One thing is certain the Patriots who enter the Monday Night contest with an 8-1 record. Their only blemish was a road contest in Pittsburgh earlier this season. In that game the Patriots were careless and turned the ball over four times and that gave the Steelers all the confidence they needed to win the battle of the AFC's two best teams.
The Chiefs were supposed to be one of those teams but the ball hasn't bounced that way this season. Kansas City enters the Monday Night game with an embarrassing 3-6 record. This season the Chiefs have been plagued by untimely penalties, poor play calling in crunch time, bad coaching decisions and veterans who have done anything but step and be counted when their team needed it; especially on defense.
But I can make all the excuses that I want for this team and it won't change the record nor the inevitable conclusion that this team is just not good enough to be one of the elite teams in the AFC.
With that said, the Chiefs can and probably will defeat the New England Patriots on Monday Night. Yep I said it! In fact, I think the Chiefs offense will be unstoppable. Forget the Chiefs defensive woes and the inexcusable play from the veterans who would rather point fingers instead of making plays on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots after destroying the Bills a week ago enter this game and it has disaster written all over it.
Instead the Chiefs will probably be more focused and have more attitude playing in what will likely be their farewell game. Yes they have two more prime time games this season at Tennessee and at home against the Raiders but this game will show above anything else what the season could have been if not for the defeats against the Panthers, Texans, Jaguars, Bucs and Saints. Kansas City should have won each of them. If they make one more play on offense or defense they sweep those games.
But that didn't happen and Kansas City faces playing out the string for pride. Certainly missing the playoffs after a 13-3 season should garner significant changes in the off-season. Already the walls of Arrowhead are echoing that Head Coach Dick Vermeil might not fulfill the last year of his contract.
With veterans on defense and offense well into their 30's, Kansas City must make some hard choices before the 2005 season gets underway. If the Chiefs are going to take a cap hit they better do it in 2005 because they'll have a bundle of cash to spend in 2006; which will be the first year of the new TV deal that could impact the Salary Cap by ten–fifteen million per year.
That means the Chiefs organization must start making some hard choices now and there is not time like the present to make that happen. First they need to address Superman. Running back Priest Holmes has hinted that he might be ready to hang up his cleats. Kansas City needs to know before the season ends where Holmes stands for next year. Granted he'd be missing out on some major dollars in 2005 if he retired plus he'd have to give back a portion of his $10 million signing bonus if he opts out of his contract.
Veteran Tight End Tony Gonzalez recently admitted he was living in a nightmare, referring to the Chiefs record and though he's had an exceptional season; he could be the teams prime trade bait up through the 2005 draft especially with Kris Wilson expected to take a more active role in the offense next season.
On defense it's a virtually certainty that the Chiefs will release defensive end Vonnie Holliday, Safety Jerome Woods, Dexter McCleon and possibly Eric Hicks . On offense Willie Roaf and Will Shields are entering the last year of their Hall of Fame Careers and Kansas City must begin to think about life after Trent Green. The Chiefs should jump all over San Diego quarterback Drew Brees in the off-season when the Chargers let him go to make room for cap-buster Phillip Rivers.
Green has been stellar for the most part the last season and a half but the mid thirty-something quarterback can't keep this up forever; especially if the Chiefs don't upgrade their wide receiver corps in the off-season. Veteran receivers Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton are solid #2 and #3 receivers but this team needs an all-world class receiver either in the draft or free agency. Dante Hall can't be expected to work in the offense any longer since his work on Special teams has suffered. Marc Boerigter could be back in time for the season opener in 2005 but he's still a wild card for the offense.
Getting back to Holmes, the Chiefs face the possibility of losing Derrick Blaylock who publicly indicated to CBS TV last weekend in New Orleans that he wants to showcase his talents to get a job somewhere else. It's more than obvious now that second year running back Larry Johnson will be moved for a mid to late round draft pick and if Holmes retires, then Kansas City must sign Blaylock to a long term deal.
That's why this game is so important. If Kansas City suddenly gets hot, then it will continue to play their starters and younger players like Jared Allen, Benny Sapp, Junior Siavvi, Keyaron Fox, Julian Battle and Willie Pile won't learn their positions without pressure of winning.
On offense the team has to develop some depth along the offensive line by getting playing time for tackle Kevin Sampson and Jordan Black. Its very important that tight end Kris Wilson get on the field the final four games to get some NFL experience before next season.
The Chiefs would be better off losing six of their last seven games and ending the season at 4-12 and quite likely be in a position to snag a top five draft pick. But that's no assurance that this team will draft the right players though I am impressed with the 2004 class and there is no reason that another good draft can't produce a couple of impact players.
They'll also need to maneuver the salary cap and shore up some positions in free agency. They can't sign players like Shawn Barber and Vonnie Holliday unless they can make an impact. Both appear to have been mistakes as well as cornerback Dexter McCleon. But those things happen and every player on the roster is hit or miss and it seems like the Chiefs have misfired recently.
But in the NFL one good off-season can turn the fortunes around but that has to start now for the Chiefs and ownership and management better start playing for 2005 regardless of what happens this season. Whatever they get this season will be a bonus but if Carl Peterson and Dick Vermeil end up staying to honor the final year of their agreements in 2005, then they owe the fans of Kansas City one more run before this team is completely overhauled for 2006 and 2007.