver Michael Clayton who leads all NFL rookies in catches and yards gained. Clayton works behind a couple of veteran receivers who can still make plays; Joey Galloway and former Raiders great Tim Brown.

The Chiefs have to be concerned with Brown whose short passing routes have tortured Kansas City since his rookie season. One of the players the Chiefs must focus on is running back Michael Pittman who is back from his four game suspension. Pittman has been on a tear since his return and he has the cutback ability that has given the Chiefs defense fits. However, if the Chiefs defense has a strength its been their rush defense where veterans Lional Dalton, John Browning and third year man Ryan Sims have been able to get penetration to blow up the run.

This game features some outstanding players and great coaches and the one person who might dictate the outcome of this game could be return man Dante Hall. He nearly broke one back last week against Indy. The Bucs have to be concerned that they are facing the Chiefs in week nine and the Human Joystick has yet to bring one back to the house. This could be the week that happens.

Dick Vermeil worked his group hard this week in practice and they responded with an outstanding effort that has the Chiefs confident they can stretch a series of wins together.

But it won't be easy to beat the Bucs on Sunday, as Kansas City will need to be sharp and attack at every opportunity on both sides of the ball if they want to win. This team still has zero room for error and a loss against a team they should beat, would prove costly to their playoff hopes.

Prediction: Kansas City 31 – Tampa Bay 24


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