The Cincinnati Bengals head into Kansas City this Sunday as frustrated Chiefs fans show their displeasure with a "blackout".
As we settle into our Sunday routine for Week 11 in the NFL season, Joel Thorman with one of SB Nation's top NFL Sites Arrowhead Pride joins us for a few minutes. We not only dig into expectations for Sunday's game, there's a certain brotherhood between Bengals and Chiefs fans, due to each team's struggles either recently or historically. [You can see my answers to Joel's questions here]
If there's a fanbase that can sympathize with the plight of Chiefs fans, it's Bengals fans. Some of the years we've had dealing with the Bengals, especially in the 90s were hard. How are Chiefs fans, including yourself, coping with this season?
It's tough. Really, really tough. This is one of the first years since I can remember where the fan base is fighting back. Banners are flying over Arrowhead calling for the firing of Scott Pioli. Fans are organizing a blackout for the Bengals game, basically wearing black to the game to show the disappointment in the organization's direction. Our November approval poll for Pioli is at six percent, which is somewhat incredible. So I'd say we're dealing with things ...differently. Chiefs fans have never been so vocal about their displeasure for the organization. This is something new for me.
Do you feel like there's plan in place for a future worth being hopeful with?
Not really. Quarterback is the most important position in sports. The Chiefs have no future at quarterback. Getting one is the next big step for this organization. Scott Pioli has never demonstrated he's able to identify and acquire quarterback talent. Tom Brady was a sixth round pick so that's not exactly identifying your franchise guy. Matt Cassel was a seventh round pick and hasn't fared well in Kansas City. What has Pioli done to suggest that he's capable of competently making the quarterback decision?
If you were hired as the team's General Manager the day after the season, what would be your first act as GM? I'd cut Matt Cassel. Something of a symbolic release, cutting off the ties from the previous regime. That's not a shot at Cassel either. He's a good dude. But Chiefs fans have suffered through bad seasons in three of Cassel's four years in Kansas City. All they want is a quarterback who can A.) consistently complete passes and B.) throw more touchdowns than interceptions. After cutting Cassel, I'd add a veteran quarterback and start scouting for the top quarterbacks in the draft since the Chiefs are on track for the top pick.
Cincinnati Bengals have fourth and goal at their own three-yard line, there's two seconds left and the Chiefs are leading by four points. Andy Dalton takes the shotgun snap and... which Chiefs defender would you expect to make the biggest impact to win the game?
Tamba Hali. Justin Houston may be having a better season but based on the past few years we can expect that play out of Tamba. He has a knack for making big plays -- whether it's a sack, fumble or whatever -- so I think Tamba would be the one to keep an eye on there. Houston, though, is quickly becoming a force as well.
The Bengals have one of the better pass protection units in the NFL, though sometimes it doesn't show by the number of times Dalton is sacked. Is there another pass rusher beyond Hali and and Houston the Bengals should be focused on to generate pressure?
Nope, and that's the problem. The Chiefs don't generate any other pass rush. Really, though, they don't need much more than that. Houston and Hali, when they're on, can affect the game in a big way. You may see a corner blitz here and there but Houston and Hali are really your only worries in the pass rush.
According to Pro Football Focus, four of the Chiefs best offensive players are all offensive linemen, including Jon Asamoah (who is out on Sunday). However they've also combined for seven quarterback sacks, seven hits on the quarterback and 42 hurries. If they're on their game, the Bengals could arguably have one of the league's better front fours pressuring the quarterback. Including Matt Cassel's tendencies, how comfortable are you with Kansas City's protection schemes?
Not very and Cassel's tendencies are a big part of it. He holds onto the ball too long. He gets happy feet and dances around. Cassel doesn't have a very good feel for the pocket. The Chiefs offensive line has a lot of individual talent but they've been banged up with injuries. Ryan Lilja, a career guard, is playing center. Jeff Allen, a rookie, is starting. Those weren't meant to happen, so if the Chiefs o-line is struggling a little I can see why. I'd blame it first on the quarterback and second on injuries.
After recovering from a major injury last year, Eric Berry has struggled in pass coverage; allow 74.3 of the passes targeting receivers he's covering to be completed for an opposing passer rating of 122.4. During his rookie year, despite picking off four passes, he also allowed seven touchdowns. Is Berry a liability in coverage that someone like A.J. Green could expose, or is there more to the story?
Yep, could be a liability issue on Sunday. Berry doesn't look like he's 100 percent back from his knee injury. It's like that spark isn't there. It's most obvious in coverage where Berry has been exposed this year. He's not a good a cover safety, or at least hasn't been this year. Two years ago his trajectory suggested he was en route to being elite so perhaps we're just a year too early with him.