For the first time in years, the Kansas City Chiefs will play a game while alone at the top of the AFC West when they head to Cleveland to take on the Browns. The folks in Vegas might see the Chiefs as an underdog, but after the Browns lost to the Bucs last week this has to bee seen as a “must win”.
The questions for the Chiefs on offense are still swirling around Matt Cassel and his ability to make plays down the field. On defense, the talk is of vengeance on the heels of Jerome Harrison’s 286 yards on the ground last year against Kansas City.
Cleveland will no doubt be sporting a feeling of desperation Sunday with their head coach Eric Mangini squarely on the hot seat after their brutal loss to Tampa Bay.
Here are the three players from each team that you will need to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Matt Cassel
All eyes were on Cassel last week as well, but he was bailed out when Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster delivered big plays and the Chiefs defense stepped up when it mattered. If Kansas City had ended up losing, Cassel and his 68 yards passing would have been seen as the main culprit.
As good as the Chiefs looked running the ball and on special teams, they cannot survive getting so little out of the passing game. Sooner or later Cassel will have to get the job done himself and a 3.1 yards per completion just isn’t good enough.
Last week against the Bucs, Cleveland’s defense gave up three plays of 20 yards or more in the passing game. The Chiefs meanwhile didn’t have any with their longest a 16 yarder to rookie Tony Moeaki. Cassel needs to get through his reads quicker and get the ball out of his hand.
If the Chiefs come back to Arrowhead with a loss and Cassel plays poorly, he will be facing a less-than-stellar response from the fans (to put it nicely).
Defense: Glenn Dorsey
Both Dorsey and Tyson Jackson were having the best games of their careers as Chiefs when Jackson went down with a knee injury. If Dorsey is going to have a repeat performance this week, it looks like he will have to do it without his running mate. Even if Jackson finds a way to play, there’s no way he will be able to play with the same sort of impact as last week.
When Harrison was setting a Browns record for rushing last season, Dorsey was forced to watch from the sideline with an injury of his own. While no one player will make a difference, the majority of the push up front will have to come from Dorsey.
Hopefully when Dorsey wraps his hands for the game he writes a big “286″ to remind him of just how badly the young Cleveland running back embarrassed the Kansas City defense. Dorsey has a chance to continue show his progress and help the Chiefs get a bit of revenge in the process.
Special Teams: Dexter McCluster
It was only one play.
One play that happened to be a 94-yard touchdown return and represented the difference in Monday night’s game. It also set a Chiefs record for longest punt return and earned McCluster NFL Rookie of the Week honors.
Now the focus isn’t just on if McCluster can provide that sort of spark again this week, but also how many chances he will get. We shouldn’t forget that Javier Arenas had two fantastic punt returns, one of which was a tackle from the punter away from a touchdown.
Haley has talked a lot about the competition between these two exciting rookies and there’s no reason to believe that won’t carry throughout Sunday’s matchup with the Browns.
Offense: Jerome Harrison
The Chiefs may have had Harrison played on the scout team by a player wearing his jersey number (35) but the only number the defense needs to remember is 2-8-6. The most ever by a Cleveland running back and third best all-time, not to mention one of the most embarrassing efforts ever by a defense.
Obviously the defensive game plan will be figuring out exactly what backup QB Seneca Wallace brings to the table along with the wrinkles of the wildcat led by Josh Cribbs. But everyone in a Chiefs uniform is well aware of the game Harrison had late last season and how it represented a lost year in Kansas City.
Just as the Chiefs want revenge, Harrison wants to show that he is more that runner from his record setting game than the one that only had 9 carries last week.
Defense: Scott Fujita
I think we all recognize that name.
Fujita spent three years with the Chiefs from 2002-4 with the best statistical year of his career coming in 2003 with 111 tackles. Now Fujita is onto his fourth team after signing with the Browns in the offseason and shows no signs of slowing down. Last week he was all over the field, showing that he can get the job done in coverage and in the backfield.
Special Teams: Josh Cribbs
Here’s another name Chiefs fans won’t forget anytime soon.
Sure, Harrison was amazing last year against the Chiefs defense, but Cribbs was just as good against Kansas City’s special teams units to the tune of 269 punt return yards and two scores.
Cribbs also got his season off the a slow start against the Bucs with his longest play being an 18-yard kickoff return. You can be sure that he wants a repeat of his performance against the Chiefs coverage units.