For the Chiefs, its as simple as this.
Do on Sunday ... or the season will die.
The road to a AFC West championship, a home playoff game, and a rematch with the Steelers is still, somehow, someway, right there for the taking. Do the Chiefs need a little help to get there? Yes. Specifically, we need both oakland and denver to lose at least once (in addition to losing to us). oakland visits the Packers this week. I'm going to guess that's the loss we need from them. And the tebows have the desperate Bears at home this week, then the Patriots at home next week, in addition to a frisky Christmas Eve trip to desperate Buffalo. Hopefully they lose one of those three. (Screw that -- hopefully they lose all three. I am nowhere near ready for a world where a john elway run, tim tebow led denver broncos team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Hang on, I just threw up typing that last sentence. Let me recompose myself ...)
If the Chiefs can sweep this road trip*, they climb right back into the thick of the playoff race. Despite losing (here we go ... you might want to pour yourself a stiff drink, or roll a potent joint before continuing ... ready? ...) despite losing their Pro Bowl quarterback, Pro Bowl running back, Pro Bowl safety, stud tight end, best offensive lineman, AND starting some piece of retread crap named Sabby Piscatelli**, despite ALL of that, the Chiefs are still just one win away from potentially controlling their own destiny.
(*: fun fact! Do you know the last time the Chiefs won back-to-back road games? (cue "jeopardy final question" music). 2004, when we beat oakland and Tennessee back-to-back. Let's just say, we're long overdue for a road winning streak.)
(**: it is not possible to put into words how much I despise Sabby Piscatelli. I pray that when he's cut after this season, that denver signs him, if only to justify my hatred of that piece of crap.)
For the Chiefs to win on Sunday, I believe they must do seven things. Here are those seven things.
1. They absolutely must protect the football. Last Sunday, they did a phenomenal job of this, not losing a fumble, not throwing an interception. They only had one brain fart last week, and D Bowe was there to immediately recover the potential fumble. As good as the Bears defense is, the Jets is every bit as talented. It is vital that, like last week's game, we not put the defense in a deep hole they have no chance of recovering from.
2. They absolutely must contain the Jets passing game. I fully expect "Sexy" Rexy Ryan to test the Brandon Brothers early and often, if only to try to build some confidence in Mark Sanchez. (There's two other reasons to do this -- open up the middle of the field for Dustin Keller, and to take the heat off the Jets anemic rushing attack by possibly opening up a few running lanes.) As much as I like Brandon Flowers, he has a tendency to get burned at least a couple times a game. This simply cannot happen if the Chiefs are to spring the upset.
3. The pressure the defense brought last week? Needs to occur again. We don't need seven sacks like last week (at least I think it was seven, it might have been more), but certainly knocking the Sanchize to the ground early and often needs to happen. As a Jets fan, trust me -- you can rattle Mark Sanchez. You get a few early good blows in on him? You WILL rattle him. And once he's rattled, he looks worse than either Tyler Palko or Caleb Hanie have looked so far. And considering that in five starts between them, they've thrown 13 interceptions and lost 3 fumbles, that's saying something.
4. Take some chances deep. Other than the Hail Mary to end the half, the Chiefs played a very conservative gameplan last week, which is fine because it worked. But I'd like to see a return to the gameplan from the Steelers game, where we took some calculated chances. If you have a 2nd and 2, why not try a 20 yard crossing pattern to Breaston? If you've got 3rd and 1 at the Jets 35 (knowing you'll go for it on 4th down if nothing changes), why not air it out to D Bowe?
And specifically, on 3rd and half a mile, air it out! God bless it, going conservative on 3rd and more than 10 drives me bat sh*t crazy. If you throw a 45 yard pass and its picked off, WHO CARES? It's no worse than a punt anyways. And you always have the chance on that 45 yard bomb of something crazy happening, like a pass interference flag, a defensive holding somewhere, a roughing the passer penalty, or even the receiver making the catch and extending the drive. Running a draw play on 3rd and 13 drives me absolutely nuts.
(Unless you're deep in your territory. If you're at your own 6, absolutely a draw on 3rd and 13 makes sense. But at the 40? Its stupid.)
5. Coach Hobo? Wear black. If only for the sanity of some of the people I watch road games with please -- wear black. It's for your own good.
6. The one thing last week I loved on offense? Was rolling Palko out of the pocket. Do this again. Repeatedly. The Jets defense does have a weakness, and its a system flaw with the Ryan type defense -- overcommitting to a play. There's not a lot of read-and-react in a Ryan defensive package. (The exact opposite of most Crennel defensive calls, which are all read and react, which also has its flaws, but fewer than committing before the snap, like Rex's defense does). Roll Palko out. Leonard Pope isn't going to win any speed contests, but he's a decent tight end with solid hands who will get you 4-5 yards every time on a simple rollout pass.
I loved the play to open the Steelers game, when Palko rolled out and hit Breaston streaking across the middle of the field fifteen yards downfield. Palko has some speed. James Harrison had to commit to stopping Palko from taking off ... which opened up the middle of the field. The Jets can be had the same way. And finally
7. Don't overthink things. Just stick to what you believe will work, and make it work. The Orton playcall last week was stupid. No legitimate defense (and the Bears are certainly that) is going to fall for a flea-flicker on the first play a QB enters the game for. They're expecting something quacky in that spot. There's no need to get cute. Cute is what you aim for when your girlfriend / wife / friend with benefits / random pickup at the Eclipse is putting on a private show for you. Football is not "cute". Its hard work, its tireless dedication, and its grinding it out, sticking with it. There's nothing "cute" about it.
There's your gameplan to success. Roll Palko out. Take a few low-risk / high-reward chances down the field. Get to the Sanchize early and keep going after him. Don't get cute. And have the head coach wear black.
The question isn't can the Chiefs win this game. Absolutely they can. The question is will they? Before answering that question, here are the rest of my Week 14 Predictions, and for the record, I'd have taken the Steelers -15 last night (Pittsburgh won 14-3, so we're already off to a "winning start" this week, oy ...)
* at Ravens (-16) 41, Colts 3.
* at Panthers (+2 1/2) 31, Falcons 30.
* at Bengals 24, Texans (+3 1/2) 21.
* at Lions (-8) 45, Vikings 13.
* Bucs (-2) 24, at Jaguars 14. Good Times Game O' The Week! Dy-No-Mite!
* at Dolphins (-3 1/2) 24, Eagles 17.
* Saints (-3 1/2) 31, at Titans 14.
* Patriots (-9) 31, at Redskins 10.
* at Cardinals (+3 1/2) 28, 49ers 24.
* Bears (+4) 17, at tebows 10.
* at Packers (-10) 41, raiders 14.
* Bills (+7) 31, at Chargers 20. The "Screw You Pete King" Upset of the Week.
* at Cowboys 21, Giants (+3 1/2) 20.
* at Seahawks (-6 1/2) 20, Rams 0.
And in the matchup that matters the most to me, and I would guess most everyone reading this ...
* Chiefs (+9 1/2) 13, at Jets 3. I have a stupid superstition. (Really Stevo, just one?) And it is this: as long as the Chiefs are mathematically alive to win the Lombardi Trophy, I wear a Chiefs bracelet on my left wrist. Coach Hobo? Tyler Palko? I'm not ready to take this thing off just yet. Give us one more week to hope guys, just one more week. Especially with the potential for the Upset of a Lifetime on tap next Sunday.
Go Bills, Go Packers, Go Bears, and Go Chiefs. This season isn't over yet. It's not over yet ...