Fourth and Goal for the Chiefs

As the Chiefs enter the final half of the season, they face four major obstacles in their quest to make the Playoffs. Their All-Pro running back is hurting badly, the recent play of the defense has been awful at best and K.C. owns a 3-5 record at the halfway point of the season.

Let's not forget the fact that two teams lead the Chiefs by two-and-a-half games in the AFC West standings with just eight games to play. Take a look deeper into the crystal ball and you'll see that the Playoffs may well be out of reach.

FIRST DOWN:
When Priest Holmes left Sunday's game late in the third quarter against Tampa Bay, we found out exact who is the team's MVP. Many fans and media members made the case for quarterback Trent Green, but the offense sputtered when Holmes was sidelined with a sprained MCL.

The red-zone offense faltered with the absence of the game's most productive red-zone player, "The most telling sign to me was red-zone efficiency. We had a fumble and an interception in the red-zone", says Trent Green. This season Priest Holmes leads the NFL in red-zone rushing touchdowns with 12. Homes will almost certainly miss Sunday's game against New Orleans with a sprained ligament in his right knee.

SECOND DOWN:
The Chiefs defense has not improved much since last year's disastrous performances. The run-defense has had better numbers this year, but many of the same problems still persist. Before Buccaneers Running Back Michael Pittman busted a 78-yard touchdown run against Kansas City on Sunday, the Chiefs rushing defense had performed much better than they did a year ago, but opposing quarterbacks continue to shred the pass defense. In the past two weeks against Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, Peyton Manning and Brian Griese have combined to throw for 768 yards passing, seven touchdowns and just one interception.

Maybe the most concerning point is that the players are pointing the finger at the defensive coordinator for the second straight year. Chiefs Safety Greg Wesley said, "Things are bad when I don't even know what the problems are."

It's an obvious dig at the coaching staff. He feels that Gunther Cunningham is not preparing the defense for what they will face from the opposition on game day. Sure, the bootleg beat them time and time again on Sunday, but I never bought into the excuse that the players were confused because of the scheme last year, and there's no way you can point the finger at Gunther this year. The Chiefs defensive personnel just are not making the plays. We'll see if the defense can figure out its problems before their trip to New Orleans this Sunday.

THIRD DOWN:
Only eight games are in the books for the Chiefs with another eight to go, but time is running out. A 3-5 record in the AFC West puts Kansas City two and-a-half games behind division-leading Denver and San Diego, who both stand at 6-3. Denver's schedule looks to be the most favorable of any team in the division. Just two of their final seven opponents own a record of .500 or better. The Broncos have dates with the Saints, Dolphins, Raiders and Chiefs (December 19).

San Diego plays just two teams over .500 in their final seven games with two contests coming against Kansas City. The Chargers offense has put up 85 points in the last two weeks with star Running Back LaDainian Tomlinson playing with an injured groin. Quarterback Drew Brees has led San Diego to five wins in six games since a 1-2 start.

For the Chiefs to make the playoffs, they may have to win the AFC West. That would mean winning at home against Denver, sweeping San Diego and earning at least three other wins outside the division.

FOURTH DOWN:
Time to punt? I'm not ready to throw in the towel on the 2004 season, but things couldn't be much worse. The defense has regressed the past two weeks and will now have to play without starting linebacker Shawn Barber, whose season may have ended with a knee injury at Tampa Bay Sunday.

The offense will be devastated if Priest Holmes has to miss more than one game. Derrick Blaylock is a good back up, but don't expect the offense to win ball games by themselves like they've done when Holmes is in the backfield.

With eight games to go and dates against New England, San Diego and Denver at home and road games at Tennessee and San Diego, there will be few games the Kansas City defense won't be tested. And thus far, the Chiefs defense has failed their last two tests.


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