WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
Brodie Croyle returns to the starting lineup for the Chiefs, who have struggled to throw the ball in his absence. Unfortunately, Croyle couldn't have picked a worse time to return, as he faces a Titans defense that has allowed just one touchdown pass all year while picking off 10 passes (second in the NFL) and racking up 15 quarterback sacks.
Leading the charge for Tennessee's defensive line is defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who tops the unit with five sacks. As if he didn't present enough problems, the Chiefs will also have to deal with defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (three sacks), defensive tackle Tony Brown (four) and a rejuvenated Jevon Kearse (two).
The return of rookie left tackle Branden Albert should help the Chiefs deal with Vanden Bosch on the right side, but Kearse and Brown are of particular concern for the Chiefs, since they man the left side of Tennessee's defensive line. Brown is an athletic player who will give KC right guard Adrian Jones problems. Kearse is not the player he once was, but looks healthy after knee problems the last few seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Any healthy defensive end, no matter his level of talent, is a problem for Damion McIntosh, the Chiefs' right tackle, who leads the team in sacks allowed and hasn't played well all year long.
The Titans don't have all-star names at cornerback but don't allow big plays in the passing game. However, both of Tennessee's starting corners lack the size to match up with Dwayne Bowe, so keep an eye on that matchup. Safety Michael Griffin (four interceptions) is playing well in his second season out of Texas.
WHEN THE TITANS PASS
Kerry Collins has the Titans undefeated in Vince Young's place, but don't read too much into that 5-0 start. Collins has avoided mistakes, but is hardly a playmaker at quarterback, as Tennessee ranks near the bottom of the league in almost every passing statistic.
With their running game and defense, however, avoiding mistakes is all Collins really needs to accomplish. He gets rid of the football and has been sacked just once. Until last week's game against the Baltimore Ravens, Collins had thrown just one interception.
The real problem with Tennessee's passing game is the lack of talent at the receiver positions. It's no coincidence tight end Bo Scaife leads the team in receptions – Justin Gage and Justin McCareins simply aren't starting material at wide receiver. The Titans lack a deep threat and their tight ends – Scaife and former Falcon Alge Crumpler – are Collins' best receiving options.
There's still an issue here for the Chiefs to overcome, however – Tennessee's offensive line. Left tackle Michael Roos had a great game against Jared Allen a year ago at Arrowhead Stadium, and is more than a match for Tamba Hali. The Chiefs haven't rushed the passer with any consistent success all year, and the Titans' line is good enough to give Collins all day to throw the ball.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
Larry Johnson is inactive this weekend, but that might be a blessing in disguise for KC's offense. Tennessee is stout up the middle with Haynesworth and have ferocious speed at linebacker in Keith Bulluck and David Thornton. Running room doesn't come easy against the Titans, who are permitting just 3.7 yards per carry and have allowed only one 100-yard rusher.
Johnson's absence means more carries for Kolby Smith and rookie Jamaal Charles, who are both more adept at creating something out of nothing when holes close up. In order for the Chiefs to run the ball well, however, they will need to get creative. Coming out in tight formations and telegraphing running plays won't work against the Titans.
WHEN THE TITANS RUN
The Titans have a new starting running back this year in rookie Chris Johnson, who's far quicker and much faster than last year's starter, LenDale White. Johnson is quite similar to KC's own rookie back, Jamaal Charles, but there's a good reason he went in the first round. Charles is fast, but Johnson has world-class speed and the acceleration to exploit even the smallest of holes in the blink of an eye.
Despite Johnson's talents, the Titans aren't running the ball as well as they'd like, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry. But the Chiefs haven't really stopped any team on the ground this year, except perhaps the Broncos, so there's no reason to think the Titans won't run all over Kansas City as everyone else has. Tennessee uses White in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
The Titans have employed an old Chiefs nemesis, Chris Carr, on kickoff and punt returns this season. Carr had success against Kansas City as an Oakland Raider in the past, and is averaging a healthy 13.1 yards per punt return. He ranks near the top of the league in kickoff returns, also. Tennessee boasts a terrific veteran kicking tandem in punter Craig Hentrich and placekicker Rob Bironas, who is perfect on field goals this year and also kicks off well.
The Chiefs will benefit from the return of starting quarterback Brodie Croyle, but how rusty will he be after sitting out for more than a month? Kansas City comes off a bye week that was full of distractions, while the Titans had a bye of their own.
The Titans are 5-0 for a reason. The Chiefs are 1-4 for other reasons, and Croyle is no savior.
Titans 30, Chiefs 10
The Matchups – Chiefs vs Titans
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