Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Personnel Preference

First and foremost, I want to say that Chester McGlockton was taken at too young of an age. He passed away last night at age 42. I remember Chester from when I was younger, and loved playing as him on the old Quarterback Club and Madden games on the Nintendo 64. He spent three seasons with the Chiefs, recording 107 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 interception. RIP Chester McGlockton.

Now, to the serious stuff. Who is going to start for the Chiefs at the quarterback position on Sunday? In the Chiefs press conference today, Todd Haley said "Tyler's the starter. We're getting Kyle ready to play. He might have to play." Haley also told the Chicago media in a conference call that Palko will receive about 60% of the snaps while Orton will receive the remaining 40%.

Palko seems to think that he'll be the starter on Sunday against the Chicago Bears because that is what Haley is saying. But this wouldn't be the first time that Haley has engaged in gamesmanship regarding personnel decisions (just look at his comments regarding Orton before the waiver deadline last week). But a 60-40 split of snaps in practice is not very indicative of Palko being the starter, nor is it indicative of Orton taking the reigns for Sunday's game. Orton will have a little over a week of practice when the Chiefs face the Bears on Sunday, and I can guarantee you he won't be inactive for that game like he was against the Steelers.

If it was up to me, I'd start Palko. That is simply because I believe Orton could lead us to victory and every win pushes us farther away from the second best quarterback possibly coming out in the draft: Matt Barkley. But if I was Todd Haley and my job might be on the line, I'd go with Orton, since he gives the Chiefs the best chance to win (based of Palko's previous performances).

OT Jared Gaither was released yesterday on waivers. The Chiefs picked him up this offseason, and many Chiefs fans, including myself, were optimistic that he could come in and compete for one of the starting tackle positions. We were even more hopeful that he would replace RT Barry Richardson. This never happened however, and Gaither was released. He had been battling a back injury since his days in Baltimore and even failed a physical for the Raiders which resulted in them choosing not to sign him. Although he swore his entire time in KC that he was not hurt, he never proved so on the field, and never could beat out Richardson for the starting job.

With Gaither's release, OT David Mims was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad. With WR Jeremy Horne already having been promoted last week after the Matt Cassel to Injured Reserve move, this left two open slots on the practice squad. So, WR Zeke Markshausen and OL Rob Bruggeman were signed to the practice squad today. Zeke spent the 2011 lockout-shortened season in Chiefs camp.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What Could Have Been

When the schedule was released for the 2011 season, I was excited. Call me crazy, but I was looking forward to the five game stretch where the Chiefs faced five playoff teams from 2010. Four of those five appearing in their conferences' championship game, and two in the Super Bowl. This was the sort of stretch that would be a great indicator of just where the Chiefs are as a team; a determination of actual playoff hopes. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and that was exactly the challenge the Chiefs would be taking on during their quest for a repeat AFC West title. I believed the Chiefs were up for it.

As we are in the thick of that same five game stretch, I now find myself indifferent. The litmus test that could determine if the Chiefs were true contenders or not is now just a five game stretch between those teams and backups.

The Chiefs team we have seen this season is not the true Chiefs team.

The team we see before us are replacements, subs, fill-ins, backups, second-stringers, and any other synonyms you want to pull out of the thesaurus of sports. What we are left with in many key positions of this team are the worst-case scenarios (Sabby Piscitelli). This is not the same team I was excited about before the season began, this is just what we are left with.

Before the season, I saw the matchups during the five game stretch and imagined the hype that these could warrant. Matt Cassel returning to New England and Jamaal Charles running attack going against Tom Brady's passing prowess. Eric Berry coming off his first pro bowl measuring himself against the veteran safety Troy Polamalu and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tony Moeaki facing Jermichael Finley in a battle of top tight ends, and Matt Cassel going against the gold standard that is Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. I could have mentioned Jamaal Charles in all these matchups, but it would be redundant considering every Chiefs fan in the world realized how much he meant to the offense. And if you think I am giving Matt Cassel too much credit, remember these were my thoughts heading in to the season. Obviously he under-performed most of our expectations during the time he was healthy this season.

The point I am trying to get across is that, while these matchups couldn't happen and the Chiefs 2011 season is forlorn, there is still hope. That hope is next season. All the players we lost this season will be back in 2012. The true Chiefs will be back, and with another year under the belt of these young players, the team will be better. They will also be helped out with an offseason of free agent acquisitions, and possibly even the drafting of a quarterback in the first round. As long as the Chiefs sure up Dwayne Bowe with a contract, the 2012 to 2013 Chiefs have the ability to be very, very good.

Fans should not give up or even really be upset about this season. Like I said, this is not the real Chiefs playing (although I hope the defense we saw last night is the true Chiefs defense). The real Chiefs will be back next year, and if the front office was smart, so will the coaching staff. Todd Haley is driving a car with junk-yard pieces supplied by an insurance company that was unwilling to spend the money on new or even slightly-used parts.

Give the team a chance. Don't be mad or upset at their performance this year, just think about how exciting next year will be with all the pieces back in place.

Close But No Cigar: Chiefs Lose to Steelers

 PITT - 13            KC - 9

In the Chiefs last primetime game of the season, and possibly for quite a while, Kansas City refused to go out with a whimper like they had against the New England Patriots. The Chiefs gave the Steelers all they could handle, and nearly pulled out the victory at the end of the game. The mistakes on offense, however, were too many to overcome, and the Chiefs fell just short, bringing their season to an ugly 4-7 record.

With both the Raiders and Broncos winning on Sunday, the Chiefs are three games back of first and are, for practical matters, eliminated from the playoffs. The season of unexpected injuries, a surprising resurgence, and an equally disappointing falter is pretty much over. The team, the players and the coaches did their best with the talent at their disposal. The challenge was to great, however, and we will remember 2011 as what could have been. There was positives to take away from Sunday night's performance, but it's too late in the season to hope, and I have resigned to a high-draft-pick mentality.

What the Chiefs Did Right
  • The Chiefs defense looked absolutely outstanding. Tyler Palko turnovers resulted in the Steelers having the football on the Chiefs side of the field three times, and the defense only surrendered one touchdown and 13 total points. They also kept the Steelers from scoring at all in the second half.  And it's not like the Steelers are inept on offense. They are number 10 in total offense in the NFL and 8th in passing. The Chiefs defense just played an outstanding game, and kept the team in the game until the final seconds. 
  • Part of the reason the Chiefs held the Steelers offense in check was because of the turnovers generated. Travis Daniels intercepted Roethlisberger once, and Tamba Hali forced a Mewelde Moore fumble as he was going into the endzone. The fumble was recoverd by Javier Arenas for a touchback. 
  • The Chiefs offense played aggressively, which is the right thing to do when facing a team like the Steelers. They took shots down field, ran some wildcat formations, and even successfully converted a fake punt. Some will say that they should have tried for the touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter when they were down by seven; they instead elected to kick the field goal. I think this was the right decision because two scores were needed to win it, and a field goal and a defensive stop could allow the offense to win the game with a touchdown. The scenario worked out, the Chiefs got the ball back down four, but they just couldn't avoid the turnover bug. 
  • Ryan Succop has quietly put together perhaps his best season in the NFL, having not missed a field goal attempt since week 3. He made three last night.
What the Chiefs Could Have Done Better
  • As much as the defense kept the Chiefs in the game, the offense did an equal amount keeping them out of it. Four total turnovers would sink any team, especially the Chiefs whose offense has had trouble finding the endzone over the last month. 
  • Tyler Palko almost guaranteed that we won't see him starting for the Chiefs again any time soon. He was responsible for all four turnovers, and probably should have thrown a couple more interceptions if the Steelers could hang on to the football. If Palko wanted to keep the starting job over a recently awarded Kyle Orton, Sunday's performance would do the trick if he played well. An 18/28, 167 yards, 3 INTs and 1 FUM day wasn't what he was hoping. 
  • A lot was said and has been said about the play of Dwayne Bowe during the game. He dropped one pass along the sidelines that would have extended a much needed drive, and then he didn't put his hands up to attempt to catch Palko's last pass, which ended up being intercepted. Bowe had risen his head to indicate he wanted the ball on that play, which raised skepticism, especially from Sunday Night Football host Chris Collinsworth. How I view it is, that pass is on Palko, and Collinsworth overreacted. The pass was uncatchable, in my opinion, and thrown into four to five Steelers defenders. Even if Bowe is asking for the ball, it's up to Palko to make the right decision of who to throw it to. And if he thought that hand raising meant he was going deep, then Palko still underthrew it. With so few weapons left on the Chiefs offense, I don't see the point in condemning our only remaing Pro Bowler on the roster.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Repeat? Chiefs vs. Steelers

For the second straight week, the Chiefs are in the national spotlight. Playing against the defending AFC Champion, the Pittsburgh Steelers, might be an even more challenging task than playing against the New England Patriots on Monday. The Chiefs are coming off a short week much like they were when they faced the Miami Dolphins, and the Steelers defense is much more daunting than the Patriots'. This isn't the first time, however, a seemingly inferior Chiefs team has faced a Steelers team coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

Any Chiefs fan will remember the Chiefs victory over the Steelers in 2009. It was probably the best moment in a dismal season. The Chiefs have a little more to play for today besides pride though. If the Chiefs win tonight, they are realistically (and surprisingly) back in the hunt for the AFC West title. They don't control their own destiny, so it depends on what Oakland (playing Chicago) and Denver (playing San Diego) do today. The Chiefs chance for the playoffs is, obviously, very slim; but the chance is still there. And if the Chiefs truly believe the Chiefs do have a chance (which the Kyle Orton claim would indicate), then it has to begin tonight.

