Behind Enemy Lines: Chiefs Part 2

The writers from Kansas City and New England team up to provide unique answers for insiders. In Part 2, Nick Athan talks about losing Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko's ability to play well, Tamba Hali and how the Chiefs might be able to pull off an upset.

Answers by Kansas City Chiefs insider Nick Athan of Warpaint Illustrated
Be sure to check out Part 1 about the Patriots
 
Q1:  Matt Cassel has been running the Chiefs offense since 2009.  Now that he's sustained a serious hand injury and will likely be replaced by Tyler Palko, how will the Chiefs adjust their game plan?  Is Cassel the future or is this the beginning of the search for a new QB of the future?

Nick Athan: I think once the Chiefs land a new head coach that whomever that is will likely bring in a new quarterback.  Cassel never really fell in favor within the fan base.  Though he's a leader in the locker room he just hasn't made enough plays consistently to garner the support needed to take this team to the next level.

Tyler Palko isn't the answer either.  He's been a back up for five years and never been close to earning a starting role.  Now that doesn't mean he can't become one in Kansas City but I think the Chiefs would be wise at some point this season, now that Cassel is out for the year, to give rookie quarterback Ricky Stanzi a shot.  Of the thre quarterbacks in training camp, he looked the best.

Q2:  The Patriots have had to shuffle their offensive line this year with injuries at center (Dan Koppen), tackle (Sebastian Vollmer) and retirement of guard Stephen Neal. That breakdown led to a safety last week vs the Jets. What can we expect the Chiefs to do to take advantage of that matchup?

Nick Athan: In theory, that would be something the Chiefs can taken advantage of on Monday Night.  However, outside of Linebacker Tamba Hali is the teams only premier pass rusher.  This far the Chiefs haven't been able to get any production out of Tyson Jackson, Allen Bailey or Wallace Gilberry, Hali has been on an island all by himself.

But the good thing is that Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel knows the Patriots offensive system quite well and I would not be surprised if you saw the Chiefs attack that offensive line with a series of blitz packages that might be able to close the pocket enough that they could grab a few errant passes from Tom Brady.

Q3:  Patriots defensive linemen Andre Carter, Mark Anderson, Vince Wilfork and co had great success last week using a 4-man rush with stunts to get pressure on Mark Sanchez.  What are the chances that the Patriots front four can get pressure on the Chiefs in passing situations, and what do the chiefs typically do to compensate for that?

Nick Athan: Over the last two weeks basic four man fronts have completely shut down the Chiefs offense.  In losses at home to Miami and Denver, they successfully stopped their efforts to establish the run.  And in passing situations, those teams were able to put so much pressure on Matt Cassel that he was ineffective in both losses.

However, the other factor right the Patriots defense has to be leery that Tyler Palko can run with the football.  He does have some mobility and if given time, he can throw the long ball.  We've already seen this year some second and third string quarterbacks defeat some NFL teams soundly.  So the Patriots can't take Palko lightly.  In passing situations, they'd be wise to bring more than four at all times.

Q4: New England has assembled a ragtag group of defensive backs on the field as they try to deal with injuries this year. They rank dead last in the NFL. How will the Chiefs exploit that weakness?

Nick Athan: Like I said before in games against the Dolphins and Broncos who were near the bottom of pass defense, the Chiefs struggled.  But the Patriots secondary is a mess and it's very exploitable.  In my opinion they don't have the secondary that can cover the Chiefs trio of receivers, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin.

If Palko gets time in the pocket and has some modest throwing lanes, he will exploit that secondary.  But last week the Patriots were able to overcome those lapses against an average New York Jets offense.  And with a new quarterback in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL, they should be able to force some errant throws.

But that might be easier said then done if Palko has some early success against the Patriots depleted secondary!
 

Q5:  Tom Brady is on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season passing record (5,084yards) this season and has had much of that success by finding Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. How will old Patriots' coordinator Romeo Crennel try to slow down this offensive machine, and do you think his game plan will work?

Nick Athan: Like I said earlier, if anyone can stop Tom Brady it's Crennel.  If I were him, I'd bring the heat on every snap.  When the Chiefs defense was playing well earlier this season, they weren't piling up sacks but they were collapsing the pocket.

That's the primary reason the Chiefs went on a four game winning streak after their 0-3 start.  And if I'm Brady, I'm a little leery about what Crennel might have up his sleeve.  Still it's a daunting task, even with the genius of Crennel, to come up with enough horses to shut down Brady.


Q6:  What are the Chiefs chances of competing for the playoffs in the AFC West this year?
 
Nick Athan:  It's not going to happen.  The Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders will fight it out for the AFC West.  Once the Chiefs lost back-to-back games at home to the Dolphins and Broncos, their chances to defend their 2010 division title, went out the window.  Even if Matt Cassel hadn't been lost for the season, the chances would have been slim.

Prediction (and why):

Nick Athan:  In this game, I'm not optimistic the Chiefs can remain close in this game.  Facing a talented offense and a premier quarterback, a hostile crowd, Kansas City is outmatched and out gunned.   Patriots win 47 - 10

Nick Athan  covers the Chiefs for WarpaintIllustrated.com, part of the Scout.com NFL network and Fox Sports. You can follow him on twitter: @Chiefsinsider


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