Only two teams in the NFL have given up as many as 75 points through two games in this NFL season. That would be the Chiefs and the Saints. Unlike the Saints, the Chiefs have been in neither game, getting blown out of both. As dysfunctional as the Saints have been on defense, the Chiefs have been equally as bad on both sides of the ball. For a team limping into the season, this opponent could not come at a better time. But while the Chiefs are struggling, they are not incapable. They are giving up a lot of points, much like the Saints at the moment, but they still have good players on their roster. This is one the Saints desperately need to win, but they’ll still have to show up and play good football. Here’s my take on the Chiefs:
The Chiefs has a nice dual back system with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. The problem is they’ve yet to be able to use both players effectively because they’ve been playing from so far behind, which has prevented them from running as much as they’d like to. When the Chiefs are able to sink their teeth into a game they’ll be tough because of these two backs that are extremely capable. This team is not built to come from behind… so they’re in big trouble if they get behind a couple of scores. Charles is one of the more dangerous and explosive runners in the league, while Hillis is a pouding, bruising and physical back that will get you the tough yards in crucial situations. Both players complement each other’s styles perfectly. For the third straight week Will Smith will have to face a superior left tackle, which doesn’t bode well for him. Branden Albert is entering his prime and playing at an extremely high level. The left guard Ryan Lilja is very strong as well, and those two are complete linemen both equipped to play well regardless of the situation. Rodney Hudson and Eric Winston are also good players that have done well so far this season, and I would say the weakness on the line is at right guard (Jon Asamoah). Overall I would say the Chiefs offensive line is better than average and the Saints’ front four will have their work cut out for them yet again, although Lilja is questionable this week as he hasn’t been able to practice. Based on how poor the Saints have been at applying pressure and stopping the run this season, this matchup on paper is a huge advantage to the Chiefs in the trenches. When passing, most of you are familiar with Matt Cassel by now. He’s been up and down throughout his career, at times being terrificly efficient and at others making poor mistakes. If his line can give him as much time as I think they will in this game, though, he can hurt the Saints badly. Their passing game is somewhat one dimensional as Cassel targets Dwayne Bowe by far more than anyone. He’s a top notch receiver, so stopping him won’t be easy. That being said, the Chiefs also use Dexter McCluster in passing situations like the Saints use Darren Sproles, and they get tight ends Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki involved a little bit. Receivers Jon Baldwin and Steve Breaston have hardly been used at all this season, but I could see the Chiefs maybe trying to get them more involved this week especially if they are matched up against Corey White, who has struggled.
The Chiefs run a 3-4 base and you should be familiar with two of their three d-linemen: Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey of LSU. Both players have yet to live up to their high draft statuses, though. Both guys have been durable and tough against the run, but haven’t gotten after the quarterback hardly at all in their career. Granted, as ends in a 3-4 that’s not exactly what they are asked to do as much as maybe a 4-3 end, but they have still been subpar pass rushing. Young nose tackle Dontari Poe is another d-lineman that came to the Chiefs with big expectations and has yet to deliver. That front three has a huge ceiling and loads of talent, but they’ve yet to really tap into it, so the advantage here goes to the experienced Saints’ offensive line. Their linebackers, likewise, are stout against the run but struggle to get to the passer. The only way the Chiefs will get pressure on Brees is to blitz because one on one they are not going to win many matchups. This bodes extremely well for the Saints because part of Brees’ struggles in the first two weeks was that he was running for his life back there. This week, he should be able to get time because the Saints’ offensive line faces a very weak pass rushing team. On the back end the Chiefs have struggled with numerous injuries. Kendrick Lewis, Javier Arenas, Jalil Brown and Jacques Reeves have all missed practices this week due to nagging problems. With Lewis out, another LSU alumn starts at free safety in Travis Daniels. Daniels is a seasoned NFL vet but he can be exposed up top if Devery Henderson/Joe Morgan can get behind him. Strong safety Eric Berry is a superstar in the making, but still young. At corner, the Chiefs have Stanford Routt and Brandon Flowers starting. These two are pretty solid in coverage, so the bigger mismatches will happen in the slot. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the Saints throw more to Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles than anyone else, and that’s where the Chiefs are banged up and struggle to cover. This is a huge opportunity for the Saints’ offense to expose this. Overall the Chiefs have invested very heavily in this defense, both with money and with picks. Unfortunately for them lack of experience in some cases and inability to live up to the hype in others has really turned what should be a good defense on paper into a phase of the game ridden with leaky holes.
Kicker Ryan Succop has been with the Chiefs for 4 years now and has a career conversion percentage right around 80%. He’s been solid, accurate, and can showcase a bit of leg strength when necessary. Punter Dustin Colquitt is also a seasoned veteran that has been with the team 8 years and does a solid job. I would say that the Succop/Colquitt combo reminds me a lot of Hartley/Morstead. Both have strong legs, both perform well. Javier Arenas is their primary return man, though he his battling injuries this week and is questionable to play. Arenas has yet to blossom in three years as a return man, though, and after him the drop off in quality is even more pronounced. The Saints’ should be able to keep the Chiefs’ return game in check with quality coverage and Morstead doing his thing.