Five To Watch: Chiefs v. Broncos

Last Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals didn't get the 2006 season off to the kind of start that Herm Edwards wanted. There were some positives, but in order for the Chiefs to win at Denver, they'll need to play a near-perfect game. Let's narrow that down: backup quarterback Damon Huard needs to have a flawless game.

Give Trent Green kudos for wanting to make the trip to Denver. Green wants very much to carry the clipboard for his teammates. Truly inspiring, to say the least, but let's hope that common sense prevails and he rests up.

This weekend's game in Denver could end up being a blessing in disguise for the Chiefs. Not many people, if any at all, are giving them a chance to win this game. They're playing a wounded team with an enigmatic quarterback who's far more comfortable playing on the road than at home.

Jake Plummer threw three interceptions last weekend at St. Louis. In a city where John Elway is still a god, Broncos fans might be ready to string Plummer up by the middle finger he so proudly saluted the home fans with in 2004.

As many of you already know, I'm not one of Plummer's biggest fans. It's not incredibly difficult to beat this guy, but Kansas City has been unable to do that in Denver. In order to beat him, the Chiefs need to do just two things.

First, they need to send Tamba Hali or Jared Allen straight up the field and into the backfield, regardless of which direction the Broncos' offensive line moves. While Allen and Hali are rushing up the field, both outside linebackers (Kendrell Bell and Derrick Johnson) need to fill the gaps departed by the defensive ends. That should confuse Plummer and prevent him from throwing to the tight end or receiver coming across the field.

Second, they need to force the Broncos into third-and-long situations and take away all the shorter routes. They have to force Plummer to throw the ball down the field. When he does that, every pass he throws has a chance to be intercepted.

And that's how you beat Jake Plummer. Of course, the defense also has to stop the Broncos vaunted running game. Seems simple enough, right?

It really is that simple, because the Rams did it last Sunday. Their gameplan worked to perfection. And guess what? The St. Louis defense is not as talented as the one the Chiefs fielded last Sunday against the Bengals.

Beyond that, it's still hard to pick the Chiefs to win this game. I'm going to do my best at the end of this column to be objective about my prediction for this game.

But one thing keeps sticking in my mind as analyze this game. How many times have we seen a backup quarterback come into Arrowhead and beat a more talented Chiefs team?

Every dog has their day, and almost every backup quarterback has a Joe Namath-type of performance once in his career. Can that happen to Huard this weekend?

Why not?

Five to Watch:
1. Damon Huard As I mentioned in this column already, I've just got this feeling that Huard might play above his talent level on Sunday. He's taken most of the snaps in practice and he knows that this is one of his last chances to start an NFL game. This is Huard's time to shine, and all he has to do is make sure he gets the ball into Larry Johnson's hands. If he can step into his throws, he's capable of completing just enough of them to move the chains.

2. Larry Johnson I wasn't too thrilled with his attitude last Sunday, but he has a right to be upset after Mike Solari abandoned the run far too early. LJ needs to come out of the tunnel in Denver with a chip on his shoulder the size of the Rocky Mountains. He needs to carry his offensive teammates to victory. He needs to have a Clinton Portis-esque game and silence the Denver crowd with one thundering run after another. It's time to back up his offseason comments and show why he's one of the leaders on this football team. It's time for him to lead!

3. Kevin Sampson Let's hope that Sampson can play the entire game and Jordan Black does not see the field at right tackle. Unless John Welbourn comes back, Sampson is the best option for the Chiefs at right tackle. Sampson must hold his own this weekend. He should get some help, as the Chiefs will probably use more two tight end sets in trying to establish their running game. Sampson needs to take the position and run with it. He's got a tough task ahead of him, to say the least.

4. Jarrad Page It's just a matter of time before Page becomes a starter. I'm a huge Sammy Knight fan, but he sat out most of the second half last Sunday because he didn't get the job done. Edwards told me that was by design, but the defense played better with Page on the field. He should see even more action against the Broncos. His speed is something you can't teach, and he knows how to use it. Knight is a savvy veteran, but he's lost a step or two. In Denver, this defense needs all the fast feet it can get.

5. Herm Edwards I like the way Edwards has handled the media this week. He served notice to his coaching staff and players that things are going to change. Everyone is accountable. To some, his attitude is defensive, but he's honest and upfront. The Chiefs lost last weekend's game because the Bengals out-executed them. It's that simple. If Edwards wants to make a statement, the Chiefs will win in Denver and all the naysayers will be silenced.

Nick's Prediction:
Broncos 24, Chiefs 23
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