Pre-Snap Read: Chiefs and Cowboys

Even with back to back victories over the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots the 8-4 Chiefs are still widely considered to be a long shot for making the playoffs. If the Chiefs can however manage to get a win on the road today in Irving Texas it would go a long way in silencing the cynics.

Chiefs Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
Larry Johnson has now rushed for 100 yards or more in his last 5 games and you can count on today's game against the Cowboys to be his sixth. Though the Cowboys have had a stout run defense this season (ranking 10th overall) they have yet to face an offense as powerful as Kansas City's.

With a defensive front seven that is built around quickness the Cowboys have traded in some of their much needed bulk for speed. Of their starting front three on the defensive line only the rookie Marcus Spears weighs over 300lbs. Nose tackle La'Roi Glover is a mere 280lbs while right defensive end Greg Ellis is 271lbs. Both Glover and Ellis are extremely small players for a 3-4 defense and this should play right in to the hands of Kansas City's power running game.

The Cowboy defensive linemen are so vastly undersized that the interior of Kansas City's offensive line should be able to maul the middle of their defense with little to no resistance. There also shouldn't be any need for double teams on the nose guard or defensive end which makes it a lot for the guards and fullbacks to attack the inside linebackers. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, this happens to be strongest part of their defense; once it caves Larry Johnson will start to go for big yardage.

Each edge of this Dallas defense can also be exploited by Kansas City's tight ends and offensive tackles. Defensive end Greg Ellis and linebacker DeMarcus Ware man the weak side while end Marcus Spears and linebacker Scott Fujita mans the strong side. Both sets of players aren't particularly good as run stoppers which will sometimes cause one side to try and compensate for the other which then results in the defense over running the play. This should be expected in today's game with Kansas City so look for Larry Johnson to have a couple of big runs that come on the backside of the play.

The one x-factor that gives the Cowboys a glimmer of hope to defend the Kansas City running game is safety Roy Williams. Williams, considered by most to be the best strong safety in the league and is the heart of the Cowboy defense. It is imperative that Tony Richardson, Trent Green, and Casey Wiegmann know where Williams is at all times. If the Cowboys start to break from running their cover two shell in order to bring Williams up for run support the Chiefs will need to be prepared to counter with their passing game and keep the Cowboys honest.

When the Chiefs decide to throw the ball Trent Green might need to be a little extra careful with his passes. Not only do the Cowboys have hard hitting Roy Williams playing center field, they also have former Chief Willie Pile at free safety. Pile has been splitting time Keith Davis but Parcells will likely use him more in today's game because of his familiarity with the Chiefs offense.

The Cowboys also have a pretty formidable set of corners with former Kansas State Wildcat Terrence Newman and free agent acquisition Anthony Henry. Newman plays the left cornerback position and will spend most of the afternoon matched up against Eddie Kennison. Henry on the other hand is just returning to his position at right corner after missing the last three weeks with a groin injury.

While rookie outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware might not be the best run stopper in the world he is definitely a pass rushing extraordinaire (he does however have a lot of success in catching running plays from the back side). Depending on how he lines up this afternoon he will be seeing action against Willie Roaf, Jason Dunn, and Tony Richardson. Roaf shouldn't have a problem against Ware but Dunn and Richardson could be another story. Ware has a lightning quick first step with an explosive burst and he can tear around the edge as fast as anyone. Due to his quickness getting a hat on him in both the passing and running plays will be essential.

Bottom Line
Against this Dallas front the Chiefs might see the biggest holes they've opened since the Atlanta game of 2004. They should be able to dominate the line of scrimmage with relative ease so there is no need to throw the ball all over the park. Kansas City has to remain patient and let their play action game develop over the first half. The Cowboys are currently the 8th defense overall against the pass and when you look at the players in their secondary you know why. The Chiefs will need to be smart when throwing the ball and avoid turnovers at all costs.

Chiefs Defense vs. Cowboys Offense
The primary objective for the Kansas City defense today will stopping tailback Julius Jones and his backup Marion Barber. If the Chiefs can limit the Cowboy's running game and force them to become one dimensional they have a chance of making this game a real ugly one real fast.

The Cowboy's offensive line has been struggling ever since they lost left tackle Flozell Adams to a knee injury in the middle of October. Adams was replaced in the lineup by 3rd year player Torrin Tucker who had just one month prior lost his job at starting right tackle to rookie Rob Petitti. Since they took over in their starting roles both Petitti and Tucker have struggled at times but over the past few weeks things have gotten progressively worse. Only a week ago Tucker and Petitti were terrorized for an entire game the New York Giants' Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan. In that game Cowboy's offensive line surrendered four sacks to the New York pass rush and to make matters worse it wasn't just the tackles who were beaten, even their stalwart guards Larry Allen and Marco Rivera were handily pummeled.

Usually in this type of scenario the table would appear to be set for Carlos Hall and Jared Allen to each have a big day. In this instance however the Cowboys will probably try to hold of Kansas City's pass rush with max protections and tight formations.

Against Kansas City's defense the Cowboys will likely run a single back two tight end set in order to add some strength to their running game and assist their offensive tackles in pass protection. Although this will likely provide quarterback Drew Bledsoe with additional time it also limits his targets to two wide receivers.

If the Chiefs pass rushers aren't being terribly effective and the Cowboys suddenly realize that they don't need both tight ends to pass protect things might get a little scary. His would free up a tight end and Jason Witten is the one player on the Cowboy's offense that the Chiefs might have some trouble containing. Witten is just right behind Tony Gonzalez this season for yards and receptions with 50 receptions for 564 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Drew Bledsoe's primary receiver is the speedy ageless and Terry Glenn. Glenn is typically at the split end on the right side of the offense and will spend most of the afternoon going against Kansas City's shutdown specialist Patrick Surtain.

On the opposite side of the field Keyshawn Johnson will be lined up as the flanker on Eric Warfield. Warfield and Johnson match up well against one another and their battles should be interesting to watch.

Warfield and Surtain shouldn't have any problems covering Glenn and Johnson. The coverage ability of Kansas City's corners should in fact create a couple of coverage sacks. The Chiefs safeties will also have a few shots at intercepting some deep passes as they'll be able to drop, read, and jump routes due to a minimal amount of receivers out in patterns.

Bottom Line
Kansas City will need to find a way to beat the Cowboy's 7 and 8 man protections and get in Drew Bledsoe's face. Once they've achieved that they will start reeling in the takeaways.

Total Offense - 371.6 (3)
Rush Offense - 140.6 (4)
Pass Offense - 231.0 (9)
Total Defense - 333.7 (27)
Rush Defense - 91.8 (5)
Pass Defense - 241.9 (30)
Turnover Ratio - +7 (7)
Pts./Game - 25.1 (7)
Opp. Pts./Game - 21.4 (21)

Total Offense - 323.0 (17)
Rush Offense - 112.7 (15)
Pass Offense - 210.3 (15)
Total Defense - 284.7 (6)
Rush Defense - 101.8 (10)
Pass Defense - 182.8 (8)
Turnover Ratio - +1 (14)
Pts./Game - 21.1 (14)
Opp. Pts./Game - 17.1 (6)

FS Jerome Woods - Hamstring – Questionable
DE Carlos Hall - Hamstring – Questionable
DT John Browning - Knee – Probable
FB Ronnie Cruz - Knee – Probable
LB Boomer Grigsby - Abdomen – Probable
OT Willie Roaf - Illness – Probable
C Casey Wiegmann - Ankle - Probable

CB Aaron Glenn - Ankle - Questionable
CB Anthony Henry - Groin - Probable Top Stories