Game Notes:

Tyler Palko: 29/44 (65.9%) 277 yards, 3 INTs
Ben Roethlisberger: 224/354 (63.3%) 2,877 yards, 16 TDs, 9 INTs

Jackie Battle: 95 carries, 436 yards, 4.6 ypc, 1 TD
Rashard Mendenhall: 136 carries, 517 yards, 3.8 ypc, 6 TDs

Dwayne Bowe: 48 catches, 750 yards, 4 TDs
Mike Wallace: 53 catches, 922 yards, 6 TDs

Chiefs Defense: Pass - 27th (229.6 ypg); Rush - 28th (136.3 ypg)
Steelers Defense: Pass - 3rd (183.2 ypg); Rush - 6th (96.9 ypg)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Cost of Orton

With Kyle Orton expected to report to Chiefs camp tomorrow, Kansas City prepares for the Pittsburgh Steelers with Tyler Palko as the starter. It's still not clear if Orton will actually be a starter for the Chiefs anytime this season, but the cost of having Orton on the roster must be evaluated.

I'm not talking about the money spent to claim Orton off of waivers, which still varies in reports from $1.55 million to $2.6 million. This isn't a lot of money considering Orton is an experienced NFL starter and we will easily get that much worth back in a compensatory pick in the future draft. What I am talking about is what Orton could cost the Chiefs in 2012.

Todd Haley spoke to Kyle Orton by phone today and said that Orton sounded "genuinely excited." I'm sure Orton is, and he should be. Orton is a free agent at season's end, so he will be competing for the Chiefs starting QB job immediately to showcase his talents for potential suitors next year. He knows the Chiefs isn't a long-term thing, so he wants to do his best with this opportunity and earn a job next year.

This is, unfortunately, a bad thing. A QB as talented and experienced as Orton playing for a new contract is a dangerous combination for the 2012 draft.

The Chiefs are only two games out in the AFC West, but that two games feels more like six. The Chiefs are on their second three loss skid, and have the toughest remaining schedule. Call me pessimistic, but facing the Steelers, Bears, Jets and Packers in the next four weeks doesn't instill much confidence in me.

If I was a little more optimistic, however, I would say that the two games we are back in the division can be made up by the end of the season. The Raiders, being the first place team in the division, face the Bears, Dolphins, Packers, Lions, Chiefs and Chargers. The Broncos, one game back, face the Chargers, Vikings, Bears, Patriots, Bills and Chiefs. Seeing these schedules, if the Chiefs perform at the level they did during their four game win-streak, it is conceivable that they catch up in the division. This is, I suppose, what the front office and Scott Pioli were thinking when they claimed Orton Tuesday.

If the Chiefs do perform at a high level, win games, and watch the teams in the AFC West stumble, propelling them to the playoffs, then I will be ecstatic. I will go to a home playoff game, cheer my hardest, and never be happier. I don't think this is going to happen though. And that's where the risk of Orton comes in.

Suppose that Orton comes in as the starter in a couple of weeks, wins a couple of games before the end of the season, and the Chiefs still don't make the playoffs. With each additional win we get, we don't necessarily propel ourselves closer to a playoff berth, but we do propel ourselves further down the 2012 draft order.

I was never on the Suck4Luck bandwagon. When fans starting jumping on board after the second game of the season, I began chastising them that it was far to early in the season to look for the number one overall draft pick. There were still plenty of games yet to be played. When the Chiefs went on a four game win-streak, I was a believer, and the playoffs were all I could think about. Now after watching three straight disappointing losses, having our starting QB go down for the season, and our once first place standing being squandered, I just can't convince myself that the Chiefs belong or even deserve to be in the postseason.

A couple of pointless wins by Orton could sabotage all the good that could come from an awful and injury-plagued season (unless it keeps Todd Haley's job).

The Chiefs had the ninth chance to claim Orton of all 32 NFL teams. This was based on the season's record. That means, if the season ended today, the Chiefs would have the ninth pick in the draft. The eight teams in front of them were: Colts (0-10), Panthers (2-8), Rams (2-8), Vikings (2-8), Cardinals (3-7), Redskins (3-7), Jaguars (3-7) and Dolphins (3-8). If the Chiefs don't win another game this year (which is a realistic possibility with or without Orton), that could easily turn in to a top five pick.

A top ten or top five pick would almost guarantee the Chiefs the player of their choosing, and if it was up to me, that player will be a quarterback.

Let's assume for a second that Scott Pioli and I are on the same page as far as the 2012 draft is concerned. Cassel may have been injured this season, but he proved ineffective most of the year and has already received all the guaranteed money his contract specified. You let Orton leave in free agency, and you keep Cassel around on his contract to mentor the newly drafted quarterback for a season. Drafting QBs in the middle rounds (such as Ricky Stanzi) are a haphazard venture, and while the same could be said for drafting QBs in the first round, the task isn't as scary as the alternative and the 2011 draft might have eased the minds of many GMs given the success the quarterbacks drafted have shown.

Now assume for another second that Pioli and I are, once again, on the same page. No matter how the Chiefs finish the season, they won't have the number one overall pick, that will belong to the Colts. And with that pick will go Andrew Luck, the quarterback phenom from Stanford. But this 2012 quarterback class has the potential of being one of the deepest drafts ever. It's hard to pass up on an opportunity like that, but what quarterback would the Chiefs be able to take? If the draft order remains the same as Tuesday's waiver order, then I think the Chiefs could have a chance at a player I am absolutely crazy about: Matt Barkley.

Barkley has quietly put together a Heisman-esque season, and if it wasn't for Andrew Luck, might be considered the best quarterback available. The USC QB is 273/404 (67.6%) for 3,105, 33 TDs and 7 INTs.  There is no way, however, that the Chiefs land Barkley if they win any more games.

With the current waiver order that I mentioned above, there are three teams before the Chiefs that could take a quarterback in the first round. The Colts almost certainly will, the Redskins could, and the Dolphins could. Both the Redskins and the Dolphins have one less win than the Chiefs at this moment. The Redskins and Dolphins have lost several heartbreakers this season, so it's reasonable to guess that they will win at least one more game (and as I write this, the Dolphins lose by one point against the Cowboys). Hopefully, both will win two, and the Chiefs can springboard into the position to take the second-best QB available without having to trade up, something I could never see Pioli do.

Given that opportunity, I don't see a logical reason why the Chiefs shouldn't take Barkley. He has the upside that, if fulfilled, could lead the Chiefs to one of the most successful periods in its history. The Cassel era should be over, making way for a young quarterback that could lead the franchise for the next ten seasons. But the Chiefs won't have a chance, without trading up, to grab Barkley in the draft if Orton (or even Palko) leads them to a victory in the next six games. And although I refuse to root against the Chiefs, I won't be disappointed if they lose. The amount of injuries sustained this season is unfair and has essentially eliminated the chance to defend our AFC West title. But the season doesn't have to be in vain if it causes the Chiefs to draft a franchise QB.

