For the Chiefs to make the playoffs and make some noise in them, instead of just getting there, here are three things that they must improve on:
1. Where have all the sacks gone?
One of the main reasons the Chiefs’ defense was so dominant for most of the season was the ability to get to the quarterback. That has suddenly disappeared the last three games as the Chiefs have totaled one sack during that span. I’m not sure if it’s the scheme of the offense or Tamba Hali and Justin Houston having worn down, which would seem a little strange since they aren’t exactly rookies, but something definitely has changed. The two of them were a lot of the reason the pass defense had the ability to play tough man to man defense and a big reason why rookie Marcus Cooper could cover the opponents top wide receivers putting Brandon Flowers in the slot. Either Dontari Poe or someone else will have to help get some push up the middle more consistently allowing Hali and Houston to start racking up the sacks again.
2. Stop the run more consistently. You’re probably reading this and wondering if the Chiefs’ defense is so dominant, why are your first two points about the defense needing to improve? The defense is great, but not elite. There definitely is room for improvement. Stopping the run hasn’t come easy for most of the season. Opponents have been averaging roughly five yards a carry and if we’re to make a run deep into the playoffs, the run defense will have to step up and lower that average so that teams don’t use play action and keep the defense on their heels.
3. Big plays and more big plays. Andy Reid through the first 10 games has held the reigns on Alex Smith’s ability to make big down field plays which has in turn made the offense somewhat predictable. Alex Smith doesn’t have a rocket of an arm but he can throw down field. He has wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and speedy Donnie Avery at his disposable. They both can and have proven that they can make big plays throughout their careers. He also has superstar running back Jamaal Charles who is extremely effective in the pass game, so why not let Charles run down field and try and get the ball to him that way? This may end up being the biggest key to the Chiefs winning enough games to clinch the AFC West title and making a deep run in the playoffs. Playoff defenses will eventually have to respect the Chiefs offense if they can prove now that they’re willing to let Alex Smith air it out. Worst case scenario, if he does throw an interception, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world as all great quarterbacks throw them from time to time. At least trying to air it out and go down field will open up the run game more and Smith won’t see so many eight man fronts, which in turn will give Charles more running room.
The Chiefs are having a great season so far, but I believe with some minor improvements, they can be dangerous as they are well coached, and if they can get home field advantage, they can be even more dangerous.