Five to Watch: Jaguars vs. Chiefs

It's all come down to a long shot for the Kansas City Chiefs. Their slim playoff hopes are in the hands of the NFL Gods. It's too bad this team, like last year's team that narrowly missed the playoffs, could not take care of business at Denver, Miami or Cleveland.

Because of those losses we'll be scoreboard watching and praying if the good guys can beat the Jaguars we'll have a football game next week.

The winner of this game has a shot at the playoffs, but even if the Chiefs don't get some help they still have reason to play hard. Kansas City wants to finish above .500 for the second year.

You can also view this game as an audition for the players who want bigger roles in 2007.

The Chiefs are a good football team that simply needs to find ways to win close games on the road. For all practical purposes, the Chiefs failure in Cleveland sank their playoff fortunes. They'll likely miss the postseason again by a single victory.

Over the last three games we've seen the Chiefs are a team that is hovering around average because they don't have enough playmakers on both sides of the ball. That's not a knock on the offense or defense, but it's reality.

In back to back losses to the Ravens and Chargers, the better team won. The Chiefs had chances to win each of those games but could not make the big play when necessary.

As I reflect on the past four months of Chiefs football, I firmly believe regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game against Jacksonville that the 2006 squad is a better football team than the one that went 10-6 in 2005.

The defense is superior in every facet. The offense declined largely due to the absence of Green. Damon Huard did an exceptional job in his stint as the starter, but injuries at the wrong times hurt this football team.

The Chiefs weathered the storm without Green but didn't fare as well without Brian Waters in Miami. Jason Taylor was a one-man wrecking crew against the Chiefs.

This team needs to develop more depth along the offensive line in 2007. With players like Will Svitek, Tre Stallings and Rudy Niswanger the Chiefs have some young but inexperienced bodies that could step in and start. The 2007 NFL Draft is loaded with four blue-chip first round tackles that could fall to the Chiefs in the middle of the first round.

On defense the Chiefs need to find a space-eating defensive tackle that can get pressure up the middle. Both Ron Edwards and James Reed were solid in the middle of the defense and Jimmy Wilkerson adds even more punch, but this team still needs a Warren Sapp type of player that can increase the productivity of the interior defense.

Even though Herm Edwards has some major holes to fill this offseason he's certainly not overwhelmed with the task of getting this franchise back on track. The Chiefs appear to be behind teams like the Chargers, Ravens, Patriots and Colts, but the gap between the wildcard teams isn't all that great. It certainly can be bridged with success in free agency and the draft this March and April.

Five to Watch:
1. SS Jarrad Page - The future is now for the young safety. He won't start this Sunday but he'll likely get the nod in 2007. His speed in the secondary will allow the front seven to be even more aggressive on defense. Page and Bernard Pollard both bring that element to the team along with a hard-hitting attitude.

2. QB Trent Green - Green is under the microscope in this game after playing poorly down the stretch. He's made it clear that he'll be back in 2007. A good showing on Sunday could provide the needed momentum to start preparing for next year.

4. LB Kendrell Bell - Bell played his best game as a Chief against the Oakland Raiders last week. The jury is still out on his return for next year but with Kawika Mitchell heading for free agency, Bell's experience playing middle linebacker could prove valuable for this team in 2007.

5. CB Ty Law - I believe that Law can still play at a high level. He's not had a typical Pro-Bowl year, but part of that can be attributed to a different defensive philosophy. With a strong offseason he could return to his old form.

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