A win headed into the bye week could give the Chiefs a confidence boost. If the Denver Broncos also beat the San Diego Chargers on Monday night, the Chiefs would be one game out of first place with 10 games left to play.
Brady Quinn gets the start at quarterback for the injured Matt Cassel, who has been a one-man wrecking crew of his own team. With Jamaal Charles and an above-average defense, the Chiefs should be able to scratch out wins with a below-average quarterback that just manages the game and avoids turnovers.
The Chiefs can beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but they need Quinn to throw the ball 25 times and not turn it over like Cassel. Charles might have some trouble getting going, so the pressure will be on Quinn and the defense to keep the game close.
The Buccaneers offense isn’t much to write home about, and it could be one the Chiefs exploit. In yardage, the Bucs offense is rated 30th, and in points per game, they are 20th. The Bucs are equally inept passing and rushing, with the biggest threats being Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams in the passing game.
Anytime the passing game is the most dangerous option, the pass rush and coverage will be the key focus. In this case, the Chiefs are in good shape.
Left tackle Donald Penn and right guard Ted Larson are the weaknesses in Tampa Bay’s pass protection. According to ProFootballFocus, Larson and Penn have combined to allow one sack, two hits and 18 hurries of Josh Freeman this season.
For the most part, Freeman’s protection has been good, and he has taken just seven sacks, mostly as the result of holding the ball too long. Freeman is prone to making mistakes when he’s under pressure, and if the Chiefs can put the heat on him, they might be able to force game-altering turnovers.
Freeman’s best game came against the New York Giants, but even in that game, he showed his limitations when pressured.
Freeman had time to throw this pass, and a wide receiver was open to his left, but there was some pressure to his right:
Freeman moved backward and to his left as the defense converged on his intended receiver:
Freeman threw the ball off his back foot with intense pressure coming right in his face. That's not the offensive lines fault at this point:
The poor fundamental throw resulted in a pass way off the mark and over the head of the receiver. It was picked off by Corey Webster:
This play happened at the end of the third quarter, and the Giants would outscore the Bucs 25-7 over the final 15 minutes to win the game.
The Chiefs have been good about limiting opposing teams' No. 1 passing target, and that should continue. Stanford Routt allowed just one reception to Jackson last season, and Flowers allowed three in two games for a total of 48 yards, according to ProFootballFocus.
The Chiefs should be able to slow down the Bucs passing attack with tight coverage and a little pressure.
The Bucs have the one of the better run defenses in the league, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry (better than any defense the Chiefs have played this season).
Last week, the Baltimore Ravens also boasted a good run defense. Charles ran the ball 31 times for 140 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry (dragging his average down to 5.3 yards per carry from 5.7 the week prior).
The Chiefs are a running team and shouldn’t get too far from their roots, but they need to be prepared to let Quinn throw the ball too. The Bucs defense has allowed more passing yards per game than any other team, but they have also limited the damage by intercepting six passes and allowing just four passing touchdowns.
According to teamrankings.com, the Bucs have allowed opponents to score touchdowns on just 28.57 percent of their red-zone trips, second only to the Detroit Lions and tied with Arizona. Bend but don’t break applies to the Bucs.
The Bucs pass defense has also given up 23 plays of 20 yards or more, which is second only to the New England Patriots this season. That means Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin could finally break open for a deep reception. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the deep pass requires Quinn’s arm.
According to ProFootballFocus Quinn completed just five of 34 deep attempts in 2009, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Hopefully a couple years on the bench has helped Quinn better pick his spots to throw the ball deep.
It will be interesting to see how much more the Chiefs let Quinn throw the ball than Cassel. It should be a good mix of run and pass, with big passing plays setting up running plays to get the ball into the end zone.