Five To Watch: It's Showtime!

Now the fun begins. I have to admit, the offseason is grueling and at times monotonous, but this year its been more fun. I think that's because of the way head coach Herm Edwards ran the show since the season ended. He cleaned up the house, made the locker room almost airtight, and for the first time since he took over the job, this team reflects the head coach.

Does all this mean a return to the playoffs? That might hinge on Sunday's contest in Houston.

It might be cliché to say Sunday's game is the most important of the season, but it really is. If the Chiefs can't find a way to wash away the memory of a bad preseason, the stench might linger for weeks.

Nobody really knows what to expect on Sunday. The Chiefs could fall flat on their face, and we might see the exhibition offense and defense show up again.

But looking at this matchup, Kansas City has more talent on offense, defense and special teams. They have the best tight end, the best power running back, the single-best guard in the NFL, and that's more than enough to win this football game.

On defense they have a huge advantage over the Texans with Ty Law and Patrick Surtain. They have a better front four, and Houston's linebackers aren't even in the same league as Kansas City's. Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard put to shame anything the Texans field at safety.

So how do the Chiefs lose this game?

By believing what the press is saying both nationally and locally. If they let the doubts created by the 0-4 preseason creep into the back of their minds, they'll lose their focus.

During training camp, I saw the real Chiefs. I saw a fast defense capable of dominating. I saw an offense that moved the ball five and six yards at a time at will, against a defense that was better than the one they faced a year ago in pratice.

But all of that potential will be meaningless if the team forgets what Edwards has preached since they first came together in March. And if they lose sight of that, they will lose in Houston.

Five To Watch:
1. LT Damion McIntosh - This is really a statement game for KC's free agent tackle. He was having the best training camp of any offensive lineman in River Falls, and constantly battled with Jared Allen. If he can help this team get out to a lead while Will Svitek spells him, McIntosh could be a big factor. He's an excellent pass blocker, and if he can shore up that side of the line just enough to give Damon Huard time, this offense will work smoothly.

2. QB Damon Huard - He's earned this shot, but how long of a shot it is, remains to be seen. He can't just hand off to Larry Johnson. He's got to convert key third downs. He showed the ability to do that last year, but the question remains – can he do it again. The odds are against him based on his age and his nagging leg injury.

3. LB Donnie Edwards - This is the type of game where you need a veteran leader on your defense who knows what it takes to win on the road. Last year, the Chargers were masters of winning on the road. Edwards was a part of that, and he feeds off games like this one.

4. P Dustin Colquitt - Kansas City's punter might end up being the key to the Chiefs chances of winning this game. Field position is critical on the road. I've seen Colquitt really mature over the last couple of years - not just from a punting standpoint, but from a leadership role. He was Justin Medlock's biggest champion while the rookie kicker struggled in preseason. That's a sign of a young player turning into a veteran.

5. DC Gunther Cunningham - I'm supposed to limit this to players, but Sunday's game might be his biggest for Cunningham since his return. We ran into each other after Herm's Friday press conference. He was as calm as I've ever seen him. He told me his defense would be ready, and I was convinced. I know Texans quarterback Matt Schaub was solid in the preseason against vanilla defenses, but I'm not sure he's quite ready for what's going to be in his face on Sunday. Chiefs fans haven't seen a defense with this much speed and punch since the 90's. It took Cunningham three seasons to get the right mix of coaches and players, and I have a feeling Sunday's game ball might just end up in his hands.

Prediction: Chiefs 17, Texans 14

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