The Kansas City Chiefs will look to hold onto their slim lead atop the AFC West when they head out on the road to take on the leaders of the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks.
Following two ugly losses, the Chiefs played one of their most well rounded games last Sunday in beating the Arizona Cardinals. The teams chasing Kansas City — Oakland and San Diego — both have tough games this weekend against Miami and Indianapolis, respectively, giving the Chiefs a huge opportunity to build on their lead.
Here are the three players from each team that you will need to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Dwayne Bowe
Could this amazing ride possibly continue? In the six weeks since he dropped a touchdown in Indianapolis, Bowe has been the best wide receiver in the NFL with 36 catches and 10 touchdowns. You can’t even say that he has picked up much in the way of garbage stats. While the Jacksonville and Denver games weren’t close, the other four were tight games that saw Bowe rise to the occasion.
As usual, Kansas City is going to try and control the clock with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, but when they go to the air there’s no hotter hand than Bowe. The Seahawks no doubt have a huge target on Bowe’s back, so we will get to see how the volatile receiver reacts to constant double teams.
Defense: Brandon Carr
Carr has had his fair share of being picked on this season, both by opposing teams and fans. Playing opposite Brandon Flowers will make you a prime target for quarterbacks and more chances mean more catches against you which leads to fans wondering if you are taking a step backwards.
With Flowers likely to be out Sunday, Carr will have a chance to play the role of alpha dog and show he has what it takes to be that 1a guy.
Special Teams: Javier Arenas
There isn’t likely to be a player more tired Sunday night than Arenas. Not only is he facing the most action he has seen all season on defense with Brandon Flowers likely out due to an injury, but he will be responsible for returning punts and kicks.
Even though there is a chance that his fellow rookie returner, Dexter McCluster, could return it won’t be until he has proven to be 100% that he starts to be a factor on special teams again. That all means Arenas will once again be counted on to try and make things happen for the Chiefs in the return game.
Offense: Golden Tate
It looks like the Seahawks best receiver, Mike Williams, will be forced to sit out on Sunday but don’t think they will be without a playmaker. Charlie Weis will make sure Romeo Crennel and Todd Haley realize that since he witnessed first hand just how quickly Tate can turn nothing into a big play.
Tate has yet to produce consistently during his rookie season but has turned in catches of 52 and 24 yards when he was given a chance. If Williams is out or limited, Tate will get a long look in the passing game. The Chiefs defensive backs better get ready to run when the rookie is on the field because he can run with anyone on Kansas City.
Defense: Chris Clemons
The leader of the defense might be Lofa Tatupu, but Clemons is the true disruptor. He leads the team with 7.5 sacks and will be coming after Matt Cassel all day long. Cassel is tough to bring down this season only being sacked 15 times in 10 games. However Clemons is no doubt drooling knowing that 10 of those have come in Kansas City’s 5 road games.
Clemons is also due to break out. Of his 7.5 sacks, he has only totaled 2 over the last four games. If the Seahawks can slow down the Chiefs running game, look for Clemons to pin his ears back and give Branden Albert fits.
Special Teams: Leon Washington
The Chiefs coverage units had possibly their best overall day last week against the Arizona Cardinals. A big reason for their success was the Cardinals playing without their dynamic returner LaRod Stephens-Howling, but they won’t be so lucky when they pull into Seattle. Washington is one of the best return men in the NFL having taken 2 kickoffs to the house already and four more over 40 yards.
If Kansas City has any hopes of winning the battle of field position, they better hope Ryan Succop can get enough on his kicks to pile up the touchbacks.