We're breaking down the Kansas City Chiefs with the help of Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride. The Denver Broncos are touchdown-favorites entering Week 10, but the Chiefs look like a tough opponent with a ton of confidence following back-to-back wins and a bye. I asked Joel five questions heading into this week's game, and check out his answers below. Thanks to Joel for the time!
A month or so ago, it was looking like maybe the Chiefs just weren't that good in 2015. Then they win two in a row (one by 35 points) before their bye and are right back in the periphery of the AFC playoff race. How good are the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs?
That's a good question because I have no idea. What I do know is that the Chiefs have enough talent that they're not one of those top five draft pick teams who need to blow it all up. There's been enough good that they're not at that point. They're also not a team that is going to legitimately compete if they do find a way to make the playoffs. Maybe they still can make some noise because the defense is starting to come together. More likely, they're somewhere in between.
The question is whether this Alex Smith - Andy Reid combo is trending up or down. And, really, even that doesn't matter because by all accounts both will be back next year. If they can just get to 9-7, make the playoffs and win a playoff game (for the first time in, uh, a few years) then I'll be fine with the way the season goes, given how it started.
Have you seen improvement in Alex Smith in 2015? Regression? Neither?
I'd lean the closest to neither. Alex Smith has nine touchdown passes and six interceptions through eight games. Guess what his final numbers were in 2014? 18 and 6! He's on that exact pace. We never should have expected to see Alex Smith start lighting it up just because the Chiefs gave Jeremy Maclin a $55 million contract.
Given the right defense and a few key play makers, a quarterback who throws just six interceptions on the season can be a good thing. What changed in 2015 is that Smith now takes up $15 million on the salary cap, and not $5 million. You're going to look at the guy making $15 million a little differently.
How are the Chiefs adjusting without Jamaal Charles?
Shockingly ... OK. He is the most important Chief but Charcandrick West has done a really nice job given the fact he was an undrafted free agent last year. Many people thought Knile Davis would be the main guy but West is more similar to Charles in that he's a shiftier back, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and, perhaps most importantly, he is an able and willing pass blocker. Don't get me wrong, West shouldn't be replacing Jamaal Charles, who still has some productive time left in the NFL. But it is a nice surprise for the Chiefs to find a guy like West step up. Maybe he helps Jamaal extend his career.
Tell us about the Chiefs defense. If you were an offensive coordinator, how would you attack it and where?
The Chiefs defense is built on pressure and man coverage with physical corners. Sound familiar, MHR? We like the outside corners in veteran Sean Smith and rookie Marcus Peters, who has been the most targeted corner in the NFL. While he has given up his fair share of yards, he also leads the team in interceptions and seems to be getting better as the season goes on. Jamell Fleming, the cornerback who gave up three receptions and a touchdown on the Broncos game-tying drive last time around won't be featured prominently (unless there's an injury). The area I would attack is the slot receiver. The Chiefs nickel defense has changed up a bit with Phillip Gaines out for the year and that's been an area of concern. The Chiefs run defense has really been pretty good this year so if you're going to beat them consistently, it's gotta be through the air.
Your prediction for the game?
I am picking the Chiefs to lose because Denver's defense has been so good and I'm not convinced the Chiefs can score more than a touchdown or two on them. Plus, the Broncos are playing at home, which is what really sealed my prediction for me. That said, the Chiefs defense has been playing very well lately as well. The Broncos weren't all that impressive in the first game after the Chiefs turned it over five times. This game will be close. I will throw up in my mouth a little bit and say the Broncos win, 17-13.