The Kansas City Chiefs hit the road to take on the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon as they look for their first back-to-back wins since October of 2011. They’ll have to not only overcome a let down after an incredibly emotional game last week, but also mounting injuries to key players.
On their final injury report, the Chiefs had six starters on offense listed as questionable, including three in the secondary. Head coach Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs made the necessary adjustments last week without Kendrick Lewis, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry and Abe Elam, though you can only run from your lack of depth for so long.
When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, there aren’t as many injuries to worry about, instead the focus will continue to be on turnovers. For the first time all season, the Chiefs did not turn the ball over last week and that’s one of the main reasons they were able to take out the Carolina Panthers.
Brady Quinn is coming off the best game of his career and while he doesn’t need to repeat that performance, he will need to avoid turnovers. Keep things simple and ride the running game to the finish line.
In Cleveland, the Browns are 4-8 but have won two straight, three out of five and have been close in nearly every game this season. Like the Chiefs, they will try to ride their star running back — rookie Trent Richardson — to victory while hoping the defense can make a few big plays.
And with so many connections between the Browns and Chiefs, there are sure to be quite a bit of fireworks on the field no matter the final score. With that in mind, here are the Kansas City players to keep your eyes on Sunday in Cleveland.
Offense: Peyton Hillis
He’s wrapping up a disappointing first — and likely only — season with the Chiefs, but Hillis will be out for blood Sunday. He got tangled in a war of words with Browns tackle Joe Thomas during the week over the running back missing games last season in Cleveland with minor or nonexistent injuries. It’s a charge Hillis more or less acknowledged, but will still want to stick it to his former team.
It won’t take much for Hillis to churn out his best game of the season. He peaked back in Week 2 when he carried the ball 11 times for 66 yards in a blowout against the Buffalo Bills. Last week he picked up his first touchdown of the season, but struggled to gain 19 yards on 12 carries.
Look for Crennel — also going up against his former team — to give Hillis plenty of opportunities to make a statement.
Defense: Shaun Smith
Another one of the former Browns, Smith didn’t fire off any verbal jabs to any specific players the way Hillis did. Instead, Smith decided to take on the entire team. On Twitter, the defensive lineman declared the Chiefs would win by 10 because the Browns “suck” and the Chiefs would “show up”.
He’s only been back in Kansas City for a month and in four games has only recorded two tackles. With a little extra juice today, I’d expect to see him double that number today, but hopefully he won’t go grabbing for any “prizes” at the bottom of any piles.
Special Teams: Shaun Draughn
The Chiefs other Shaun will look to turn in the first game changing return of the season for a special teams unit that has been completely unspectacular. He was able to turn in a 31 yard return last week against the Panthers and looks to be the guy that will keep getting the chance to return kicks.