One win from Orton could be the highest cost the Chiefs have ever paid.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chiefs Claim Orton

The claim period for waivers came and went, and it was reported that an undisclosed team before the Chicago Bears claimed quarterback Kyle Orton from the Denver Broncos. It turned out that that undisclosed team was the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now that Orton is a Chief, a few questions arise:

  • Will he report to camp?
    • John Clayton of ESPN reported that Orton might not report to a team that claimed him before the Bears. The rumor could have been spread by Orton himself, but it didn't work to scare off the Chiefs. I will be interested to see when and if Orton reports to Chiefs camp this week.
  • Will he make a difference?
    • Orton was claimed because the Chiefs front office believes that we still, conceivably have a chance to win the division. As long as the other teams in the division falter or stumble, the Chiefs can make up ground, being two games back of Oakland. But will Orton make a difference? I can't see him starting against the Steelers this Sunday, not just being claimed on Wednesday. When the Raiders traded for a retired Palmer, it took him about two weeks, including a bye, to get into the swing of things offensively. Palmer was sitting at home before then, but two weeks is still a short amount of time to learn an offense when you're QB. 
  • Will he be a starter?
    • The last question leads me to this. Was Orton brought in to be the starter, or was he brought in to be the backup? He cost $2.6 million (or $1.5 million according to Nick Wright of 610 Sports Radio), so he's reasonably priced. But like I said above, there's a learning curve for running an offense, and Orton might just be playing the role of veteran backup QB that Pioli should have brought in during the offseason. 
  • What kind of compensation pick will the Chiefs get?
    • Orton is a free agent at the end of the season, and it would surprise me very much if Orton is still around by then. As intriguing as a Cassel-Orton quarterback controversy would be (sarcasm) next year, I don't see it happening. Orton has done well enough over the last couple of seasons to warrant a compensation pick when he does leave, and according to Nick Wright, it would be probably either a 5th or 6th round pick. As Wright said: "Given Orton's price and considering you get compensatory pick when he leaves, I'm shocked more teams didn't claim him ... If you're say the Panthers, why don't you claim him, never activate him, let him walk in offseason, get your extra draft pick?"
At the end of the day, I just don't know how much this signing will actually affect the Chiefs. If you scroll down to the previous post, you read about how I didn't think the Chiefs would or should claim Orton. But now that they have, I still don't think it makes a difference.

Should Chiefs Claim Kyle Orton?

Yesterday, the Denver Broncos waived their once starting quarterback Kyle Orton. If claimed, the Broncos would save the remaining $2.6 million remaining on his salary, which was just going to waste anyway. Several teams have recently lost their starting quarterbacks over the last couple of weeks, and the time seemed right for the Broncos to release Orton. Rumor even has it that Orton pushed for his release after it was announced that Jay Cutler would miss perhaps the rest of the season due to a broken finger on his throwing hand.

Yesterday, many analysts immediately started speculating where Orton could wind up. Jay Glazer reported that the Chiefs, Texans and Bears all made sense, since all their QBs had suffered season-threatening injuries. Other reports started coming out that the Texans were not interested after all and that it would come down to the Chiefs and Bears. Glazer then reported that both the Chiefs and Bears would put claims on Orton. Other sources started backing off that, saying the Bears would definitely put a claim on him (according to a league source) but that the Chiefs were still just considering it. The story remained the same this morning.

Well, no matter what the decision is, teams have until 3:00 central time to put in their claim. And since the Chiefs have priority over the Bears based on this season's record, if they are interested, they can have him (barring, of course, any sleeper team that wants to claim Orton before the Chiefs).

Since sources inside the Chiefs are saying that claiming Orton is a realistic possibility, fans have to consider it one as well. So, will the Chiefs claim Kyle Orton on waivers? Should the Chiefs claim Kyle Orton on waivers?

Will the Chiefs Claim Kyle Orton

  • In my opinion, I don't think the Chiefs will claim Orton. Orton represents $2.6 million that I doubt the Chiefs really want to spend. 
  • After Jamaal Charles went down for the season with a torn ACL, there were two opportunities to pick up running backs on waivers. Steve Slaton from the Texans and Tashard Choice from the Cowboys. And although both players were claimed by teams with worse records than the Chiefs (the Dolphins and Chiefs were both actually winless at the time), it was never rumored that the team was even interested in these options.
  • The Chiefs are 4-6, tied for last place in the AFC West. They are two games back of the Raiders and face the toughest remaining schedule. If the Chiefs were planning on having Orton compete for the starting role, then you have to realistically give him a couple of weeks (based on the Carson Palmer learning curve) to grasp the offense. We could be 4-8 by then and officially out of contention for anything. Unless the Chiefs believe that Orton is a long term answer (which he's not), then the signing wouldn't make any sense. 
Should the Chiefs Claim Kyle Orton
  • Orton is, essentially, the same type of player that Matt Cassel was. Before being benched in favor of fan-favorite Tim Tebow, Orton was 91/155 (58.7%) for 979 yards, 8 TDs and 7 INTs. If you've watched the Chiefs this season, you know those numbers are quite similar to Cassel's throughout this season. So if the Chiefs believe that Tyler Palko can hold down the fort and deliver two straight wins to keep the Chiefs in the AFC West picture before Orton could take over the reigns, then I guess it makes sense. But if Palko was to win two straight games, then why not keep him as the starter?
  • Chris Mortensen of ESPN said earlier today that the Chiefs make sense for Orton because Orton did well under Josh McDaniels and there are some system similarities. Even Todd Haley wouldn't hinder the thought, saying on SiriusXM radio this morning that Orton is "an interesting name who could add to the position." While I agree with that, if Orton is claimed, I don't see how he can be anything but a backup this late in the season. And what's the point of signing a $2.6 million backup?
  • John Clayton of ESPN suggested on SportsCenter today that if the Chiefs did claim Kyle Orton on waivers, that there's a chance Orton might not report to Chiefs camp. I know this is not hard facts, but it still doesn't sound good.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, I don't think the Chiefs will or should claim Kyle Orton off of waivers. Perhaps three weeks ago if Cassel's injury had happened sooner and Orton was made available, but it's too little too late at this point in the season. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

About What We Expected

NE - 34                KC - 3

Last night's game against the New England Patriots was ugly. It was, once again, another blowout suffered by the Chiefs. Holding the Patriots to just 10 points in the first half, the defense broke down over the course of the second half against Tom Brady. Tyler Palko made a noble effort, but threw three interceptions, and the offense was only able to put a field goal on the score board in the first quarter. Another disappointing loss, but who out there really thought the outcome was going to be anything different?

It's clear that injuries have done the Chiefs in, and I'm not sure if they can win another game all year. There's a point when a team, no matter the depth, just can't overcome their losses. Many point to the Green Bay Packers last season and how they overcame the injuries. Well Green Bay didn't lose three of four of their previous year's Pro Bowlers or their starting quarterback for multiple games. I know the Chiefs don't want to make any excuses for their performance, but you don't have to look any further than the Injured Reserve list to see the problem.

What the Chiefs Did Right

  • The offense was able to take the lead in the first quarter with a field goal behind some good Palko throws and a brief resurrection of Thomas Jones in the running game. Palko was 25/38 for 236 yards at the end of the game, but unfortunately, those stats were accompanied with 3 INTs. The Patriots banged up secondary is probably the easiest defense that Palko will face all year, so unless he greatly limits his turnovers (and tucks the ball on a sack instead of holding it away from his body), the games could get even uglier.
  • The defense sacked Brady three times in the first half, held them to 10 points, forced a fumble, and shut down Wes Welker for the entire first half. Derrick Johnson even ripped the ball out of Danny Woodhead's hands right before it crossed the plain for a touchdown. Amon Gordon got his first ever sack, and Justin Houston and Tamba Hali combined for another. 
  • Ryan Succop scored the Chiefs only points, and he has now not missed a field goal since week 3. 
What the Chiefs Could Have Done Better
  • Obviously in a 31 point loss, there is a lot that could have been done better. 
  • The Chiefs have struggled against tight ends all year, the only exception being Antonio Gates. Those struggles continued Monday night with New England's pair of tight ends leading the team in yardage. Aaron Hernandez finished with four catches for 44 yards, and Rob Gronkowski finished with four catches for 96 yards and 2 TDs. 
  • Palko's three interceptions didn't necessarily do the Chiefs in Monday, but it certainly didn't help. The first one should have been caught by Breaston, the second was tipped into the air by Baldwin, but the third was thrown into triple coverage. If Palko continues to turn the ball over, the Chiefs will continue to not score points.
  • The Chiefs gave up a punt return for a touchdown to Julian Edelman. I'm pretty sure no special teams coach has ever told a punter to not kick to Edelman, but that didn't stop him from taking it back 72 yards. Our punt coverage just broke down, and allowed Edelman to get outside, and was easily able to get past Colquitt. 
  • The Chiefs defense couldn't get to Brady in the second half, and the result of that was indicative in the score. The offense couldn't sustain drives. This combination is one for failure. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Patriot Way: Chiefs vs. Patriots

In 2009, after aquiring GM Scott Pioli, QB Matt Cassel and LB Mike Vrabel from the New England Patriots, the joke started going around that the Chiefs were trying to be the Patriots of the midwest. In 2010, when the Chiefs got coaches Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, both of which coached in New England during the Patriots championship runs, the joke started to take off even more. Page 2 Commentary on even went as far as desinging a new logo for the Chiefs that involved simply putting an arrowhead on the patriot's hat. When the Chiefs surprised everyone last year going 10-6, it looked like that Patriot way had rubbed off on the Chiefs.

Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star wrote a very interesting article on Pioli's attempts to change the culture in Kansas City to that of how it was in New England. Others had failed in their attempts, so it's not a guarantee that it can be done. "His undertaking with the Chiefs is enormous, and Pioli knows success will depend not on following the Patriot Way, but rather following what works — and tweaking it to what his team requires. It’s easier sometimes to lean on a template." While Babb alludes that the Chiefs have attempted to follow the blue print step by step, I think Babb's comparison to the Chiefs Way and the Patriots Way is missing one vital component.

Compare the culture, the seeking of free agents, and the drafting strategy all you want. The reason why others have failed where Bill Belichick has succeeded is because of the quarterback. You can't replicate Tom Brady, as much as you try. The Patriots have had sustained success because of Brady. In only one season when Brady has been around the entire year, the Patriots have only missed the playoffs once, and that was back in 2002. He has taken the team to four Super Bowls, won three, and been named Super Bowl MVP twice. The only time since 2002 that the Patriots have missed the playoffs was in 2008, when Brady tore his ACL against the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening game of the year. This gave Matt Cassel a chance, and he played his way into a big contract with the Chiefs (this would have been the main story line had Cassel not been injured last week).

I'm not sure of Pioli thought that Cassel could fit the mold of that blue print necessity or if he just intended for him to be a short term solution. No matter which one it was, the Chiefs can't say they are close to having the sustained success that the Patriots perpetually have.

What they can say is that the culture that can surround that quarterback when the time comes is gradually being put into place. The Pioli-Haley regime chaced off the cynics and underachievers their first season in Kansas City. They then drafted and acquired high-character, no off-field-issue individuals that could add to the team's character and police the locker room. These "choir boy" types (as named by those that don't appreciate the Patriot strategy) have been a good thing for the Chiefs, and have added to the team cohesiveness. They were a major reason why the Chiefs won the AFC West last year, and a main reason why the Chiefs responded from three straight losses to win four straight games this year.

If the Chiefs find their white whale, their franchise quarterback, then we can finally start to see the kind of success that New England has. Most of the pieces are in place, there is just one remaining.

Game Notes: 

Tyler Palko: 5/7 (71.4%), 47 yards
Tom Brady: 238/360 (66.1%), 3,032 yards, 23 TDs, 10 INTs

Jackie Battle: 87 carries, 403 yards (4.6 avg), 1 TD
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 116 carries, 460 yards (4.0 avg), 5 TDs

Dwayne Bowe: 41 receptions, 663 yards, 4 TDs
Wes Welker: 72 receptions, 1,002 yards, 6 TDs

Kansas City Defense: 14th Passing, 230.3 ypg; 27th Rushing, 134.0 ypg
New England Defense: 32nd Passing, 308.9 ypg; 13th Rushing, 103.1 ypg

Tyler Palko

"Mason Foster? He needed to see Tom Brady. He didn't see to see Calabaloo from last week, whatever the dude's name was. I'm sorry if you can hear this. I don't know who you were, I'm sorry. It's nothing personal. (Tyler Palko?) Falko, yeah, the replacement. He needed Tom Brady."

This was a quote from Bucs DT Gerald McCoy after a loss to the Patriots in the preseason. The previous week, the Bucs had blown out the Chiefs at Arrowhead in the opening preseason game of the 2011 season. Obviously, McCoy and the rest of the Bucs didn't spend much time doing their scouting report (or their grammar homework) on Palko, and frankly, I don't blame them. Palko is relatively unknown outside of Kansas City and Pittsburgh, PA. But fate by injury has propelled him into the national spotlight, not just for this week, but for next week as well. Monday Night Football is a difficult stage to start one's first game, but the Chiefs have no other options (don't say Ricky Stanzi). And so begins the story of Tyler Palko.

Just like every story, there is a beginning. Palko was a high school star at West Allegheny in Imperial, PA. He was recruited and signed with Pitt in 2002. Redshirted in 2003, he would go on to have successful seasons in 2004 and 2005, earning second-team Big East honors both years. At the beginning of 2005, Palko beat out Joe Flacco for the starting role of QB, and Flacco eventually took his talents to Delaware. In 2006, Palko threw for 2,871 yards, and 25 touchdowns. His performance warranted him an invite to the senior bowl, and his career warranted him the second most touchdown passes in Pitt history, second only to Dan Marino.

Despite his invite to the Senior Bowl, Palko went undrafted in 2007. He peaked the interest of the New Orleans Saints, however, and cycled betweent the 53 man roster and practice squad throughout the season. He was cut on the final cutdowns in August of 2008 by the Saints. He was signed to a future contract by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, but was waived in September of 2009. He was immediately singed by the California Redwoods of the United Football League, but was cut during the preseason. In October of the same year, he was signed by the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, but was released the following month. He was picked up by his hometown team Pittsburgh Steelers in November, but was once again released a month later.

The odds of a undrafted journeyman quarterback continuing to stick around in the NFL is low, especially when he can't make the cut in the UFL or CFL. But on March 3, 2010, Palko was signed to a future contract by the Kansas City Chiefs. On September 4, 2010, Palko was released on the final cutdowns, but was signed to the practice squad the following day. He would stay there for the majority of the season, making his way up to the third quarterback later in the year behind Brodie Croyle. With Croyle not being re-signed in the 2011 offseason, Palko stepped into the role as the primary backup and held off 5th round pick Ricky Stanzi. The Chiefs didn't pursue any veteran free agent QBs, so Palko was entrusted with the responsibility.

Just like with every team, the backup is always just one play away from being the field general. That play happened in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos. Matt Cassel left with an undisclosed injury, and Palko immediately had to become the guy. It turns out that injury was a broken hand, and Cassel is likely out for the rest of the year, which means Palko is likely the starter for the rest of the year. Palko has 13 career attempts, 9 completions, and 82 yards passing.

As worrisome as Palko's inexperience may seem, the Chiefs offense was been pretty anemic this season anyway. And it starts with under center. Cassel was 160/259 (59.5%) for 1,713 yards, 10 TDs, 9 INTs, 4 FUMs. Clearly, there could be worse as far as quarterbacks go, but Cassel had been mostly ineffective all season, finishing his final two games 33/67 (49.3%) for 346 yards and 1 TD. While his effort might have been enough to complete in the AFC West all the way up until the end, and might even have earned a playoff spot, Cassel wasn't being that good. And while I hesitate to say it couldn't hurt to see what Palko has, I enter tonight's game with much intrigue to see how the Chiefs first ever starting left-handed quarterback measures up. He was no Tom Brady by McCoy's standard in the preseason, so it's fitting that his first career start would come against him.

Since there is not much tape or numbers to go on for how Palko plays, I am going to put on here his preseason numbers and some of the notes I took on his performance at the time during preseason play.
  • KC vs. Tampa Bay
    • 4/8 (50%), 34 yards
  • KC vs. Baltimore
    • 8/13 (62%), 95 yards, 1 TD
    • "Here's our backup situation: it's not good. And here's why. Tyler Palko might have been 8 of 13 for 95 yards and a touchdown, but he was also extremely lucky. I don't know if Jim Zorn's drills have gotten to Palko, but he seemed more than comfortable attempting passes from his back foot. I noted on at least two occasions he tried this, and one was his touchdown pass. Palko is no Brett Favre, and nothing good can come of Palko having success with these type of fundamentals."
  • KC vs. St. Louis
    • 7/12 (58%), 92 yards
  • KC vs. Green Bay
    • 18/29 (62%), 163 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
    • "Five turnovers. Seriously? Two by Jamaal Charles. Are you kidding me? Palko accounted for three turnovers? Alright, that I believe." 
Even during the preseason, I didn't write much on Palko. This was because he was usually pretty forgettable. But we can't look at the preseason stats anymore, we can't look at technique tonight; we can only see how he does in the brightest of lights. If Tim Tebow has taught us anything, it's that wins can never be undervalued. I will be rooting for the Chiefs tonight as I always do, and holding out hope that Palko can deliver the miracle.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Look at the AFC West

As the Broncos play the Jets on Thursday Night Fooball (NFL Network if you have it) to try to keep pace with the division leader Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs wait their turn for a second Monday Night appearance against the New England Patriots. Although, with the knowledge of Cassel's hand injury and subsequent surgery, the Chiefs path to division contention looks bleak.

