Five To Watch: Allen Needs to Lead the Way

After two straight road adventures that saw the Chiefs turn the ball over and commit mistakes with regularity, they finally get to play in front of 78,000 faithful, who will forgive them for two straight road losses. That is, of course, if they win Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

Today is Red Friday and for the most part it's the one day a year when every single Chiefs fan believes the team will make the playoffs. This season the offense might indeed be the key between the Chiefs finishing 6-10 or 10-6. There's reason to promote both theories.

That aside, Sunday is the biggest game of the Herm Edwards era. His one-year pass is over and now he's working on real time as the head coach. This week he's been relatively calm considering his team has beat themselves two games in a row.

Where this team has really suffered is on special teams. They're already on their second kicker and they have a new return man in Eddie Drummond, who really hasn't shown any of flashes of what made him an All-Pro in Detroit. And then there's the coverage teams.

Missing in action are gunners Bernard Pollard and Benny Sapp, not to mention the Legend, Boomer Grigsby, who is by far the best wedge buster the Chiefs have. Without those three younger players performing, some veterans aren't getting the job done.

Last week the Bears used a lot of their starters on special teams, plowing the road for Devin Hester. It worked, and it needs to work in Kansas City as well.

Special teams are about sacrifice, commitment and a general disregard for your body. The three missing elements I mentioned (Pollard, Sapp and Grigsby) need to return, and fast, because more often than not special teams will determine Chiefs wins and losses this year. Punter Dustin Colquitt can't do it all by himself.

One man who has shown he can do it by himself and take over football games is defensive end Jared Allen, who served his suspension like a man and took his lumps. He's learned some invaluable lessons that will serve his future NFL playing days well.

He comes back at a time when he's needed not only for his play, but the attitude he brings on the field. He plays with a style that's infectious not only to his defensive teammates, but those on offense as well. In another life, Allen wants to be a running back.

Allen will bring it on Sunday and he might just be the elixir that restores order to this entire defense. The NFL is never about one man, but a man like Allen could affect all the other men on this roster.

Five To Watch:

1. QB Damon Huard - To say this is a big game for Huard is an understatement. He's 3-0 as a starter in Arrowhead, and that's good news because he'll be facing a Vikings defense that can flat out bring it when they're motivated. That's the key for Huard's success this week. He needs to deflate that defensive line and put them on their heels, not their toes. Otherwise, and it might be time for Brodie Croyle.

2. WR Dwayne Bowe - Bowe brings flash to a punchless offense that has shown little life in two games. He's now firmly entrenched as a starter and has the ability to change a game. Right now he has to be the go-to guy down the field. If he can open things up for tight end Tony Gonzalez, KC's running game will follow. Bowe might just be the key to waking up Kansas City's dead offense. What he does against Minnesota's poor secondary will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.

3. LB Napoleon Harris - Last week I was so impressed with Harris that I felt he was the best free agent pickup of the offseason. The former Vikings linebacker was jettisoned last season by the Vikings because Minnesota felt he couldn't raise his game to another level. In Kansas City, he's brought it, and with Derrick Johnson and Donnie Edwards at his side, the Chiefs have the best trio of playmaking linebackers in the AFC West. Harris is a big part of that, because he's adept in pass coverage and run defense and can get to the quarterback. This is a big game for him this week and I expect he'll have a monster afternoon against his former team.

4. DE Jimmy Wilkerson - Lost in the return of Jared Allen is the play of Jimmy Wilkerson. This week he'll probably play a bit more inside than outside, but he's shown the ability to do both well. He's as valuable as any defensive lineman on this roster right now, and his versatility within the rotation gives the Chiefs the deepest defensive line they've had since the early 90's. Wilkerson told me yesterday he's especially looking forward to hitting fellow Oklahoma Sooner Adrian Peterson. Let's hope the rest of his teammates feel the same way.

5. K Dave Rayner - In his debut last week, Rayner kicked a long field goal and was consistent on kickoffs. His leg was every bit as strong as advertised. His first field goal would have been good from 60 yards out. The second one was blocked due to a low trajectory, but his leg is strong enough that perhaps he won't make the same mistake this week. In the end there's little doubt a field goal made or missed could determine the winner tomorrow. Rayner might be a big part of a Chiefs win tomorrow.

Prediction: Chiefs 16, Vikings 14

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