The last time I stayed up late to watch a Chiefs game was last season when they deflated Tom Brady and the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Mind you, I live in Spain, so it was very, very late. Then Cincinnati got destroyed by the dark side and got sent to Dagobah just one week later. This year though, Kansas City has been the victim, escaping Lambeau Field with a lot of question marks. However, this was a little bit more expected, just because Aaron Rodgers rarely loses in Green Bay, and as our friends in Arrowhead Pride would say:
You firing Andy Reid after a loss at Lambeau? Come on, this is getting out of control https://t.co/7bLMNYDtXf— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) September 29, 2015
Your AFC North leaders, the Cincinnati Bengals at 3-0, will host the 1-2 Chiefs on Sunday and we have a quick list of players that could be key come game time.
1) Sean Smith
The former Miami Dolphins cornerback plays his first game of the season this Sunday. Not only did the Chiefs' secondary look bad against the best quarterback in the universe, but also lost slot cornerback Phillip Gaines for the season. After being suspended for the first three weeks, the big 6-3 Smith will allow Andy Reid not to play safety Tyvon Branch inside - do they think they can pull a Chris Crocker here? -. To be honest Branch was not that bad, but one-on-one he is not going to cut it.
If Smith gets back his job as right cornerback, then at least Kansas has the option to play Marcus Cooper there. He is also an improvement over him, and can take some pressure off first round pick Marcus Peters, the second most targeted cornerback in the NFL, per ProFootballFocus. One thing to note: he was only thrown at four times on Monday, which could confirm somehow that Aaron Rodgers was targeting certain players, like Branch, here in his first snap of the game.
2) Travis Kelce
He is one of the best tight ends in the league, what could I say that you don't already know? Bengals should be ready for the play action fake that sets him free downfield and got him a touchdown against the Texans. The Chiefs ran the play as well in Green Bay and the result was a big gain too.
He is a YAC monster and even if he is not in the same level as Gronkowski - nobody is - Kelce is the best red zone target Alex Smith has. And he is a nightmare matchup in the endzone.
3) Alex Smith
I usually tend to not talk about the opposing quarterbacks here because I feel the playcaller is always key to his team's success and there is not much I can add. But Smith's average depth of target is decreasing by the year and it has been the shortest in the league for the past two seasons.
Kansas City's offense last Monday reminded me of the Bengals' in 2014. Screen passes, swing passes, long third downs. The difference is the offensive line - the Chiefs might have a good center and another decent starter in RT Eric Fisher, but both guards are porous at best . But, as Arrowhead Pride wrote, Smith is not helping his team's cause, keeping his eyes down all the time.
@PFF_Sam is it bad that the NFL leaders in sacks given up among guards are both Chiefs? Seems like a problem— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) September 30, 2015
Jamaal Charles is an incredible talent and among the best running backs of the last decade. But, he needs some space to run, and the Chiefs need to provide that. Jeremy Maclin will help, but here's where Smith comes in.
4) Justin Houston
He should have been number one, right? Having Tamba Hali, even if Hali is not in his prime anymore sure helps. Houston is having a very good start of the season and is as stout against the run and is as good rushing the passer. If he is not able to get to the quarterback he might be drawing a drive-killing penalty instead.
Houston has it all. Coming off the edge on the Chiefs' 2-4 system - the one Cincinnati should try to run against, with only one of Howard or Bailey alongside Dontari Poe inside - he is a beast. He also had 22 sacks last season, as many as the entire Bengals' defense combined.
Hali is still pretty good too, this play shows a holding penalty, otherwise is would have been a dangerous pressure:
5) Jaye Howard
Contract year alert aside, the "kid" has an amazing first step, at 320 pounds. Alongside Poe, Allen Bailey and Mike DeVito he is part of one of the most formidable front sevens in the NFL. Russell Bodine, coming off his worst performance in the running game, will have to step up his game against Howard. Howard is now showing what he can do on a consistent basis, and is playing more than 50 percent of the snaps. Good luck running up the gut against him.