Arrowhead Pride's Joel Thorman tells us what to expect from the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday when they travel to Paul Brown Stadium to play the Cincinnati Bengals.
Q: Alex Smith has been sacked a league high 14 times in three games, including seven on Monday night. Who/what is most to blame for the sacks, and is this something the Chiefs can get under control with the players currently on their roster?
A: The blame is all over the field. It's the offensive line's fault because they haven't been very good. Each of the starting guards have given up three sacks, according to PFF. That leads the NFL, which seems like a bit of a problem. It's also Alex Smith's fault because he was consistently sacked even when he had a really good offensive line in San Francisco. He doesn't make decisions quickly enough and sometimes dances when there's pressure. It's a combination of the two. Whoever's fault it is, it's been a problem for the Chiefs the last three weeks.
Q: Speaking of Alex Smith, he and Andy Dalton are often compared to one another as a result of their perceived "averageness". Many see both as overpaid quarterbacks who you can win with, but cannot win a game for you and win when it counts most - the postseason. Dalton is a lightning rod in Cincinnati among fans and many fans still want him replaced. How is Smith perceived among Chiefs fans, and can the Chiefs win in the postseason with him?
A: It's pretty similar to Dalton. It's tough to find a Smith-backer at the moment because the Chiefs offense really hasn't looked good for 10 quarters (minus garbage time in Green Bay). Big picture though, there are folks who look at Smith and value the way he protects the ball. Turnovers are the biggest indicator of wins and losses (besides, ya know, touchdowns) so there is value in not turning it over as the Chiefs 20 wins in the last two years can attest. Then there are others who look at other quarterbacks and wonder why their quarterback can't do that. Alex Smith does not stretch the field in two minute situations which, as you can guess, is pretty frustrating. There are definitely fans that are divided on Smith but with his contract he's locked in for another season after this at least.
Q: The media has talked (ad nauseam) about the Chiefs' wide receiver touchdown drought. I am sure Chiefs fans (like myself) were very glad the drought came to an end this past week thanks to Jeremy Maclin. Despite the touchdown (and big game from Maclin on Monday), the Chiefs have not gotten much production from the wide receiver production the past few years. What do you see as the reason for this? Is it Alex Smith? Andy Reid's offense? Lack of talent? Or a little of each?
A: Like the offensive line issues, it's a little of everything. You can put some of the blame on Alex Smith because he isn't throwing bullets 20 yards down the field to the receivers. You can blame it on the Chiefs personnel because their two most talented offensive players are a running back (Jamaal Charles) and a tight end (Travis Kelce). You can blame some of it on the offensive line because Smith needs a little more time to step into those deeper throws to receivers. It's also that Jeremy Maclin is really the only reliable and consistent receiver the Chiefs have at the moment. Outside of Jason Avant, the rest are young receivers without much experience and it's difficult to break into Andy Reid's offense as a receiver.
Q: The Chiefs have had one of the tougher schedules to start the season and come to Cincinnati at 1-2. What about this Chiefs team concerns you after three weeks? And what about this team makes you confident they will bounce back?
A: What concerns me is the offense. I expected them to struggle a little defensively against great players like Peyton Manning and the 3-0 Broncos and Aaron Rodgers and the 3-0 Packers. The offense though has looked pretty bad for two straight games. In Denver it was the five turnovers and in Green Bay it was the inability to move the ball in the first half when the Packers weren't up by three scores. We never expected this to be a 30-point a game offense that stretches the field. But we did expect a more efficient offense that can, ya know, get first downs. That doesn't seem to be happening for all of the reasons I listed above (Alex Smith, offensive line, receivers, play calling).
Q: If you were the Bengals coordinators, how would you attack this Chiefs team on offense and defense?
A: On offense, I would scheme ways to get the Bengals slot receiver open. The Chiefs will be starting someone not named Phillip Gaines there while Sean Smith (good) and Marcus Peters (good) are on the outside. The weakness will be whoever is covering that slot receiver. On defense, I would pressure the hell out of the Chiefs. Alex Smith hasn't responded to the blitz very consistently. I would come right up the middle and make Alex make a decision.
Q: On Sunday, the Chiefs win if...
A: The Bengals score less than 24 points. Alex Smith is 3-40-1 when the opponent scores more than 24 points. (Yes, really)
Q: On Sunday, the Bengals win if...
A: They win the turnover battle. The Chiefs will probably need to win that to win the game.
Q: In my preseason division previews, I picked the Chiefs to go 10-6 and make the playoffs as a wildcard. I am standing by that prediction. Where do you see this team finishing in 2015?
A: I still think that's a good prediction. I would be closer to 9-7 at this point though. The Chiefs are probably closer to the 10-win (average) teams we've seen the past two years rather than the one that's struggling to move the ball right now. They'll bounce back.
Q: What is your prediction for Sunday?
A: You put me on the spot on the Inside The Jungle podcast and I said 24-20, Chiefs. I picked the Chiefs to win before the Phillip Gaines injury, which is a big one for the KC defense. I'm sticking with that prediction and betting that the best unit on the field - the Chiefs defense - makes enough plays to win the game.