New Orleans badly needs a win, and the Chiefs—objectively, given their record and the teams that have beaten them—present a good opportunity.
But as we've seen, even from the first two weeks of the season, anybody can beat anybody on any given Sunday. It's the joy and the heartbreak of the NFL, and it means that the Saints could be in for yet another crushing loss in Week 3.
The good news is, one of these teams has to come out of this week with its first win. The question is, which one of them is ready to rebound?
Here's all the information you need about where and when to catch Sunday's action.
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
When: Sunday, September 23 at 1 p.m. ET
Listen: WWL 870 AM and 105.3 FM in New Orleans, 101 The Fox in Kansas City
Live Stream: NFL GamePass
Betting Line (via OddsShark): Saints -9.5
What's At Stake?
Well, one of these teams has to start winning eventually. That is a certainty, now that they're facing each other.
Both the Saints and the Chiefs came into the 2012 season as teams that could go either way: They could make serious runs, or they could serve as the punching bags for the rest of the league.
It was a bit more surprising, though, to see it happen to the Saints. Yes, they're dealing with suspensions galore stemming from the bounty scandal, but they still have Drew Brees headlining their offense. In fact, it's Brees that makes you think this team could turn it around at any moment—or at least as soon as the defense decides to start playing.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, suffered several tough breaks last season due to injuries, which ultimately led to their 7-9 record just one season after finishing strong at 10-6. There was hope coming into 2012 that a healthy roster would translate into some early wins—but getting blown out by the Bills is a bad sign for the Chiefs' hopes.
Sunday's game is a chance for one of these teams—whichever one wins—to turn it around.
Key Injuries: Chiefs (via CBSSports.com)
- RB Jamaal Charles (knee) is probable for Sunday's game
- DB Javier Arenas (neck) left last week's game vs. the Bills
- DL Allen Bailey (ankle) missed last week's game
- TE Kevin Boss (head) left last week's game
- DB Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) missed last week's game
- DL Anthony Toribio (ankle) missed last week's game
- WR Devon Wylie (hamstring) missed last week's game
Key Injuries: Saints (via CBSSports.com)
- WR Devery Henderson (concussion) missed last week's game vs. the Panthers
- DL Turk McBride (ankle) missed last week's game
- DB Johnny Patrick (thigh) missed last week's game
Fantasy Prospect to Watch: Saints RB Pierre Thomas
The Saints' running game was abysmal in Week 1, which featured the tandem of Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram combining for only 32 yards on 10 carries. It didn't look good for you if either of them is on your fantasy team.
The good news is, there were vast improvements in Week 2. Ingram rushed for a score, and Thomas exploded for 110 yards on nine carries, including one 48-yard run.
Does this mean that Thomas is getting in a rhythm, or does it mean the Panthers are just bad? Carolina allowed 163 rushing yards to the Saints in Week 2, and it allowed 130 to Tampa Bay in Week 1. Their rush D isn't a brick wall, but it's not the worst, either.
And the Chiefs should enable more heroics for Thomas in Week 3: Against the Bills, they allowed 201 yards on the ground. Maybe this is the week he finally registers a touchdown.
What They're Saying
Who's taking the most heat for the Chiefs' lackluster start to the 2012 season? Romeo Crennel, of course. The NFL's perennial punching bag.
But Crennel—who is fully aware that he's already on the hot seat after the way his team has been humiliated over the first two weeks of the season—is coming out on the offensive. According to The Kansas City Star's Kent Babb, he's blaming the players, not himself, for the early futility.
His mindset suggests that maybe a head coaching gig in the NFL just isn't for him, according to Babb:
Crennel is 65 years old and has been an NFL coach since 1981. You don’t hang around that long or move up without being a good coach, and this isn’t meant to kick mud onto that fact. But being a head coach isn’t for everyone, and it tests all who dare by amplifying their words and shining a spotlight onto everything they say. No one knows yet if Crennel can prove, in his second stint as a head coach, that he can handle this job. But now that he’s in crisis mode, his words suggest he’s in over his head.
But the consensus is that the Saints are equally, if not more, problematic. As The Star's Randy Covitz points out, New Orleans has a very lengthy list of problems at the moment as well. The Saints are 0-2, the only team in the NFC to accomplish such a feat. Their coaching carousel has rotated three times since April. Even Brees has struggled.
But let's get down to it: What are the chances that each of these teams will make the Super Bowl? What are the chances the Saints get to play in their home stadium in February? Kovitz analyzes:
While teams that start 0-2 have about a 12 percent chance of making the playoffs (including the Chiefs in 2006), three teams since 1990 have started 0-2 and won the Super Bowl. Those were the 1993 Dallas Cowboys (after Emmitt Smith ended his holdout); the 2001 New England Patriots (Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel was defensive coordinator); and the 2007 Giants, whose defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, is now in that role with the Saints.
In that sense, maybe things aren't looking unbearable for either of these teams. Yet.
Kansas City Key Player
Could it be anyone other than Matt Cassel? It would have to be some combination of the quarterback and his offensive line.
Returning from last year's season-ending hand injury, the fate of the Chiefs rests in his hands (ha!)—just like the fate of the team depended on him last season, and everything went awry when he went down.
In parts of his three full seasons with the Chiefs, Cassel has showed that he's capable of great things. In 2010, he led KC to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth, but he—like any other quarterback—can't do anything with a team that has proved to be entirely futile on both sides of the ball.
Last week, Cassel threw for 301 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, and he was sacked five times. The week before, he was sacked three times. He can't do his job if he can't stay upright long enough to see the field.
Obviously, this is going to have to be a team effort. Cassel needs receivers who can catch the ball, running backs who can hold on to it and linemen who can protect him. Once those components of this offense click, we could see a difference in the Chiefs' fate.
New Orleans Key Player
Like the case with the Chiefs, there have been a plethora of problems for the Saints on both sides of the ball. Brees hasn't been perfect, and neither has his supporting cast.
But once he and Darren Sproles start getting into a rhythm, this is an offense that could prove too tough to keep up with. Sproles will be the best receiver on the field on Sunday, and the Saints need to exploit that, especially considering that the Chiefs secondary doesn't have anyone who will be able to keep up with him.
Last week against the Panthers, Sproles made 13 catches on 14 targets for 128 yards, but he went without a touchdown. This week, he and Brees must take a golden opportunity to light up the Chiefs' defense.
Prediction: Saints Win
Both of these teams have been awful, but the Chiefs have been worse on both sides of the ball. The Saints have a perfect opportunity to make Kansas City's defense look even worse than it has looked in the two weeks leading up to this matchup.
There's also the fact that the Chiefs have been utterly unable to protect Cassel. Brees has been just a little bit better off offensively, and this could be the week it all comes together for this team—on defense, too. The Saints really have a chance to victimize the Chiefs, and they have to take advantage. They won't get a better opportunity than this to turn it around.