Five to Watch: Chiefs vs Lions

After seven weeks the Chiefs stood at 4-3 and had already won two AFC West road games. They haven't won since. The Detroit Lions stood 6-2 after eight games, but haven't won a game the last six weeks.

The Chiefs and Lions were the talk of the NFL after fast starts, but now they've settled into familiar ground and are fighting for pride. Sunday the Chiefs will travel to Detroit to face the Lions in a game with little meaning, other than one team breaking their losing streak.

Kansas City's losing streak is wearing the team down in the front office and in the locker room. In the middle are the coaches, who are fighting to get a win and for some, to keep their jobs in 2008. With the changes set to occur at One Arrowhead Drive after the season finishes, those coaches who want to remain a part of this rebuilding process need to bring their ‘A' game the last two weeks.

The same goes for dozens of players on KC's roster, some of whom will be playing for jobs these last two weeks. Herm Edwards probably already knows which players he intends to keep and jettison in the coming months.

The trick for Edwards is to look at the entire body of work from each player. It's clear most of the thirty-something crowd will be gone, so Edwards must establish which young players have improved enough to deserve a shot in 2008.

Fullback Boomer Grigsby might be one of them - with a strong offseason he could be a valuable commodity in this offense. The same goes for a player like wide receiver Jeff Webb, who will get a shot to be a third receiver next season.

Where this offense will live or die next year will be on the offensive line. We all know three-fifths of this line will be replaced, but Edwards has some pieces on the roster now that might fit.

Tackle Will Svitek played his best game against the Titans and he could be a candidate to move to guard. Svitek might play better with a center and tackle between him and I think that's the direction they'll move him in the offseason. He has great size and athleticism, but he's a work in progress.

Rudy Niswanger should be in the mix next season as well, at either center or guard. He was lost for the season due to a knee injury a few games ago, but is clearly better than John Welbourn.

The Chiefs made a move recently that might not be felt this week or next, but tackle Adrian Jones, who was mysteriously cut by the Jets, has starting experience since being drafted in 2004. He might be one of those late-season moves that pans out.

On the other side of the ball it's hard to understand why this defense has played so poorly over the last month. There's enough talent and good coaching - the only explanation is that certain players don't understand where they need to be on the field.

It's something that has to be fixed and that means young defensive players like Tank Tyler, Turk McBride, Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard need to improve if they're going to be a part of the future. None of them can be considered busts yet, because it takes a defensive player at least a year or two to get up to speed.

So that means the next two games are critical for the players who are still playing hard and buying what the coaching staff is selling.

Five to Watch:

1. QB Brodie Croyle - This is a big game for Croyle, who received plenty of protection against the Titans last week. He was solid before halftime but struggled in the second half. It didn't help that the offensive gameplan was so unbalanced, but Croyle did what he could. He threw a pair of interceptions and was lucky to avoid a third, but converted some clutch third and fourth-down conversions and that's a sign that he has play-making abilities.

2. RB Kolby Smith - The next two games are huge for Smith, since there are rumblings that Kansas City may put out feelers in the offseason in regards to trading Larry Johnson. That's only possible if Smith continues to succeed behind the same offensive line Johnson struggled with. With a legit starting five in front of him, who knows what kind of running back he might become. Changes are afoot at Arrowhead and how Smith runs against the Lions and Jets might determine LJ's future.

3. WR Eddie Kennison - It's become apparent that Kennison probably isn't in KC's plans for 2008. He had his best game of the season last week but with the emergence of Dwayne Bowe, the development of Jeff Webb and the opportunity for Bobby Sippio, it looks like the end for Kennison. Though he won't admit it, retirement looks probable for Kennison. With his recent injury problems and his age it's doubtful he can stick with another team. Of all the players on this team, however, Kennison might be the classiest. If he does hang up his cleats he had a great career and one Chiefs fans should remember with pride.

4. G Brian Waters
- I'm not sure how well Waters has played this year, and I base it on one thing - the time I spent with Mitch Holthus reviewing game film. Those sessions clearly revealed Waters hasn't played up to the level of his reputation. He's still one of the best guards in the NFL, but to be fair he's had to take on a different role this year, as he hasn't been surrounded by the same sort of talent. He can learn something from this season and if the rumors of a switch to center are true, he could take his leadership role to a whole new level.

5. GM Carl Peterson - It's been a tough couple of weeks for Peterson. With rumors running wild about his future, it appears he is ready to change with the times. This week he ran by a reporter with KSHB TV 41 and said, "there's going to be a lot of changes around here." He might know something that we all suspect about his own future. Despite the fact he may be the fall guy after 19 years, he raised our expectations. Even if he steps away from player personnel decisions he could still stay with the team.

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