Five to Watch: Saints vs. Chiefs

This is the big one. Of all the exhibition games the third one is the one that generally determines what kind of start to the regular season an NFL team will have. For the most part the regulars will play at least the first half. In the case of the Kansas City Chiefs, this game could hold the key to unlocking their fortunes in 2007.

Maybe I'm reaching a bit on that last line, but this game is a marker for this football team. Many questions could be answered tonight against the New Orleans Saints. Of course the opposite is true as well. There could be a whole new set of problems facing this football team if they struggle against New Orleans.

The big question – thank goodness – isn't the remaining holdout of running back Larry Johnson. After the Chiefs basically made the best offer possible, the Penn State grad took the cash all the way to the bank.

It will be interesting to learn what LJ took away from this experience. I have to admit to me – at least fresh off a bigger bank account – he appears ready to lead and that's the best possible news that could come out of this ordeal.

But he can't do it alone. He needs some help.

That help will come on both sides of the ball. This is a bubble game for a lot of players, but it's far more important for a few that will impact the Chiefs this season.

Five to Watch:

1. QB Brodie Croyle - It's showtime for the kid from Alabama. He's had two so-so games. He's made some really good plays, and some not-so-good plays. But this is a game where he needs to leave no doubt that he's the future. He doesn't have to be brilliant, but he can't turn the ball over and needs to string drives together. This offense needs consistency, and it must show the ability to get first downs. Larry Johnson won't be on the field, so it's not the offense we're going to see on opening day, but it's a dress rehearsal - one that will matter to the coaching staff.

2. RB Michael Bennett - This game is huge for Bennett, who wasn't too thrilled last week with the vanilla offense. He was looking for a bit more diversity in the running game. With LJ back and not ready for primetime duty, Bennett could be leading the rushing attack the first couple of games this season. Johnson admitted he's a slow starter and that's why Bennett and the other backs need to get in gear to lighten LJ's load when he returns.

3. Field Goal Trio - After last week's one-for-three performance from kicker Justin Medlock, a better showing is critical tonight. His two misses last week against the Dolphins were caused by poor mechanics – not leg strength. But the other two-thirds of this equation need a bit of work, too. Holder/Punter Dustin Colquitt is athletic enough to adjust to the left-footed kicker. The issue is deep snapper JP Darche, who has had a few snaps go high. We're spoiled around these parts because Kendall Gammon was so automatic.

4. LT Will Svitek With Damion McIntosh getting better each and every day, Svitek's learning curve is really key for this future of this offensive line. The injury to McIntosh serves notice that on any given play someone can get hurt. The Chiefs have a veteran starting five, so they need to bond and be cohesive to start the regular season. That won't happen, and that's why Svitek - who could one day be the starter - needs to play better. I think the Chiefs' pass protection is decent – not great – but it can get the job done. Svitek, in my opinion, is physical enough to dominate anyone, but he's not quite there yet. The Chiefs will need him this season. Tonight he'll be facing one of the better front lines he's faced all preseason.

5. HC Herm Edwards - Last year the Chiefs played their third exhibition game and Herm called a conservative gameplan. The players wanted to be more aggressive – especially on defense. The offense wanted to get more snaps in before the half. This game is important, and I think Edwards needs to let the dogs out just enough to get a solid snack in preparation for the feast in Houston. There are some young players Edwards is counting on and he should let them stretch their legs this week. The final preseason game in St. Louis will only be a walkthrough. Top Stories