It’s Bears vs Chiefs this week in what’s shaping up as a critical game for the Bears. With backup quarterback Caleb Hanie under center, this game becomes a lot less certain. The Chiefs have struggled, but in a weak AFC West, they still think they have a shot at running the table and making the playoffs, so they won’t just give up. Except maybe Dwayne Bowe if a pass is anywhere slightly out of reach.
To help us get ready for this key matchup, we’ve enlisted the help of the finest Kansas City Chiefs blog out there, Arrowhead Addict and editor Patrick Allen. Here are my 5 questions and Patrick’s answers.
1. The Bears and Chiefs were both playoff teams last year and in the offseason both were listed by the “experts” as teams that would have a big falloff and not make it back to the playoffs this season. It looks like those experts were about half right with the Chiefs struggling but the Bears in the playoff hunt. I know injuries have been a big factor this season for the Chiefs but do you think that’s the sole reason why they’ve struggled this year? What else could attribute for the Chiefs’ rough year?
I think injuries are the primary reason the Chiefs are out of this thing. The difference between a team like Chicago and KC is that the Bears have been together a lot longer under Lovie. They have an established base of talent and can withstand devastating injuries a bit better than a team like KC.
Remember the Chiefs went through a roster gutting in 2009. They dumped probably 75% of their roster, keeping only the quality players. Their 2009 draft was a bust (it was for a lot of teams) and so their depth is really thin. A strong 2010 draft gave them speed and talent that helped them win the division last season.
Still, last year’s team arrived ahead of schedule. They had an easy slate of games and they were just good enough to take advantage of it.
This season, however, they lost their starting TE, starting S (Eric Berry) and starting HB (Jamaal Charles) all by the end of week two. Berry and Charles were Pro Bowlers a year ago. As if things weren’t bad enough, then Matt Cassel goes down. Not many teams can hang in there after losing that much talent.
The fact that KC rattled off four straight wins after losing their first three shows that the talent is there on this team. There just isn’t enough of it available this year for them to survive.
2. Were you surprised that the Chiefs took a flier on Kyle Orton? Even though he hasn’t had a lot of time in the system, do you think Orton’s previous stint with the Bears gives him any edge against the Bears defense? Do you think he gets into this game against his former team?
I wasn’t surprised at all. Orton is very similar to Matt Cassel and the two backups on the KC roster had one start between them when the Chiefs snagged Orton. He’s a six week rental that should garner them a compensatory pick when he leaves in free agency. On top of that, he will solidify the QB position and enable them to evaluate their other offensive players for the rest of the season. Remember, they have a rookie WR in Jonathan Baldwin that they took in the first round. He missed the first half of the season with an injury. They need a decent QB throwing this kid the ball so his entire rookie season isn’t wasted.
I doubt knowing a bit about Chicago’s defense is going to help Orton much if he plays Sunday. That all goes out the window for him if he doesn’t know the offense he is playing in. If he does play, the Chiefs will be wise to have a very small group of plays for him to run so that he can relax and play confidently. They can slowly add plays every week.
I think we’ll see both QB’s Sunday. I look for Palko to start and Orton to come in once the offense continues to struggle which, sure as your sitting there, they will.
My guess is Haley would rather not have to play Orton just yet. He may figure the Chiefs have a chance with Haine in there so he’ll see how Palko does. If the team is winning then maybe he can hold off on rushing Orton into action. If not, he’ll be in there.
3. The Chiefs defense is ranked 20th in yards allowed, a few ticks above the Bears 23rd ranking. What do Tamba Hali and the boys have in store for Caleb Hanie and the Bears offense? Can Matt Forte get the ground attack back on track for the Bears?
The KC run defense has been pretty decent this season. The team has been blown out a few times but I think that has more to do with the poor offensive output than anything else. I think this D is average but is prone to meltdowns. Expect KC to be very game plan heavy. In past experiences with Romeo Crennel going up against a less than stellar QB, I will expect KC to focus on stopping the run. I think they will also drop into a lot of zone looks to confuse Haine.
I think Forte will struggle a bit. Romeo will sell out to stop him and it will be up to Haine and Chicago receivers to burn them.
4. What are the Chiefs plans for Devin Hester? Is there any chance they actually kick to the NFL’s all time kick return leader?
I doubt it. The KC punter is very good and Haley has shown he’d rather sacrifice some field position over giving up big plays on special teams. Weather may factor in here but the Chiefs will avoid Hester if they can.
5. What’s your outlook for the game, including a final score?
The Bears have more talent on the whole here. I don’t see Orton coming in and lighting things up in his first start. It is possible but not probable.
I think KC will try some trickery and stuff. They are a very good game-planning team. This usually allows them to hang in early in games. Eventually though, their lack of talent at key positions catches up to them. I expect a big second half from the Chicago offense.
Bears 24, Chiefs 13
Be sure to head over to Arrowhead Addict to check out my answers to his questions and get any other Chiefs insights you need leading up to, during or after the Bears vs Chiefs game. They’ve got you covered.