Five To Watch: Bye Week

Since I can't pick five Chiefs players to watch this weekend, I decided to pick players from five teams around the league that Kansas City fans need to keep an eye on in week three. With the Chiefs 0-2 start, it's not too early to start rooting against some of the teams that might stand in the way of Kansas City's quest for a playoff berth.

But before we do that, I want to take a quick look back at the first two games.

Even with uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Chiefs showed remarkable improvement from week one to week two. It's clear that Herm Edwards is starting to get his point across to the players. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the biggest task facing Edwards is the fact he has to mesh his players with Dick Vermeil's leftovers. It's kind of like meshing two families living at opposite ends of town. We're not talking about the Hatfield's and the McCoy's, but there are players who are still bleeding Vermeil blood and Edwards is trying to change that.

It's not an easy task, but he's made significant headway thus far. The best example is Greg Wesley, who might have played the best game of his career against Denver this past Sunday. Edwards knows how important the safety position is to the evolution and maturation of his new defense. He's spent considerable time with Wesley, who has struggled to play at the level this defense requires from its' starting safeties.

Wesley is but one of 22 defenders that Edwards is in charge of. When you've been as bad as Kansas City's defense has been the last half decade, Edwards needs talented players like Wesley to play at the level they're capable of playing at. That means he can infuse some of the younger players like rookie safety Jarrad Page and first-round pick Tamba Hali with the veterans.

It's clear that this defense is light years ahead of the one that walked off the field in 2005. They are playing at a level that I didn't expect to see until midway through the season. That's a credit to Edwards, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and the players who are buying what the coaching staff is selling.

Offensively, this team can win with Damon Huard as long as he spreads the ball to his wide receivers. He can't just use the middle of the field, and he needs to look for other targets besides Tony Gonzalez and Larry Johnson.

For now, the players get three days off, and they'll scatter to get some home cooking or check out their alma mater this weekend.

Here are five players to watch this weekend that could impact Kansas City's chances of getting into the playoffs.

Five to Watch:
1. Jake Plummer - It's just a matter of time before Jay Cutler takes over in Denver. Plummer struggled in back-to-back weeks, and he looks anything but comfortable at the helm of what has become a very predictable Broncos offense. The worst thing head coach Mike Shanahan did this offseason was draft Cutler. After Plummer gets spanked by the New England Patriots on Sunday night, the writing will be on the wall. It'll be time for a quarterback change.

2. Fred Taylor - If the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to make a run at respectability, they'll need a solid running game and thus far in 2006 they're getting that. Taylor is Jacksonville's best offensive weapon. As long as he stays on the field and remains healthy, Jacksonville has enough talent to win plenty of ugly games again this season. They've already won two, and this weekend's matchup against the Colts could determine how far they've come under head coach Jack Del Rio.

3. Steve McNair - The only thing the Baltimore Ravens needed was a solid quarterback. They have that now and give kudos to Brian Billick for convincing ownership to bring one in. McNair's best days are behind him, but at the helm of the Ravens offense, Baltimore has Super Bowl written all over them.

4. Alex Smith - The most surprising team thus far in 2006 has to be the San Francisco 49ers. The primary reason for that is their young quarterback, who appears ready to shake off his freshman blues and has shown a lot of poise in his sophomore season. Most people thought the 49ers would win two or three games this season but they had another outstanding draft, and with more weapons at his disposal, Smith could give the Chiefs defense all they can handle on October 1st.

5. Willie Parker - While Parker is laden with a new contract and the daunting task of trying to fill the shoes of Jerome Bettis, the Steelers are finding it tough to defend their Super Bowl title. Ben Roethlisberger is back, but he's not going to be productive unless Parker can run like he did a year ago. Like Taylor with Jacksonville, Parker has all the tools to be a dominating back. The one thing he's lacking is his mentor on the sidelines whispering in his ear. Parker had a tough game against the Jaguars on Monday Night, and could have another against the Bengals this Sunday.

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