The Kansas City Chiefs will once again try to pick up their first win of the season Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead when the Minneosta Vikings come to town.
After getting blown out by the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions over the first two weeks, the Chiefs put up a fight against the San Diego Chargers last week and even had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to tie or win before Matt Cassel turned the ball over. No one wants moral victories in the NFL, but the Chiefs have to be coming home feeling much better about their chances to get back into the AFC West race.
Like the Chiefs, the Vikings are also looking for their first victory. They were ahead in all three of their games this season, but have found themselves wilting in the second half. After ignoring Adrian Peterson in last week’s overtime loss to the Lions, look for Minnesota to give the Kansas City defense a steady dose of their workhorse.
Here are three players from each team that will help determine who finally picks up their first victory of the season.
Offense: Dwayne Bowe
If Kansas City doesn’t get better quarterback play, it will be a long while before they put a “W” on the board, but last week it was clear that Matt Cassel is only going to be effective if Bowe gets the ball. Too often the Chiefs quarterback didn’t even look in the direction of his best receiver, something that is unacceptable and cannot happen Sunday.
With the running game struggling without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs offense needs to target Bowe early and often if they are going to have a chance to move the ball consistently. Anything less than seven or eight targets in the first half for Bowe should spell bad news for Kansas City.
Defense: Derrick Johnson
Playing with a banged up Brandon Flowers — if he plays at all — thanks to an ankle injury and without Eric Berry, who is out for the season, the Chiefs will be without two of their better defenders against the run. With Peterson expected to get a heavy load, Johnson will have to step up for the front seven considering little help is coming from the secondary.
After leading the Chiefs in tackles a year ago, Johnson has been steady yet unspectacular over the first three weeks of the season. If he performs more like he did last year, Johnson will force Donovan McNabb to try and make plays and that’s where Kansas City’s defense will be able to take control.
Special Teams: Javier Arenas
The Chiefs have yet to have a highlight-worthy play on special teams in large part because both Dustin Colquitt and Ryan Succop have been completely underwhelming. The one person that has been on the verge of delivering a big play is Arenas.
Last week against the Chargers Arenas had returns of 37 and 35 yards, showing the breakout potential the Chiefs have been devoid of all season. If he delivers against the Vikings, he’ll do it against a team that has only given up one return of 30 yards this season.
Offense: Adrian Peterson
They might not have a win yet, but it’s not Peterson that’s been holding back Minnesota. Instead, it’s his lack of work that has gotten the most attention for the Vikings struggles.
Peterson has only been given the ball more than 20 times once, despite averaging 5.1 yards per carry, including runs of 46 and 43 yards. With McNabb struggling so much from under center, expect to see Peterson push towards 30 carries against the Kansas City defense.
Defense: Jared Allen
Was there ever any question?
In his return to Kansas City, Allen is coming off one of his best games for the Vikings with three sacks and six tackles. All of last year the defensive end only recorded six tackles twice and never reached the quarterback three times in a game.
Allen will no doubt be playing with a little extra fire in front of Chiefs fans that spent so much time worshiping his mullet.
Special Teams: Lorenzo Booker
Percy Harvin gets all the attention — and for good reason — but he’s not the only Vikings returner that can burn a team.
Last week Booker hit the Lions with a 68 yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that was only forgotten because the Vikings failed to come away from the drive with points after being stopped on a 4th and one while within field goal range.