Five to Watch: Chiefs vs Broncos

Sunday the Chiefs will play their final AFC West game of 2007. It all started out well as Kansas City won its first two games on the road at San Diego and Oakland, but three divisional home games later, a chance at the crown is gone.

The Chiefs have never won at Invesco Field. Their best chance was last year, when they blew a 6-0 lead and lost in overtime by three points.

This year Kansas City has their backs against the wall as they maintain slim division playoff hopes. It's simple. The Chiefs have to win their next four games and the Chargers have to lose their remaining games. The Broncos need to lose two of their last four games as do the Raiders.

Plausible? Yes. Likely? No.

But now everything shifts. The pressure is off and the last four games represent a peek into the future. The big question is the offensive line. When Rudy Niswanger went down with a season ending injury last week, the Chiefs lost valuable playing time for their center of the future.

Young guard Tre Stallings is up from the practice squad in Niswanger's place, and he'll get a shot to work with the first or second team the final four games. It should be noted that Stallings has spent some one-on-one time with former Chiefs All-Pro guard Will Shields. That can't hurt his chance at a starting job next season.

Stallings played tackle at Ole Miss, but the Chiefs converted him to guard. He has talent, a massive body and great feet. If he learns anything from Shields, he might be in the mix next season.

Either way, this offensive line is in for a major overhaul, with three new starters, a new offensive coordinator and probably a new position coach or two. If anyone can step up over the next month, that'll bode well for the offseason moves to come starting January.

Another young man who will likely get his first significant NFL action tomorrow is sixth-round pick Herb Taylor. The TCU product had a stellar career for the Horned Frogs, giving up just one sack in four seasons. I don't care what type of offense you run - if your starting left tackle has that kind of success, he's talented.

With Kyle Turley also battling injuries, Will Svitek will get another shot to prove his conversion from defensive end to tackle has a future. He's not exactly 100 percent as he's battled foot and ankle injuries since the start of the season, but this might be his last chance.

Stallings, Taylor and Svitek can only help build depth on an offensive line that hasn't developed any since the Vermeil era. And that's a silver lining in a season that's gone bad.

Five To Watch:

1. QB Brodie Croyle - After being kneed in the back against Oakland, Croyle will get back on the field this weekend to start the first of three road games to end this season. That's good, because it takes some pressure off and he'll get some valuable experience. Croyle needs to spend the next four weeks building a rapport with tight end Tony Gonzalez. The All-Pro tight end is still at the height of his game and with a new offensive scheme next year, the two need to develop some chemistry.

2. WR Bobby Sippio - I'd like to see him receive a few more reps this week – you can't ignore his great hands. So far the Chiefs haven't thrown a single pass his way. He's not the fastest guy, but I think he could be a solid fourth receiver for this team.

3. CB Tyron Brackenridge - The Chiefs have two aging veterans at cornerback and the likelihood of both returning in 2008 is slim. Brackenridge has done a magnificent job as the nickel back for the Chiefs, and I think he'll get quite a test Sunday against the Broncos. The one thing I like about Brackenridge is the fact the NFL hasn't been too big for him so far. The fact no team drafted him has made him tougher. That's a good sign for the Chiefs, who must shore up their secondary in the offseason. It looks like they have a solid piece to that puzzle in Brackenridge.

4. FB Boomer Grigsby - I don't think many thought the Grigsby-at-fullback experiment would see much light this season, but with Kris Wilson playing less and less this year, Boomer has taken on a more significant role in the offense. He's been solid as a lead blocker and though he's still learning the position, there is a possibility he could improve this offseason. If the Chiefs give him more responsibility the rest of the way, he could have a place on this team in 2008 and beyond.

5. HC Herm Edwards - It's been a rough 12 games for Edwards, and it's hard for me to believe anyone can blame him for KC's current five-game slide. He tried to warn everyone in the media when he took the job that this team was old and had talent issues. He fell victim to what he was left when he inherited the team from Dick Vermeil, but despite a losing season he's kept the locker room loose, close and every single player on the 53-man roster playing hard. He's taken the bullets for the organization's failure to find and develop talent before he arrived. There's no doubt in my mind he'll get it turned around.

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories