The Kansas City Chiefs head in to their Week 5 showdown in somewhat unfamiliar territory. No longer the upstart or underdog, thanks to reeling off four straight wins to start the season, the Chiefs are now seen as a legitimate playoff contender. Kansas City is also considered the early favorite to beat a Tennessee Titans team that will reportedly be without starting quarterback Jake Locker due to an injury.
Kansas City has been led by a stifling defense that gives up the third-fewest yards per drive in the NFL, and a special teams unit that gives opponents the worst average starting field position in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.
Though the defense and special teams units have been the backbone of the team, the offense has begun to jel of late, making the Chiefs one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.
Kansas City will be squaring off against a Titans team whose only loss was in overtime to the Houston Texans in Week 2.
The Titans have been the measure of steady efficiency on offense, averaging a league-wide, third-best 6.38 plays per drive and being careful with the football. Unfortunately for the Titans, they will be without starting quarterback Jake Locker for the next few weeks,
|Team||Wins||Losses||Points For||Points Against||Net Points|
|Kansas City Chiefs||4||0||102||41||61|
|San Diego Chargers||2||2||108||102||6|
Kansas City currently sits tied atop the AFC West with the Denver Broncos, though the two teams have acquired their four wins in entirely opposite manners.
The Denver Broncos have leaned on their high-flying offense, led by quarterback Peyton Manning; the Chiefs have been led by their opportunistic and impressively solid defense, which is allowing a mere 10.25 points per game to their opponents.
The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have, to date, been mostly uneven and don't figure to be vying with either Kansas City or Denver for control of the division.
|Player||Position||Injury||Practice Status||Game Status|
|Anthony Sherman||FB||Knee||Full Participant||Probable|
|Kendrick Lewis||S||Ankle||Limited Participant||Questionable|
|Eric Fisher||OT||Head||Did Not Participate||Questionable|
|Travis Kelce||TE||Knee||Did Not Participate||Doubtful|
|Mike Devito||DE||Neck||Full Participant||Probable|
|Jeff Allen||OG||Groin||Limited participant||Questionable|
|Anthony Fasano||TE||Ankle||Limited Participant||Questionable|
|Brandon Flowers||CB||Knee||Did Not Participate||Questionable|
|Brandon Albert||OT||Shoulder||Full participant||Probable|
Both of Kansas City's starting tackles are dinged up, though Brandon Albert should be fine and will most likely be starting come game time. Eric Fisher suffered a concussion in Week 4 against the New York Giants, and his status is still uncertain.
Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers is still nursing a knee injury that did not allow him to play in Week 4. He was initially replaced by Dunta Robinson, who was wholly ineffective, and later by rookie Marcus Cooper, who showed tremendous promise. Should Flowers not be ready for Week 5, against the Titans, look for Cooper to get a heavier workload in his stead.
What Must Improve
The Chiefs have shown steady improvement in the offensive game week to week this season, but room always exists for more improvement. Run blocking up front has been inconsistent at times, and the offensive line has been an adventure in stark contrasts play to play.
Protections on the special teams units have also been lacking to put it mildly. With rookie right tackle Eric Fisher nursing a concussion, Donald Stephenson may have to step up as his replacement.
Also, look for the Chiefs to let quarterback Alex Smith run early, to force the Titans to pull their blitzes, and move to spy him. This tactic was highly effective in neutralizing the New York Giants up front in Week 4.
On defense, the Chiefs' one weak area appears to be defending the run. Against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3, they were gouged by LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick, and in Week 4, when the Giants bothered to run, they found success there. Fortunately for the Chiefs, they were able to build big leads quickly against both teams, forcing them to pass more.
Kansas City's problem in run-game defense stems from their upfield aggressive philosophy. While this new attacking philosophy has paid dividends for the defense as a whole, it has left them susceptible to read-option and draw plays, as the defense is too preoccupied with getting upfield, leaving behind contain principles.
So far, no team has managed to exploit this early enough for it to matter, but it does bear watching going forward.