WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
With second-year cornerback Jonathan Joseph suspended for this game, the Chiefs won't face a more pathetic secondary all year than the one they run into this Sunday against Cincinnati. Rookie cornerback Leon Hall will start in Joseph's absence, and so far hasn't been much more than a target for opposing quarterbacks. It's not just Hall though – there are open receivers everywhere in Cincy's defense every time a quarterback drops back to pass, and it doesn't matter if they play man or zone.
Compounding the Bengals' coverage problems is an extremely poor pass rush. Cincinnati has just four sacks on the season, a ridiculously low number. Justin Smith and Robert Geathers are actually a fairly decent pair of defensive ends, but the Bengals get very little inside push from their defensive tackles, and blitzes aren't effective, even though they'll send defensive backs and linebackers with great frequency, mostly in desperation. Geathers is a concern since KC's right tackle situation is a mess right now, but Damion McIntosh should have no problems with Smith on the weakside.
The Bengals have no one who can match up with Tony Gonzalez (the injury bug has depleted their linebacker corps) and Dwayne Bowe should give them major problems, too. The key for the Chiefs will be to come out passing, because as we'll expand on later, Cincy's run defense isn't as horrible as it looks on paper.
WHEN THE BENGALS PASS
Cincinnati boasts the league's third-ranked passing offense, as Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh have picked up where they left off a year ago. The Bengals' offensive line is providing great protection for Palmer once again. But all is not perfect. There's something missing from Cincy's passing game – the deep ball.
Palmer absolutely torched the Browns a few weeks ago, but since then the deep game has been out of sync for the Bengals. It seems lately everything has been intermediate and short passing. Palmer's numbers look good, but he's just a little off this year with his accuracy. Johnson and Houshmandzadeh have frequently been forced to make circus catches.
Cincinnati will start an extremely inexperienced right tackle Sunday in Scott Kooistra, due to Willie Anderson's injury. Kooistra has just one career start, but has played well this season in relief of Anderson. Look for the Chiefs to play tons of Cover 2 zone in this game, as blitzing Palmer is a horrible idea, and Kansas City really can't afford to leave Ty Law or Patrick Surtain one-on-one in coverage with either of these receivers.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
While it's true the Chiefs are struggling to run the football, don't automatically assume they get a break playing the league's 29th ranked run defense this Sunday. The Bengals are better than that ranking, even with their severely depleted linebacker corps – they're starting players they recently picked up off the trash heap at the moment, including a middle linebacker named Anthony Schlegel who has almost no experience whatsoever as a starter.
The Chiefs can run on Cincinnati, but here's the key – they must attack with the pass first, and then begin to pound the ball starting in the third quarter. The Bengals have shown an ability to stop the run early in games, as they did in Seattle earlier this year – Shaun Alexander didn't bust out until late in the game. The good news for Kansas City is that John Welbourn finally has a matchup he can win – Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko is big, but really soft. Larry Johnson should have some holes to run through Sunday, and Cincy's bargain basement linebackers are no match for him in the open field.
By the way, the Bengals actually tackle fairly well for a team with such a rotten ranking in run defense. So yes, the Chiefs can run on Cincinnati, but they have to prove it first before anyone gives them a vote of confidence.
WHEN THE BENGALS RUN
The Bengals are curiously conservative at the start of most games, as they often choose to hand the ball to Kenny Watson early (Rudi Johnson is injured right now and will miss this game). They show little commitment to the running game however, and with good reason – they know their defense isn't going to keep the score low. As a side effect, they also run little play action in their passing game.
Watson actually might be a better fit for the way the Bengals run their offense at the moment – he's quicker back who's more adept at running the draw play than Johnson, and a better receiver. There's not much to be worried about here, though. The Bengals are having a horrible time trying to run outside the tackles at the moment, and most running plays are right up the gut. The Chiefs should be able to stop this rushing "attack" despite their recent problems in run defense.
Shayne Graham is one of the AFC's best kickers and consistently puts his kickoffs deep into the end zone, but the Chiefs have the edge in punters in this battle. Both return units are completely unremarkable at the moment, but give the Chiefs a slight edge in coverage.
Don't discount the revenge factor in this one, as Chiefs players haven't soon forgotten the hit laid on Trent Green in last season's home opener. Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards is 1-1 against Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis lifetime. The Bengals are 1-3 after the bye week under Lewis.
The Chiefs simply do not have enough offensive firepower to stay with the Bengals, especially in Eddie Kennison's absence. And they certainly don't have the secondary to match up with Carson Palmer and his weapons on defense.
Bengals 28, Chiefs 17
Film Review: Chiefs vs Bengals
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