Without Priest Holmes for this week's contest against the suddenly surging San Diego Chargers, the Chiefs may play some younger players like Larry Johnson, to take stock of next year's potential playmakers. Derrick Blaylock's free agent status in 2005 may warrant Kansas City to begin working on a deal to re-sign Blaylock, or shelf the back-up to see what Johnson brings to the table the next six games. Regardless, a win goes a long way this week to restoring credibility, but another loss and a higher draft pick may go even further.
As a fantasy owner, your regular season is likely coming to an end, and the playoffs are just around the corner. Pay close attention to this game as a playoff starter may emerge if Johnson can shoulder the load as the Chiefs starting back. Johnson probably won't start but should see 10-15 carries. Blaylock proved the last couple of weeks a viable back-up, but Johnson's inexperience should be tested within the next couple weeks.
The Chargers are a Marty Schottenheimer squad true and true. A solid running game is grounded by stud LaDainian Tomlinson. Outside threat Keenan McCardell was added as the NFL trade deadline passed. And a super-stud tight end, Antonio Gates, emerged to provide quarterback Drew Brees a reliable downfield and outlet option. This offense is a tough group to defend.
On the other side, the Chiefs offense is struggling and the loss of Holmes is hurting this unit more than many expected. Holmes innate ability to find the end zone is hurting the play calling in the red zone as turnovers are killing drives and scoring opportunities. Wide outs Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton are making plays, but just dropping too many balls thus killing drives and leaving the Chiefs in third and long situations.
Last week I predicted the Chiefs would defeat the Patriots by a touchdown. Boy was I wrong. Kansas City looked flat and the Pats continue to force turnovers and create opportunities for their team to win.
Fantasy-wise with the playoffs looming, every game is a must win. Let's look at this week's game and see if there are some starters that can help you get a victory this week.
Trent Green - Green's numbers the last few games, from a fantasy perspective, are astounding. The last four weeks Green tossed over 300 yards a game and amassed 9 touchdowns. From a fantasy perspective, Green is as good a start in the NFL as anyone, besides the robot that is Peyton Manning. With Holmes out once again, Green should throw for over 300 yards and toss a couple touchdowns at the minimum. The Chargers are putting up points like the Colts and Kansas City may find themselves in another Sunday shoot-out. The Chargers defensive weakness lies in the secondary and are ranked 27th in the NFL in passing defense. Start Green and you shall be rewarded.
Drew Brees - The Chargers have themselves a quarterback controversy, next season. Brees will be a pro-bowler and is finding ways to win every week. As first round pick Phillip Rivers warms the bench, Brees is the only NFL quarterback to start every game and have only 3 interceptions. He is managing the game and not making mistakes. Expect Brees to stay on a roll against the soft Kansas City secondary. Start Brees and feel comfortable knowing he'll toss for 235 yards and 2 or 3 scores.
Derrick Blaylock & Larry Johnson - Blaylock should start and will see the bulk of the carries early in the game. But Kansas City has to find out what kind of player they have in Larry Johnson. I expect Johnson to play about 20 offensive plays this week, even though he's been used sparingly all season. If he shows promise, he may start for the Chiefs the remainder of the year. The deciding factor will be Johnson's ability to block the rush and prove a viable pass blocker when the Chiefs throw the ball. Keep in mind the Chargers are currently the best run defense in the NFL so the Chiefs may be throwing quite a bit. Blaylock may get the numbers, 75 yards and a score, but Johnson could earn a start as the season wears on. Start Blaylock, but keep an eye on Johnson as his opportunity is coming.
LaDainian Tomlinson - This guy is a beast. Suffering from a groin injury the majority of the season, Tomlinson returned from a bye last week and proved why many consider him the best overall back in the league. After running the ball 37 times last week, Tomlinson looks to be back at top form. There is no doubt the Chargers will lean on Tomlinson this week to keep the Chiefs offense off the field. Expect similar numbers this week from Tomlinson as the Chiefs defense is allowing 4.5 yards per carry. Start Tomlinson, like you weren't going to start him, and he should get 140 yards and at least one touchdown.
Eddie Kennison - Kennison's numbers over the last three weeks have been fantastic. Averaging 108 yards and a score the last three games, Kennison is must start once again. The Chargers should put up some points and Kansas City will take some shots downfield. Kennison is the only real deep threat and Green likes to throw him the ball. Johnnie Morton has caught his share of balls the last few weeks, but most are in the 7 to 14 yard range as more of a possession guy. Start Kennison as a number two receiver and start Morton only if you're desperate. Kennison should rack up 100 yards and a score to keep his average rolling.
Keenan McCardell -The guy rumor had coming to Kansas City early in the year. McCardell is a great fit for the Chargers and is a consistent threat that catches the ball. He has grasped the offense but has yet to have a huge day statistically. This may be the game. With so much attention focused on Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates, McCardell will have single coverage and is experienced enough to get open. Start McCardell this week and 100 yards and a score shall be your reward.
Tony Gonzalez - He's catching balls all over the field. And Green usually looks to him first in the red zone. Start him again as he is a stud and if anyone in this offense can lead this team to victory it's him. Plus he faces another stud tight end that is taking the league by storm. Gonzalez loves being considered the best tight end in the game and wants to prove it this week against the other AFC tight end pro bowl representative. Expect 85 yards and a score this week and don't be surprised if he scores twice.
Antonio Gates -Wow! Gates has made quite an impression this season. Built much like Gonzalez, Gates seems to be open every time the Chargers are in the red zone. Kansas City will have to focus their defense on Gates, but the Chiefs' linebackers can't cover him nor can a safety one on one so they'll have to double-team him. Start Gates and expect similar numbers to Gonzalez, 80-100 yards and a score or two.
Lawrence Tynes - Tynes is improving, but his kickoffs are still lackluster. Luckily, in fantasy football that doesn't count against you. Once again there will be plenty of point available and Tynes is a decent start. Check the weather to make sure the wind isn't blowing too much on Sunday and Tynes should score in the middle of the pack kicker-wise.
- The rookie kicker from Iowa is having a decent season. Though he's only had 15 attempts all year, he has hit 13 field goals, including two 50+ yarders. There are better starts out there as the Chargers are more likely to score touchdowns than kick field goals.