Five To Watch: Chiefs vs Titans

When a team is in the midst of six straight losses things get uncomfortable for everyone. Players are restless, coaches start looking over their shoulders and fans start sitting out.

That's not what the plan was going into this season, but unfortunately the Chiefs caught an upside-down roller coaster and it has yet to go right side up.

So for the next two weeks, all the Chiefs can do is attempt to control the playoff fate of two other NFL teams. The Tennessee Titans enter Sunday a game out of the last wildcard spot in the AFC. Next week the Detroit Lions are in the same boat on the NFC side.

The Chiefs really have little to play for other than pride. The remaining three games will determine which players will be part of Herm Edwards' crew next season and sort out where Kansas City's first-round pick falls in the NFL draft.

If the Chiefs lose out, they'll pick eighth at the worst. But none of the players really care about that at the moment.

Last week some Chiefs veterans were upset that a few of their teammates didn't bring their A-game against the Denver Broncos. Some insinuated that certain players were already making offseason plans.

I'm not going to say that's true, because I think the players are all trying. The real problem is the lack of game-changing plays on both sides of the football.

Entering 2007, the Chiefs were going to have to play near-perfect on offense to put the defense in a position to win the game. That plan hardly materialized. Why?

There are many theories, some plausible, some not. One of them - and the one I think is most humorous - is the Hard Knocks jinx. The Chiefs were featured on HBO this summer and all the teams that have been featured generally have struggled that season.

The Chiefs' appearance on HBO didn't cause a six-game slide. What caused it was the fact this football team just hasn't played very well. This season they've yet to put a complete game together on offense, defense or special teams.

This team never found an identity on offense. With the flipping of quarterbacks, the injuries at running back and a less-than-average front five, the offense never got on track.

Defensively the Chiefs have fallen prey to self doubt and the one-ton gorilla of an inept offense. Because of that, the defense probably feels they have to pitch a shutout in order for the team to have a chance to win.

Special teams haven't exactly helped with field position either. With the revolving door at the kicker position and few yards gained on kickoff and punt returns, the trifecta hasn't been able to feed off one another.

Despite all that, the Chiefs have made some strides this season, but they'll need to really reach down deep and find it within themselves to break the losing streak. If they can, they'll knock the Titans out of the playoff picture.

Five to Watch:

1. QB Brodie Croyle - The gunslinger almost had his six-shooter ripped from his hip last week against the Denver Broncos, mostly thanks to his poor offensive line. Croyle has been harassed on nearly every pass attempt this season, so it's been hard to gauge whether or not he's the real deal. I maintain he is, and with a new offensive line, a new offensive coordinator and another wide receiver next season, he might just be the guy. For now, though, he's going to take his lumps.

2. WR Dwayne Bowe - This is a critical game for the Chiefs' rookie wide receiver. He didn't have a good game at Denver, mostly due to the cold weather. At LSU he didn't play many games below 50 degrees. He's talented, but he'll have to get used to less-than-ideal climates if he's going to be a productive NFL wideout - especially in Kansas City.

3. G Brian Waters - I'd like to see Waters have a great game on Sunday. He's going up against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. This hasn't been his best season, but tomorrow he needs to be the spark that helps ignite this offensive line so Croyle has time. Running against the Titans will be near impossible, so it'll be the right arm of the quarterback that will determine how many points are scored.

4. DC Gunther Cunningham - Vince Young is gaining more and more confidence every week, but the Chiefs defensive coordinator generally has a solid plan against mobile quarterbacks. When Michael Vick visited Arrowhead in 2004 he was bottled up by KC's defense en route to a 56-10 loss. That kind of performance against the Titans could rejuvenate this defense. Cunningham has buried himself in game film in an attempt to solve his defenses' woes, and I think he might find answers Sunday.

5. HC Herm Edwards - It was nice to see his fiery side this week. He really took it to his players by making them watch the Broncos game film before practice on Wednesday. He's been critical of management recently and displayed confidence that he can right the ship again. There's no doubt in my mind he can get it done with another strong offseason.

Prediction: Titans 14, Chiefs 10 Top Stories