WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
Can Tyler Thigpen put together a complete game, finally? That's the question this week as he faces a defense that doesn't present a huge challenge, as the Saints are ranked 26th in pass defense and rank near the bottom of the league in touchdown passes allowed, interceptions, and sacks.
Curiously, the Saints don't allow opposing quarterbacks to complete a high percentage of their passes, but that's probably because it's far too easy to fling the football down the field against New Orleans and gain large chunks of yards. The Saints have allowed 32 pass plays over 20 yards, more than any other team in the league.
What's surprising about the Saints troubles against the pass is that on paper, they have a fearsome pass rush tandem in defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant. But the pair have combined for only five sacks this year, and the lack of interior push from the middle of New Orleans' defensive line doesn't help. Rookie Sedrick Ellis is struggling even more than Glenn Dorsey has for the Chiefs at this point.
With injuries to cornerbacks Mike McKenzie, rookie Tracy Porter and Aaron Glenn, the Saints are left extremely short-handed on defense. Randall Gay and Jason David will probably start, and neither is much of a match for Dwayne Bowe, especially the 5-foot-8 David. Watch that matchup for some potential big plays. Former Chief Scott Fujita returns to Kansas City for the first time – but can he cover Tony Gonzalez?
WHEN THE SAINTS PASS
It's bad news for the Chiefs this week as their depleted defense faces one of the league's hottest and most efficient passing games. The Saints average a whopping 40 passes per game and, in striking comparison to their defense, have completed more passes over 20 yards than any other team. Despite their pass-happy ways, the Saints protect Drew Brees well, and that will be a problem for Kansas City.
With an injured Turk McBride starting opposite the slow Alfonso Boone, a converted defensive tackle, at defensive end, the Chiefs don't figure to put much pressure at all on Brees with a four-man pass rush. Risking a blitz against the Saints is an unwise proposition, as Brees excels at finding his hot read and spreads the ball around. The Saints boast five players with at least 20 catches, and eight players have caught touchdown passes this year.
The Saints haven't had a single dominant receiver, but Marques Colston, who went over 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, had a big game last week against the Falcons and looks healthy after suffering injury issues earlier this year. He's probable for the Chiefs game, and is reminiscent of the Broncos' Brandon Marshall. He'll give KC's secondary problems, especially if Brandon Flowers misses another game.
In the end, the Chiefs won't stop the Saints' passing game. Forcing them to grind out long drives with short passes is really their only hope of containing the NFL's most lethal passing attack.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
The Chiefs inconsistent ground game may get a boost this week with the return of Larry Johnson, but don't count on a huge game against an underrated Saints run defense. Jonathan Vilma, traded from New York last offseason, is playing well and leads the team in tackles with 75. The Saints aren't exactly the Baltimore Ravens up front, but they do a good enough job of filling gaps and don't allow huge running plays.
The Saints are small almost everywhere on defense, but tackle surprisingly well, and have only allowed five rushing touchdowns this year. They also have an outstanding in-the-box safety in Roman Harper. Given the fact the Saints will score plenty of points and the Chiefs have found new life on offense through the passing game, the running attack may be an afterthought today.
WHEN THE SAINTS RUN
And speaking of "afterthoughts," is there a better word to describe New Orleans' approach to running the football? The Saints are a passing team – the running attack is merely complementary, a diversion to keep teams honest when the down and distance calls for such an approach.
Reggie Bush's injury problems continue and he'll miss today's game. That might be a blessing in disguise, as veteran Deuce McCallister is by far the Saints' better back, at least when they hand it off. McCallister has lost some of his explosion but is as powerful as ever. The Chiefs have stopped the run recently but they'll need to tackle well to stop him.
The Saints have had a revolving door at placekicker and punter this year, as six players overall have kicked or punted for the team. It's hurt the team's coverage units, and this will be a game the Chiefs can get an advantage through on special teams. With Reggie Bush sidelined, the Saints don't have much of a return game, either.
The Saints and the Chiefs are both desperate teams, but in different ways. The Saints are desperate to stay in the playoff race, while the Chiefs are desperate to get another win. The Chiefs might have an edge as the Saints finish out a two-game road trip in Kansas City this week. This is the first regular-season meeting between head coaches Herm Edwards and Sean Payton.
The Saints and the Chiefs will put on a show in the most entertaining game of the season at Arrowhead Stadium. With temperatures around 53 degrees and clear skies, it's perfect weather for a good old-fashioned shoot out. Unfortunately, the Saints have a bigger gun in Drew Brees.
Saints 38, Chiefs 30
The Matchups - Chiefs vs Saints
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