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Under the Microscope – Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs started this season as the league’s darlings, winning their first nine games and scoring points at a rate that brought back memories of the Greatest Show on Turf under coach Dick Vermeil.  They have now clinched the AFC West, and are tied with New England for the league’s best record.  But losses on the road to Denver and Cincinnati, and a porous defense, especially against the run, have the natives wondering if this will just be the latest Kansas City team to blow a division title with an early playoff exit.  Can the Chiefs survive in the playoffs?  Pardon me while I focus in with the microscope.

Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)
Category Yards/Game TD’s
Rushing Offense 124.1  (13) 26  (1)
Passing Offense 254.4  (3) 23  (t6)
Rushing Defense 145.5  (29) 15  (t26)
Passing Defense 211.4  (20) 16  (t10)

Turnover Stats Upcoming Schedule
34 takeaways  (2)
13 giveaways  (1)
+21 overall  (1)
16: @Minnesota
17: Chicago

Schedule Analysis
A road game against a struggling Vikings team this week should be very telling for both sides.  Can the Chiefs’ defense stand strong against one of the league’s better rushing attacks?  Can they keep their focus against a desperate team in a must-win situation?  And even if they do get past Minnesota, week 17 is a classic trap game.  The Chiefs will be looking forward to the playoffs, the Bears have been playing better of late, and a nasty surprise could be in store for the boys in red.

Player Analysis

Trent Green, QB – Green has been another in this year’s crop of middle-round QB’s who have had excellent seasons.  He currently trails only Peyton Manning in passing yards, and his 23/9 TD/INT ratio has made a lot of fantasy owners happy this season.  He should post high scores in week 16 and 17 and be an excellent start for your championship game.

Priest Holmes, RB – Holmes is fast approaching 2,000 combined yards and has 22 TD’s.  He is the Chiefs’ leading rusher and pass-catcher.  And once again this season, he has led hordes of fantasy football teams to the playoffs.  Any more questions about that hip?

Derrick Blaylock/Tony Richardson, RB – It’s a little late in the season to be talking about backups, but if Holmes should go down, these two will probably share the rushing duties.  Who would take the lead, or how much offense they could generate, is anybody’s guess.

Eddie Kennison, WR – Looking at Trent Green’s stats, you would expect to see a receiver with big-time numbers on KC’s roster.  But the passes have been spread evenly between 5 or 6 players.  This makes it hard to recommend any Chiefs receiver, but Kennison is the one start you can feel comfortable with in the 2nd or 3rd position.  His stats have been the most consistent among this receiver group.

Johnnie Morton, WR – Morton is the deep threat who has the occasional long touchdown.  But he has also caught two or less passes six times this season.  He should only be started if you’re willing to take a gamble in order to boost your point total.

Dante Hall, WR – No, he doesn’t just return kicks.  At times, it seems like the Chiefs are falling all over themselves to get this guy the ball.  But can you blame them?  He is certainly one of the NFL’s most dangerous players in open space.  From a fantasy perspective, however, he’s much to inconsistent at receiver to be counted on.  But if you get points for return yardage, well, that’s a different story.

Tony Gonzalez, TE – Rumors, innuendo, and the hype surrounding Jeremy Shockey served to bump Tony G. down the draft list a bit at the beginning of this year.  But the Chiefs know what kind of weapon they have in Gonzalez.  He’s one of those rare players who is big enough to line up as a blocking tight end, but elusive and fast enough to go deep.  He’s still arguably the best tight end in the game.  I don’t think the fantasy football community as a whole will be making the same mistake on next year’s draft charts.

Defense/Special Teams – With the signing of free agents Shawn Barber and Dexter McCleon in the offseason, the Chiefs appeared to have addressed last year’s Achilles heel, defense.  There has been some improvement – their jaw-dropping +21 turnover ratio is 11 better than any other team.  But this is still a defense that can’t stop the run and sacrifices big plays while trying to make all those turnovers.  If anything will kill them in the postseason, it will be their run defense.  The Broncos, Ravens, and Colts all have excellent rushing attacks that can control the clock and keep Kansas City’s powerful offense off the field.  And, just in case you haven’t read all the chatter on the Shark Tank, you want to look for a different squad to put in your lineup for the fantasy playoffs.

The Bottom Line
The Chiefs certainly have a good chance of making their first Super Bowl appearance in 34 years.  The old saying goes, “defense wins championships,” but a great offense, and some timely plays on special teams, can win a championship too.  A trip to New England in January would be about as welcome as another Priest Holmes hip injury, so the Chiefs better hope they can win out and secure the home field advantage.  Without that, I don’t like their chances.

Next Week … It’s the final week of the regular season, but Under the Microscope just keeps comin’ back for more!  We’ll put the microscope on the Philadelphia Eagles, who are trying to hang on to home field advantage in the NFC.  Can they get to the NFC Championship game again, and will the third time be the charm?

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