Insight from the Real Experts: KC vs. Giants

It is time again for our weekly conversation with the real experts of the Chiefs upcoming opponent, the fan who follows the team day in and day out. The Chiefs continue their run through the NFL's toughest closing schedule this week by traveling to the Meadowlands on Saturday to take on the New York Giants but the Chiefs fell short (and wide right) in a very exciting game against the Cowboys last Sunday.

However, the Chiefs got a reprieve as the Miami Dolphins went to San Diego and pulled off a 23-21 upset victory over the Chargers. That outcome means the Chiefs still control their own destiny in terms of making the playoffs. The challenge is still tough this week because and the Chiefs now have no room for error. This is a must win game and it is on the road against a likely playoff participant. The Giants enter the game 9-4 and on a two game winning streak. The Chiefs are 8-5 tied with San Diego and Pittsburgh for the 6th and final AFC playoff spot.

This week we had difficulty convening a panel of New York Giants fans. We were only able to get 1 Giants fan to sit down and answer our questions. In light of that, we decided to eavesdrop into some conversations on the Scout.com Giants board to glean their thoughts about the upcoming game with the Chiefs. We will also use the responses from our one panel member to comprise the analysis of this week's game. Our one panel member is:
• Bigbluebuff (referring to remain anonymous, this is his name on the Giants Scout.com site, 34 year-old university professor from Sylva, NC; a Giants fan for 26 years.

Bigbluebuff believes the dynamic pass rushing duo of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora and the balanced offensive weapons of the Giants will be too much for the Chiefs to handle. However, he is concerned about injuries such as the high ankle sprain to middle linebacker Antonio Pierce that has him declared out for this game.

Question: What aspect of the Giants attack do the Chiefs not have an answer for?

Answer: "The Giants have two strengths which are a great concern for opposing teams. The first of these is the two bookend pass rushers who can create tremendous pressure on opposing quarterbacks without the need for the Giants DC (Tim Lewis) to bring extra defenders into the pressure package. Michael Strahan is a known commodity, and though he is now 34 years old, he lost 20lbs. in the off-season and looks faster and as strong as ever, evidenced by his 11.5 sacks. The young kid, Osi Umenyiora, is finally rounding into the type of player that caused the Giants to draft him in the 2nd round of the 2003 draft out of Troy State. With 12.5 sacks on the season, he is currently a half sack behind the NFL leader Derrick Burgess. The Giants don't lead the NFL in sacks this year, but the matchup problems presented by the two defensive ends has been a major catalyst in the rebirth of the Giants defense around Week six or seven.

The second aspect of the Giants team that can create significant problems are the offensive weapons. Jeremy Shockey has proven time and again that he is virtually impossibly to cover with a linebacker and requires almost constant double teams. Plaxico Burress has exploited smaller corners and the reappearance of Amani Toomer in the passing game gives Eli Manning three targets over 6'4" in the passing game. Those three players alone create a great deal of problems, but the single best player on the Giants is without a doubt Tiki Barber, who has a penchant for making big plays at critical junctures of games. Tiki has only average straight-line speed and power, but he has excellent vision and can break tackles with his elusive quickness. Before 2004 and the arrival of Tom Coughlin, he was prone to fumbling, but with only 3 fumbles lost in the past two seasons, that weakness in his game has been fixed through coaching and Tiki looks like a legitimate contender for MVP type honors. He will be used extensively in both the running and passing games." – Bigbluebuff

Question: Predictions on the game?

"I do think Eli will have one of his best games of the year and we will win a shootout. If Eli can keep his passes under control, and we can control some of the clock with Tiki and short passes, we win. I just feel with all the negativity surrounding Eli, for our last home game, he will produce a gem. Toomer, Shockey AND Plax each have 100 yd game." – LennG from The Giants Insider on Scouts.com

Analysis: The Chiefs offensive line will have its hands full trying to contain Strahan and Umenyiora. They are the best DE duo in the league right now and they are the drivers of the Giants defense (especially with Pierce out). However, the Chiefs are hitting all cylinders on offense led by RB Larry Johnson. The Chiefs have now topped 400 yards of total offense in 4 consecutive games with the last two games being against top 10 defenses. The key has been a balance between Larry Johnson running and Trent Green using play action to hit his receivers. The Chiefs should be able to maintain that balance and use play action to keep those defensive ends off balance enough to give Green time to throw. Roaf vs Umenyiora will be a tremendous matchup as will Strahan vs Welbourne.

Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey, Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. Those are some tremendous weapons and the Chiefs may very well struggle to contain them. The key for the Chiefs will be containing the running game (which they done a pretty good job of all year) and then attacking the passing game at the head, Eli Manning. With the Giants either employing a make shift line due to injuries or playing a line that is hampered by those injuries, this is the time for defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to throw his wide variety of blitzes at the Giants. Making Eli uncomfortable in the pocket is the best way to neutralize his outside weapons.

Question: What concern do you as a Giants ' fan have as you look at the Chiefs?

Answer: "With the emergence of Larry Johnson as a significant home run threat in the running game, Trent Green has begun putting up some rather eye-popping numbers: A 110 passer rating, 1136 passing yards, and 7 touchdowns over the past four games. With numerous weapons at his disposal and a great running back, it will certainly take a "Giant" effort to hold the KC passing game down." – Bigbluebuff

Question: What is the area on the Giants team that worries you the most and why?

Answer: "Prior to the Philadelphia game, I would have said that it was the defensive secondary, and the young cornerback Curtis DeLoatch in particular. He has given up play after play while filling in for the IR'd Will Petersen and has shown little or no improvement. However, with the news that MLB Antonio Pierce will likely miss Saturday's game with a high ankle sprain, the chances that this defense will duplicate their incredible effort against Sean Alexander are likely very small. As a Giants fan, my worst fear is that this game will get out of hand if the Giants don't find an answer for Larry Johnson and allow Green to dictate to the defense with play-action." – Bigbluebuff

Question: Can the Giants overcome their injuries?

Answer: "I do believe the Giants can overcome their injuries this week and beat the Chiefs and here's why...Though the loss of Antonio Pierce is absolutely enormous and should never be discounted, his loss against this particular offense will not be as significant as it was against the Eagles. The Eagles had very little effect running up the middle or off tackle, but got good results, extremely good results, forcing the ball to the outside with speed runners and getting the corner turned on the Giants. They had a couple of good runs in the "box", but both of their touchdowns and a good number of their most productive non-scoring running plays were to the outside. Crack back blocks notwithstanding, it is where the Giants are most vulnerable against the run.

The Chiefs OL is very good, and that franchise has always prided itself on quality OL play. But the Seahawks were supposed to have the best in the business out there, and they got folded up quite nicely by the Giants front four. In fact, the Seahawks franchise OLT got pimp-slapped by Osi while their outstanding OLG was getting jacked up by a converted rookie DE who was giving him over 50lbs. Antonio Pierce wasn't doing that, the linemen were. And Shawn Alexander, who is IMHO a better all-around back than Johnson and indeed faster than Johnson, had a rough day. Indeed, the presence of William Joseph and his 300+ lbs is actually more important on Saturday than Pierce against such a power running team. If his ankle is ready to go, and I have unfortunately not read much on him at all, then his contribution will be a major thorn in KC's side." – BoogMan from The Giants Insider on Scouts.com

Analysis: The Denver Broncos are ranked 2nd in the NFL against the run. The Cowboys are ranked 13th and the New England Patriots are ranked 11th. Those are the last three defenses the Chiefs have faced. In those three games Larry Johnson has rushed for 402 yards and six touchdowns. The Giants come in ranked 8th in run defense and I still see no reason why Johnson won't put up over 100 yards for the 7th consecutive game. Boogman gives a very intelligent and thought provoking analysis. However, he is wrong about Johnson. The main thrust of the Chiefs rushing attack is attacking the edges. While Johnson is more inclined to cut that run up inside instead of taking it all the way to the sidelines, the Chiefs still attack the defensive ends and the outside linebackers with their running attack. Of Johnson's five touchdowns in the last two weeks, three of them have come from sweeps to the right and to the left.

In those two games, Johnson has shown much more patience in taking those plays all the way outside. The Chiefs don't just pound it up the middle with Johnson. They get that athletic and mobile offensive line out on the edges along with fullback Tony Richardson, perhaps the best blocking fullback in the league, and Jason Dunn, perhaps the best blocking tight end in the league, and create big running lanes on the outside. That rushing attack should slow the pass rush of those defensive ends down a bit and allow for Green's play action passing game.

Conclusion: The must win games continue for Kansas City this week. With a backup middle line backer making the calls for the Giants defense, this is the week for Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders to employ his multiple shifts and motions to confuse the defense. With the Giants hurting on the offensive line, this is the time for Gunther unleash his vast array of blitzes and stunts along the defensive line. The key to this game will be balance on offense and pressuring Manning on defense.

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