Here's the standings in the AFC West, not including the winner of tonight's match-up.

Division Record
Oakland Raiders
5 – 4
2 – 3
San Diego Chargers
4 – 5
3 – 2
Denver Broncos
4 – 5
1 – 3
Kansas City Chiefs
4 – 5
2 – 3

If you care what my opinion is, I say the Chargers probably come back and win this division, but I have no conviction on that opinion whatsoever. I was bullish about the Chiefs after their victory over San Diego, but following two straight losses to losing opponents and the potential season loss of Cassel, I am bearish about our odds. The one thing that hasn't convinced me the Chiefs are done this season is that we are in the AFC West.

Back in July, I dug through team records since realignment in 2002, and made the assessment that the AFC West had been the worst division in football, despite the commonly held belief that the NFC West had been beyond pathetic for what seemed like forever. I conceded that the NFC West record was by far the worst, but the division's performance in the playoffs was what I put the most weight on. [To read the entire post, just click the hyperlink above.]

While the NFC West is still an awful division, it looks like everyone is starting to see what I've thought for quite some time. Even this season, only one game separates first and last place in the AFC West, and that one game is the difference between a winning and losing record. The NFC West, while having three bad teams, has a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the San Francisco 49ers. They have made up for the rest of the division. No one in the AFC West can do that, and the division has been exposed.

I hate to be sound so negative, because the fact is I love the division. I love the parity. I love how any team can still win it this season. It turns a bad team into a playoff shot. It turns the Chiefs into one game back. Even if Palko is starting, you can't help but have hope because all the other teams in your division are just as likely to lose as you are. Although, they don't have this schedule:

@ New England; Steelers; @ Chicago; @ New York Jets; Green Bay; Oakland; @ Denver

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Complete Lack of Depth

To say this season has been injury plagued for the Kansas City Chiefs is an understatement. Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, and now Matt Cassel. Although Cassel isn't officially out for the season yet, the other three are, and our season will forever be remembered as what could have been.

These injuries have exposed some things on the Chiefs roster, however, and we should not look idly past. After Tony Moeaki went down with injury, we learned that there is no other tight end on our roster that can effectively replace him. We tried implementing Leonard Pope and even brought in veteran Anthony Becht, but they have not been overly effective, even at the blocking game. I know Moeaki would have just been in his second season, but he showed the team he could be a long term answer at the position. After all, he did break Tony Gonzalez's rookie tight end records, and he was a long term answer.

At the safety position, the Chiefs learned just how valuable Eric Berry was. After having played every defensive snap in the 2010 season, Berry didn't make it to halftime in the opening game of the season against the Bills, tearing his ACL on a questionable block from Buffalo wide receiver Stevie Johnson. Now the safety position has been a fluid schedule of Jon McGraw, Kendrick Lewis (although he mostly plays free safety), Rashard Langford (who blew the coverage on the 56 yard touchdown from Tim Tebow) and Sabby "Wow, I'm still in the NFL" Piscitelli. To summarize their performance: Iffy. Berry brought stability to the position and we haven't had it since his injury.

Jamaal Charles was perhaps the second most important player on the team. He was second in the league in rushing last year, and second in history in yards per carry. He was a spark that could ignite at any moment during any game for a long touchdown run. His absence has, perhaps, been the biggest loss to the Chiefs this season. Without Charles, we have had to resort to a "committee" system at the position. Thomas Jones, the supposed backup, is averaging only 2.9 yards per attempt, and has lost the majority of his playing time to Jackie Battle. Jones was struggling at the end of last season, and many thought the Chiefs should bring in or draft a running back to eventually replace him. The Chiefs didn't; but on the bright side, if we had, we wouldn't have discovered the magic of Jackie Battle (originally written as sarcasm, but the more I think about it, the more true it becomes). Jackie Battle has exceeded my expectations, but still only has one 100 yard day and one rushing touchdown for the season. Dexter McCluster can't hang on to the ball, and is only effective in the draw or screen (much like last season). Although it's hard to replace a runner like Charles, the Chiefs have not even come close.

And now, down goes Matt Cassel. Afflicted with a yet-to-be-disclosed hand injury, Cassel is possibly done for the season and at least done for a while. Sliding in to take the reigns for back-to-back prime time games is Tyler Palko, Kansas City's newest celebrity. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent, didn't work out for the Steelers, and was signed last year to be a back-up to Brodie Croyle. With Croyle not being pursued in free agency this offseason, Palko became the number two quarterback. Ricky Stanzi, a fifth round draft pick in 2011 out of Iowa, has been inactive through the first half of the season. Since Cassel arrived in KC in 2009, he has never gone a season without missing a game. It was the opener in 09, the matchup against the Chargers last season, and now several games for the foreseeable future in 2011.

So, to sum up what I'm getting at: the Chiefs had a complete lack of depth.

In an age of two running back systems and where first round quarterbacks are backups (Brady Quinn, Kyle Boller, Matt Leinart, etc), the Chiefs have had to rely on two undrafted free agent players to fill the void at the most crucial positions on offense, and do a mix-and-match at the other two positions we have lost for the year. Teams with depth can overcome these losses, teams without it can't.

The Green Bay Packers last season overcame injury after injury, relying on the depth the team had built up and on their quarterback. The result was a Super Bowl victory. This season, in a similar situation, the Chiefs were 4-5 and couldn't buy a win at home. The depth wasn't there. A similar situation is that with the Texans. Arian Foster missed the first few weeks and Ben Tate stepped up to run all over opponents. Now Matt Schaub is reportedly lost for the season with a foot injury and they will use Matt Leinart as their backup. As shaky as Leinart's performance has been, he has played in 29 games and attempted 595 passes. That is a little more than Palko's 13 career passing attempts in the regular season.

And it's not like the Chiefs didn't haven the opportunity or ability to add depth. In August of this year, NFL Network reported that the Chiefs had over $32 million in cap space, the most of any team. With this much money just setting there, the Chiefs decided it was better served . . . sitting there. We pursued some free agents (Brandon Siler, Steve Breaston, Le'Ron McClain, Kelly Gregg), but we also let depth escape, choosing not to re-sign a number of players.

Cassel's history with missing games supported the notion of bringing in a veteran backup quarterback just-in-case something happened. The Chiefs chose not to do that. Charles' size combined with an increased number of carries supported the notion of bringing in a running back or two in the draft or free agency, just-in-case something should keep him out a game. The Chiefs chose not to do that. Even after injuries, we could have brought in a veteran safety, or claimed a running back off of waivers, but the Chiefs chose not to.
 They wouldn't even have to necessarily be short term fixes; if they did well, could they not push for a roster spot next year? Todd Haley's first two seasons as head coach were all about creating competition between players so that they perform at their best. Given the cap space and the circumstances, why not take a chance?

It's this lack of depth that has hurt the Chiefs, almost as much as the injuries sustained. Injuries are a part of football, and, as lucky as the Chiefs were last season at avoiding them, we have been equally unlucky this season at suffering them. And if the ending of the above paragraph lead you to believe I blame Todd Haley for the lack of depth, then I haven't made myself clear. The person responsible for bringing in personnel is Scott Pioli. Sure, the Chiefs constantly work out players during the season, and have even signed or come close to signing a few players through the course of the season. But these players have been of little or no use. The 2009 draft class is but a skeleton, the 2011 draft class is constantly inactive, and the team refusing to tap into their funds has come back to bite them. I'm not saying we spend a ton of money on one player, but wouldn't it be nice to spend that same amount of money on several different players in key positions? You can only have so many undrafted free agents starting on your team before you ask why.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cassel Might Be Done For Season

"Absolutely, absolutely I'm getting ready to go. I'll be watching film and getting ready to do everything I need to do to prepare."

That was Matt Cassel's response this morning on 810 Sports when asked if he would be ready for the Monday Night Football Game against the Patriots. This response isn't very different than the one he gave reporters following yesterday's loss to the Denver Broncos. He was removed from the game in the fourth quarter, and then was seen with a cast on his hand after the game. Nevertheless, Cassel told reporters "I’m ready to play every day. I’ll be ready for Monday night unless told otherwise."

Things have apparently gone down hill from then.

In Todd Haley's press conference today, he said that Cassel's injury is much more "significant" than previously believed. "It’s being evaluated as we speak, but it appears he will probably have to have surgery of some kind to get it corrected. On the length of it, I don’t know. There’s some optimism but with each person that varies and obviously being a quarter back and it being the hand that he throws with, that’s a difficult injury so as things evolve I’ll do my best to let you know.”

