The Kansas City Chiefs are a professional football team, and that's about the kindest thing you can say about them with a straight face. After starting out the 2007 season 4-3, they have since gone 2-26. Aside from special teams, there is no area in which they are even passable: Last year and three games into this year, they have not been able to run or pass the ball, or stop other teams from doing these things. But before you take a Giants win to the bank, remember that's it's tough to win three straight games on the road against other professional football teams.
Chiefs Offense vs. Giants Defense:
Last year, the Chiefs ranked 23rd in passing and 22nd in rushing in DVOA, an advanced stat developed by FootballOutsiders.com that seeks to adjust yardage totals for situational context. They haven't made much progress this year under new coach Todd Haley, ranking rank 18th in passing and 24th on the ground.
The offense's big-name player is running back Larry Johnson, but Grandmama is averaging 2.5 yards per carry and is three years removed from being an elite runner. The other headliner, receiver Dwayne Bowe, missed last week's game with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable going into this one. He will be a game time-decision, but the chances of Bowe making an impact against Corey Webster -e who has shut down all receivers this year -- are minimal.
It doesn't help that the Chiefs' line can't protect their quarterback. Last week, Matt Cassel was sacked three times and hurried five times amidst an onslaught of Eagles blitzes. It wasn't exactly an aberration: This year, teams have sacked Chiefs quarterbacks eight times and recorded 13 quarterback hurries. And last year, the Chiefs ranked 21st in the league in Adjusted Sack Rate, another Football Outsiders stat that adjusts raw sack totals for number of passing attempts and situation.
When teams with large talent discrepancies play each other, big plays often serve as an equalizer. But the Chiefs are uniquely ill-equipped to break big plays. According to KC Joyner's Scientific Football 2009, Cassel only completed two bombs last year - defined as ones that go 30 yards in the air -- and had the fifth lowest yards per attempt on "vertical" passes, defined as those that travel 11 or more yards in the air. It's not as if Cassel's receivers couldn't get deep either. Randy Moss, after all, is the best deep receiver to ever play the game.
Meanwhile, the Giants defense is getting healthier. Kevin Dockery is probable on his way back from a hamstring injury, while Justin Tuck has declared himself "pretty much full-go" this week. On the negative side, Chris Canty and Aaron Ross, who suffered a minor setback this week, will once again not play.
Giants Offense vs. Chiefs Defense
Like the offense, there is absolutely nothing to recommend the Chiefs' defense. They rank in 23rd and 26th respectively against the pass and run this year after ranking 28th and 26th last year. They've managed to record three sacks this year -- same as the Giants - but last year, they set an NFL record by recording a mere 10 sacks. Here's the kicker: That record was set by the Baltimore Colts in 1982, a strike-shortened year in which teams played only nine games.
For the Giants, there's a little bit of pressure on Brandon Jacobs, who was criticized for "tiptoeing" last week by Tony Siragusa. While this was portrayed as an attack on Jacobs' machismo, it really just means that Jacobs is in a funk right now in terms of his reactions and isn't being as decisive as he should be. It happens to running backs just like it happens to hitters in baseball. Jacobs admitted as much himself, saying, "I definitely feel like I look too much sometimes. Because I understand [the scheme] more and know what it's supposed to be like. But sometimes you've just got to let that go and make one read and go."
With big running backs, there's always the concern that their production will one day fall off a cliff and never come back. But don't worry about Jacobs: It's much, much more likely that he's had a couple of bad games -- not unprecedented -- than that we've seen the best of him. Jacobs should get plenty of chances because Ahmad Bradshaw is nursing a mild high-ankle sprain, a recurrence of an injury he's had since college. Hopefully the Giants can get a sizable lead and be able to Jacobs and Bradshaw in favor of Gartrell Johnson, the dreadlocked battering ram recently acquired from the Chargers.
In the passing game, Eli and the receivers can be expected to be perform well as usual. This is a fairly amazing statement when you think about it: In just three weeks, the passing game has addressed an entire offseason's worth of concerns.
To keep it going, they might want to look toward the middle of the field. As Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger has astutely pointed out, the Chiefs have been particularly vulnerable there this year. Tight ends Brent Celek and Todd Heap notched 104 and 74 yards, respectively; and DeSean Jackson's backbreaking 65-yard touchdown came on slant in front of the safeties. So, Kevin Boss, that's your cue.
Coming off an emotional win against Dallas and a perfect performance against Tampa Bay, it would be only natural for the Giants level of play to come down some. But not enough for them to lose to the Chiefs. Giants 24 - Chiefs 13.