He also stated that Cassel could miss the rest of the season. “That’s a possibility but I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute.” He has not, however, been placed on Injured Reserve yet. In my opinion though, if a quarterback requires surgery on his throwing hand in week 10 of the regular season, his season is probably over.

Even if the injury isn't as bad as it is feared to be, there appears to be no way that Matt Cassel will face the Patriots on Monday or even the Steelers on Sunday Night the following weekend. That means, ladies and gentlemen, Tyler Palko is the Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.

I think that is the right decision for now. Palko is the second best quarterback on the roster (thanks Pioli; I'll be having more on our complete lack of depth in a later post), and no matter how badly some people want Ricky Stanzi to start, it's not going to happen. Stanzi hasn't even been active the first nine games of the regular season. But, if Palko proves to be ineffective on offense, I think that Stanzi should get a shot. Although he was drafted in the fifth round, Stanzi was thought by many to be the future for the Chiefs at the quarterback position. If Palko can't get it done, the Chiefs would be doing themselves a disservice not to see what Stanzi can deliver. That way, if he shows signs of 'hope,' we can feel better about the future. If not, then it could officially be time to look towards drafting a quarterback in the first round (Matt Barkely anyone?).

Stampede: Chiefs vs. Broncos

DEN - 17                  KC - 10

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (online; who own's an actual dictionary anymore), the definition of a stampede is: 1) a wild headlong rush or flight of frightened animals 2) a mass movement of people at a common impulse.

Remove the "frightened animals" part of the first definition, and you have exactly what Denver did to Kansas City yesterday. The Broncos stampeded the Chiefs (pun intended).

It was a hard game to watch from beginning to end. The loss sends the Chiefs to 4-5 heading into possibly the hardest five game stretch ever faced by a team. Two weeks ago following the Chargers overtime win, many fans, including myself, thought there should be no reason the Chiefs wouldn't be 6-3 heading into Foxboro for Monday Night Football against the Patriots. That way of thinking is now gone, and, to be honest, the Chiefs will be lucky to win another game all year based on the last two week's worth of performance.

As always, here's my game notes (complaining) of the Chiefs vs. Broncos game.

What the Chiefs Did Right
  • As has been the theme as of late, there will not be very many 'rights.' But, out of keeping my sanity, I have to list some. 
  • The one I want to start out on is, without question, the greatest catch I've ever seen and just might be the greatest catch in NFL history that didn't count. In case you missed it, of if you want to see it again, here's Jon Baldwin's catch behind Bronco's Brian Dawkins.
  • The Chiefs would finish Sunday averaging 5.6 yards per carry, mostly helped out by the Chiefs longest rushing play of the year, a 34 yard scamper by Jackie Battle.
  • The Chiefs defense limited Tim Tebow to just two completions the entire game, and that first completion didn't come until after halftime. 
  • For the second straight week, the offense didn't turn the ball over.
What the Chiefs Could Have Done Better
  • Here come's the easy part, figuring out essentially why the Chiefs didn't win the game. If I had told you before the game that the Broncos would lose both their starting running backs in the first quarter and that Tebow would complete only two passes the entire game, what would you have expected the outcome to be? Certainly not a Chiefs loss, but that is exactly what happened.
  • As I said above, Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno were both lost for the game after injuries sustained in the first quarter against the Chiefs. Both were slicing through the Chiefs defense at the time, so when they left the game, I really believed the Chiefs would dominate the rest of the game. Not only did that not happen, but the Broncos continued to run the ball with success. Denver ran 55 run plays, 47 of those plays were to someone other than McGahee or Moreno. Lance Ball, the third string running back, had 96 yards on 30 carries (3.2 avg). 
  • After McGahee and Moreno left the game, the Chiefs were a little more successful on defense. After Denver's first touchdown, they only allowed the Broncos offense on their side of the field once, and that was on a field goal. The deep pass from Tebow to Decker that went for a 56 yard touchdown was the only lapse the Chiefs defense had after the first quarter. Unfortunately, it was a big one.
  • The Chiefs offense was the real concern. It has been absolutely inept over the last two weeks. There's plenty of blame to go around. The offensive line wasn't blocking well and couldn't pick up the blitz if it's life depended on it, surrendoring 4 sacks. The wide receivers couldn't hang on to passes that came their way and weren't getting separation as often as you would like. The running game was almost nonexistent, with Battle finishing with a team high 61 yards on 9 carries (6.8 avg). And, of course, the guy at the helm, Matt Cassel, had another lackluster performance. He would finish 13/28 (46%) for 93 yards (less yardage than Lance Ball had running) and a touchdown. 
  • To go ontop of a poor performance, Cassel was hurt with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and it was deemed by the training staff that he was too injured to go back out there on the Chiefs final possession. As Kent Babb reported from the Kansas City Star, "Matt Cassel left the stadium wearing a cast on his right hand. Had index and middle fingers immobilized." Matt Cassel indicated that he would be ready to play on Monday night, but it's wait-and-see right now with the Chiefs.
  • All-in-all, another poor performance from the entire team. I'll have more on the AFC West later.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Tim Tebow: The Man, The Myth, The Opposing Quarterback

    "We're just going to run our offense. Kansas City has a very good defense, they are very well coached, and they have some big time play makers. We just have to execute, but we're not just worried about running the read-option. We have to execute in everything."

    These are some comments that Tim Tebow, Denver's new starting quarterback, said regarding the Bronco's upcoming opponent for this weekend. That opponent is . . . well . . . us. The Kansas City Chiefs. This is the first time the Chiefs will have faced Tebow as the starting quarterback, and, depending on how this season goes, it could be the first of many. 

    Tim Tebow is, perhaps, the most polarizing figure is the NFL. To some, he represents a calming sense of faith, to others, an arrogant sense of entitlement. Nevertheless, he is the Chiefs opponent this weekend, and I think it fitting that I describe the road that brought him to this point.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    The Art of Rooting in the Division

    Tonight, the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are playing on NFL Network in the season debut of Thursday Night Football. The prize: the out-right lead in the ever-confusing AFC West. The winner will be in first place in the division at 5-4, the loser will be knocked down to third place at 4-5.

    This lead is, of course, temporary. The Chiefs also play a division opponent, the Broncos, this Sunday. If the Chiefs win (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE), they will be in a two-way tie with tonight's victor for the lead in the AFC West. If they lose, well, let's cross that bridge when we get there.

    So, in tonight's battle of two hated opponents, should you even watch? Should you care? Should you root for one team over another?

    The answer to the first two questions is a resounding YES. The Chiefs, although in first place in the division, are far from controlling their own destiny as far as the playoffs and a division title are concerned. You can't overlook either of these teams, and although the Chiefs won't face the Chargers again this season, they will face the Raiders; the performance of Carson Palmer will be interesting to see.

    But for the final question, there is not good answer. I can understand those who say they hate both teams so this game won't be fun to watch. I, however, am taking a Chiefs angle on this. With eight games left, which team has the better chance? We know how tough the Chiefs remaining schedule is, including a brutal five game stretch. So, what team can the Chiefs afford to have win tonight?

    Here are the Chargers and Raiders remaining schedules:

    Chargers: @ Chicago, Denver, @ Jacksonville, Buffalo, Baltimore, @ Detroit, @ Oakland
    Raiders: @ Minnesota, Chicago, @ Miami, @ Green Bay, Detroit, @ KC, San Diego

    Looking at these schedules, one could argue that both teams have an equally tough (or easy) time, but if you were to ask me, I would say the Chargers have the easiest remaining schedule based on their ability. We all are sick and tired of hearing about how good of a second half team the Chargers are, and how everyone is waiting for the Chargers to, metaphorically, flip a switch, and turn into the good team we have seen in the past. All indications point to the Chargers not being a playoff caliber team this year, but they still have the talent to be one. If they do turn it on, even a little bit, they could win the majority of their upcoming games and make the postseason.

    The Raiders, on the other hand, are operating with a new quarterback and their star running back has missed a few games already due to injury. With these circumstances, combined with their scheduled opponents including Green Bay, Detroit, and Chicago, leads me to believe that a Raider lead on the AFC West would be easier to overcome than a Chargers lead. Plus, the Chiefs play the Raiders again in week 16, so if they continue to have a one game lead going into the game, the Chiefs will have the opportunity to catch up.

    So, in other words, as much as it pains me to say, I will be rooting for the Raiders tonight. May God have mercy on my soul.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    The Post I Didn't Want to Write

    AP Photo

    As the title says, I didn't want to write this post. More like, I guess, I wish I didn't have to write this post. I wish I could just stick my head in the sand and be ignorant of what is happening. I had done so, even though I knew better, during our four game win streak. Afterall, why criticize a good thing? But after the whooping we took from the previously winless Dolphins, I have to say something. What I am forced to say comes as little surprise to most Chiefs fans, but I hope this post serves two purposes: to inform and to motivate. So here we go.

    Matt Cassel, right now, is not a good quarterback.

    Now that it's out in the open for all the world to say, I feel like I should justify this claim with an explanation (as much as many of you don't require an explanation for this statement).

    Last season was a great year for Cassel. He finished with 27 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, was selected to his first Pro Bowl, and finished with the 8th best passer rating in the whole NFL. But the last two games the Chiefs played, which includes the playoff loss, left a sour taste in my mouth and made me have my doubts about Cassel. Although I had been a Cassel supporter all year, my posts became a little more guarded, and sometimes pessimistic, about our starting QB. Posts such as when I compared him to a floundering Derrick Anderson, and when I depressingly compared him to Aaron Rodgers, began to make their way onto my blog.

    Then the offseason came, and the bad taste was still left in my mouth but the lockout covered up any lingering thoughts I had about Cassel's effectiveness. Whether we would have a season or not became the primary issue. But even during the lockout, Cassel was doing his best to make me forget about how he fell apart at the end of the previous season. He was bringing in teammates to hold practices since no team organized practices could be run. He was even letting guys stay at his house for extended periods of time so they could work on routes during the day. He was emerging as a hero, and the fans took notice. I was, once again, sold.

    This season is a different story than last year. The lockout caused coach Todd Haley to change his strategy for the preseason, and as uneffective as Cassel looked in the preseason, I was convinced that was just because of how the lockout had effected his offseason progress.

    However, eight games into the season, I find it hard to defend Cassel any longer. I was finding it hard to defend Cassel back in September, but after a good game and a half (second half against the Vikings and the game against the Colts), I was willing to defend my QB (like Terell Owens but without the tears). And although he looked poor against the Raiders and the Chargers the second time around, the Chiefs kept on winning. But that winning streak was snapped, and our QB exposed.

    After a loss, it's hard not to write this post. I was contemplating writing it last week, but I didn't want to jinx anything. I knew the wins and the recent success was hiding a problem with our offense, but, like certain college coaches, I decided to do nothing.

    For the season, Cassel is 147/241 (61%) for 1,620 yards, with 9 TDs and 9 INTs. To compare that to the rest of the league, Cassel is 22nd in passing yards (sad stat - the players behind Cassel are Tarvaris Jackson, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, Curtis Painter, Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman, Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, Matt Moore, Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and John Beck - all but Alex Smith has missed games this season due to performance and/or injury). Cassel is tied for 20th in the league in TD throws, tied for 5th in the league in INTs, 14th in the league in sacks, and tied for 23rd in the league in passer rating with a 77.8 on the season. His Total QB Rating (as designed by ESPN) isn't much better, having Cassel 15th in the NFL.

    Cassel has had different offensive coordinators every single season in the NFL since he began to start games. This is a common Cassel defense statistic, and, while there is an effect to that, Cassel should be at the stage where different terminology and coaching styles shouldn't have a profound negative effect on his playing capability. Afterall, rookies such as Cam Newton and Andy Dalton are having immediate success in their offenses, even with the lockout shortened offseason. In fact, both are having better statistical seasons than Cassel. Even Matt "the ageless wonder" Hasselbeck, after switching teams during the offseason, is putting up a very respectable season thus far.

    So when is Cassel going to get it?

    He had a good season last year, but it's beginning to look more like the exception rather than the norm. Matt Cassel doesn't have a good receiving corps around him. That was another defense for Cassel. In 2009, Cassel struggled, and Dwayne Bowe struggled, and the team only won four games. Chris Chambers had come in mid-way during the season, but only two decent receiving options surely couldn't be enough to rally that offense into anything other than mediocre. In 2010, Chambers fell off the map but Bowe emerged as a juggernaut. With Bowe and rookie tight end Tony Moeaki, Cassel now had two good receivers. But again, two just wasn't good enough in the playoffs, and the Chiefs season halted. But this season, Cassel has arguable one of the best receiving corps in the NFL with Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. Even with Tony Moeaki out, he has three go-to guys to throw the ball to. But even with these weapons, Cassel is struggling more than ever.

    There has to be a point when Cassel either gets it or he doesn't. Right now, it looks like he is not getting it. The last time I wrote a post criticizing Cassel, he went on to have a decent two game stretch including perhaps the best game of his NFL career against the Colts. So, for the sake of this season, I hope he responds in the same manner to this post. Otherwise, the Chiefs four game win streak will be nothing other than a flash in the pan, and Cassel might be on his way out in Kansas City.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Eric Berry Speaks

    So a couple of weeks ago, ThisIsGMC tweeted that a couple of lucky tweeters would have Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs answer a question for them. You just addressed the question to his Twitter account, @Stuntman1429, hash-tag TweetPro, and if your question was deemed worthy, he would answer it.

    Knowing that they were probably going for easy questions and short clips, I threw Berry a real softball of a question.

    Today, I found out that my question was answered by our dearly departed (from injury) safety. Being a Chiefs fan, I know how much our team is missing Berry's presence in the defense, after all, he played every defensive snap last season. So getting to see him answer my question, even if it lasted just 52 seconds, cheered me up vastly after witnessing first hand the debacle against the Dolphins.

    Here's the video. Check it out.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    The Beard is No More: Dolphins vs. Chiefs

    MIA   31              KC   3

    The game was wrong from the moment the national anthem ended. After the token home of the CHIEFS! moment, I looked up and there was no flyover. I continued to look and not until about 15 seconds later did the fighter jets make their way over. It was a sign of things to come.

    The Chiefs scored on their opening possession and then not again.

    The Dolphins punched the Chiefs in the mouth, Chan Gailey style. And with this kind of performance, we are reminded of the Chiefs first two weeks, and we are terrified. But the good thing is the Raiders and the Chargers lost this weekend, so the Chiefs are still tied for first place in the AFC West (should I thank God for Tebow or Tebow for God?).

    I can't overlook a home loss to a winless team, however, and I will break down the good and the bad.

    What we did well

    • The Chiefs didn't turn the ball over. 
    • We scored on our opening possession.
    • Our wide receiving trio of Bowe, Baldwin and Breaston looked good, with Breaston going over 100 yards for the first time this season.
    • We dominated time of possession, having 34:39.
    What we could have done better
    • There wasn't much we did well today. We got dominated at the line of scrimmage, giving up 5 sacks; we made Reggie Bush look like he was still at USC, allowing 92 rushing yards and a TD and 50 receiving yards; made Brandon Marshall look like he was still playing in Denver, allowing 106 yards and a TD; and made Matt Moore look like Tom Brady, allowing 17/23 for 244 yards and 3 TDs.
    • Besides our defense looking like they weren't too interested in playing, our offense could never get things going. Granted, the Dolphins entered the game with a pretty staunch rush defense, and they proved why. Battle only had 40 yards rushing on 14 carries, a 2.9 ypc average. Second in rushing was Matt Cassel, with 38 yards (that should tell you what kind of a day the offensive line was having).
    • Speaking of Matt Cassel, he had his second mediocre game in a row, and his sixth of the season. No, he didn't turn the ball over, but he wasn't effective passing it either. He was overthrowing, underthrowing, misthrowing, mistiming, etc. He was experiencing a lot of pressure from the Dolphins defense, but he's not a rookie, and should be able to handle it a little better than a 20/39 completion day. 
    At the end of the day, we lost in all phases of the game, but are still in first place. As long as we don't lay another egg next week, hopefully we can gain control of the division. 

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    It's A Trap!

    As much as coaches and players don't want to admit it, there are such things as trap games.

    A trap game happens to a team when it is beaming with confidence and facing a supposedly 'inferior' opponent. Examples of such games stem far back in football and happen on a regular basis in the NFL. The most recent example is perhaps the Saints-Rams game last Sunday. The Saints, favorites on the road, were facing a winless Rams that were forced to start their back-up quarterback, A.J. Feeley, against a team two years removed from a Super Bowl championship.

    The result was a 31-21 Rams victory in a game that was actually less close than the final score indicates. Drew Brees threw two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and was sacked six times. In the post game press conference, Brees said "We talked about this all week, we tried to guard against it. Obviously, we didn't do a very good job for preparing ourselves to come [to St. Louis] and win a game."

    What were the Saints trying to guard against? A trap game.

    Unfortunately, the Chiefs find themselves in a similar situation. No, they are not two years removed from winning it all, but they do have a nice four game win streak and a big win over a division rival on Monday Night Football going against the winless Dolphins. And for the first time in a long time, the Chiefs are actually favored in this game (which I view as a bad thing).

    The Chiefs are coming off a short week, and a miracle win. Emotions, I imagine, are high in the locker room, and the team looks like it has regained its confidence and even their swagger. They probably even feel a sense of invincibility right now. That is not good.

    The Chiefs cannot afford to look past the Dolphins (even if fans already have). Miami is not nearly as bad as their record indicates, and they have lost some real heart breakers. Here's how their games have turned out so far this season:

    1. Patriots 38 Dolphins 24
    2. Texans 23 Dolphins 13
    3. Browns 17 Dolphins 16
    4. Chargers 26 Dolphins 16
    5. Jets 24 Dolphins 6
    6. Broncos 18 Dolphins 15 OT
    7. Giants 20 Dolphins 17
    Three of those games, the Dolphins had the lead in the fourth quarter (Browns, Broncos, Giants). Against the Browns, they lost the lead with less than a minute left. Against the Broncos, they got Tebowed in the final 2:44 of the game and eventually lost by a field goal in overtime.

    So, what I'm trying to say is, the Dolphins are a team that has had their share of bad luck. Much like the Bills last season, the Chiefs can't afford to play the Dolphins based on their record, because that almost always leads to an upset. 

    For now, the team seems to be saying all the right things. Josh Looney from was able to talk to some of the players and coaches about this upcoming game against the Dolphins. “We’ve watched this team on film and this is a good physical team and they’ve played a lot good opponents throughout the year and this is not a team that we take lightly at all,” Matt Cassel said. “This is a team that’s going to come out and play physical for four quarters and we have to play our best football in order to win.”

    “This short week presents a challenge both physically and mentally and we’re working on both ends to try and make sure that our team is ready to go and ready to play their best game,” Haley said. “Paying attention to just the record with this team will be very dangerous and you would pay for it dearly from our perspective. This is a well-coached team, a team that ... has not only been in close games, but the teams that they have played are pretty strong teams."

    Hopefully this attitude stays with the team, and they are able to prove why they are favored in this game.

    Game Notes

    Matt Cassel: 127/202 (62.9%), 1,367 yards, 9 TDs, 9 INTs
    Matt Moore: 68/115 (59.1%), 706 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs

    Jackie Battle: 64 carries, 302 yards (4.7 ypc), 1 TD
    Reggie Bush: 75 carries, 335 yards (4.5 ypc)

    Dwayne Bowe: 33 receptions, 558 yards, 4 TDs
    Brandon Marshall: 38 receptions, 538 yards, 1 TD

    Chiefs Defense: Pass-20th (251.4 ypg); Rush-22nd (122.1 ypg); Total-22nd (373.6 ypg)
    Dolphins Defense: Pass-27th (270.7 ypg); Rush-13th (109.9 ypg); Total-23rd (380.6 ypg)

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Running Wild

    First, some fantastic news. My dad called me Wednesday and told me he had purchased tickets to the Chiefs-Dolphins game this Sunday, which automatically made him the best dad ever (and if he wants to continue to get mentions on here, he will keep it up).

    Since the Suck4Luck campaign is all but over for the 4-3 Kansas City Chiefs, we, as fans, have the opportunity to look at the upcoming draft at our own leisure and not as the only good thing that can conclude an abysmal season.

    Looking at our current roster, there are some needs the team can address in the upcoming draft that doesn't require the number one overall pick. One of those needs is running back.

    With Jamaal Charles going down in the second game with a season ending ACL tear, the Chiefs running game has been a "by committee" operation. Although Jackie Battle has emerged as our number one back with a few fine games running the football, he is not, what some may call, a game changer. Thomas Jones is running like the crypt keeper, and Dexter McCluster couldn't break an arm tackle if the arm was a broken.

    With Jones clearly being at the end of his career and Battle probably nothing more than a decent backup, I can't see the Chiefs not addressing the position in the upcoming draft, whether it be in the first or seventh round.

    I talked about quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2001 and how they fared in the NFL. The result was showing everyone that drafting a quarterback in the first round, especially number one overall, is a risky business with little to no guarantee that that draft selection will actually pay the dividends that the team is expecting.

    How do running backs fare?

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    The Snap: Chiefs vs. Chargers

    AP Photo/Ed Zurga

    KC  23                          SD  20      (OT)

    There are few words that can describe what Chiefs fans witnessed last night. Miracle, perhaps, sums it up the best. Just when all hope seemed to be lost, Philip Rivers happened. It took place so fast. The Chargers had converted a 3rd and 18, then were able to successfully run the football for a first down while the Chiefs were forced to burn their time outs. The Chargers were simply able to run out the clock, kick a chip shot, and celebrate a comeback victory on the road against a division rival.

    Halloween, however, had different plans.

    Fumbled snap. Dog pile. Andy Studebaker (who didn't even start off on the bottome of the pile) comes out with the football. Overtime (I won't mention how Cassel threw a sideline interception because there was only a few seconds left and Cassel was just trying to make something happen).

    San Diego won the toss but couldn't do anything with it on offense thanks to a Tamba Hali sack. Forced to punt, the Chiefs get the ball back on their own 19 yard line. Fourteen plays, 74 yards, two third-down coversions, and a Ryan Succop 30 yard field goal later, the Chiefs were winners on this haunted Monday Night.

    There are not enough stats in the world to show you how improbable this win was, but if you enjoy stats, here are a few from ESPN that you might enjoy. I sure did.

    What the Chiefs did right
    • They opened up Monday Night Football with Len Dawson speaking, which is always a good thing.
    • The Chiefs got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter and going into halftime with a 13-3 lead.
    • Part of those 10 first quarter points was a touchdown pass from Matt Cassel to Jon Baldwin. Baldwin's first touchdown reception as a Chief was a thing of beauty, and the pass from Cassel was equally beautiful.
    • Bowe was strictly covered for most of the game but still ended up with 4 catches for 62 yards. But unlike last year, Bowe isn't the only receiver on the team, and attempting to take him out of the game just opens up opportunities for other players. Baldwin finished the game with 5 receptions, 82 yards and a touchdown while Steve Breaston had 3 catches for 42 yards. 
    • Cassel's night wasn't his best, but he had a touchdown and several good throws that extended drives. He also looked good moving in the pocket, and even ran for some timely yards to help his own cause.
    • Our running game, although almost non-existent in the first three quarters, opened up in the fourth quarter when the Chargers defense started to wear down. Jackie Battle continued to be our leading rusher, finishing with 70 yards on 19 carries (3.7 ypc) and the Chiefs first rushing touchdown that came from an offensive player who didn't, in reality, fumble the football. 
    • The defense stepped up big in the first half, holding the Chargers to three points, and picking off Rivers twice and recovering a Ryan Matthews fumble. And, of course, recovering the fumble at the end.
    • The thing I noticed the most is that almost everyone from the Chiefs made a big play. Lewis had two takeaways, Flowers looked like a shutdown corner, McCluster had some good yards after catch in overtime, Baldwin had a touchdown, Breaston converted a 3rd and 14 in overtime, Bowe was Bowe, Hali had constant pressure, Derrick Johnson had an interception, McGraw drew an offensive pass interference against Antonio Gates to prevent a touchdown, Battle had a touchdown, etc. This was the best team effort I'd seen out of the Chiefs all season.
    What the Chiefs could have done better
    • Despite the miracle, we should also realize that we should have lost the game. There is no reason we should have won except the fact that we did. The offense was stagnant most of the game, and so little time spent on the field for the offense meant the Chiefs defense got worn down by the fourth quarter, and fatigue was definitely in effect.
    • Baldwin and Bowe each had atleast one drop (Baldwin two), and unfortunately Bowe's resulted in an interception. Both players need to secure the football a little better from here on out.
    • Our running game didn't really get going until the fourth quarter, which means our offensive line was losing for three plus quarters. 
    • Our defense, having done a nice job through three quarters, started wearing down and became succeptable to the run, which was evidenced by that final drive for San Diego that nearly clinched the game. Plus we decided to blitz on 3rd and 18 and leave the whole middle of the field without defenders for Rivers to convert and extend that drive.
    • Clock management was a little funky for the Chiefs. Before halftime it seemed like the Chiefs couldn't decide if they wanted to run out the clock or go for a score. They ended up with a made field goal, but they could have had more. Also, before the end of the fourth quarter, the Chiefs seemed a little passive after recovering the fumble, and almost seemed content to take it to overtime before a few pass plays made it conceivable to get into field goal position. Better clock management in these situations could have resulted in more points.
    • Matt Cassel had another mediocre day, finishing 19/32 (59%) for 261 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Cassel needs to pick up his game because he's going to be asked to lead us to game winning drives more than once this season.