After the "slobberknocking" the Jets took last night (great quote from one source read) the playoff picture got a little clearer at the top. What is not clear to most of the NFL world, is where the Chiefs are and where they are going. At least it appears they are taking us lightly. Even with our vaunted running game, newfound passing game and young and coming secondary starting to gel, all eyes appear to be on Cassel's old team. Which, given the show they put on last night, is not without merit. But I'd say to the naysayers...........we matchup pretty well with each of the potential playoff teams.
Looking to the Jets, they have a rough schedule still ahead, and will likely lose at least one more game, if not two. That puts them in as the sixth seed either way. Baltimore has the tie breaker over them giving them the fifth seed. New England should take the first seed, with Pittsburgh falling in line at second. We would pull the third seed and Jacksonville the fourth (I had previously thought Manning might get things back on track, and I even predicted the loss.....but now I am really thinking Jacksonville holds on by the barest of threads to win the AFC South). But you still can't count Manning out of it.
So we get the Jets at home. And Baltimore travels to Jacksonville (or Indianapolis). We can beat the Jets at Arrowhead. Our offense has the tools to get past their now suspect defense. A team that really has not done well against teams over .500. Should that happen, we'll be packing our bags for Pittsburgh. It doesn't really matter who wins the other wildcard as New England will be in the conference championship.
So what are the keys to our wins in the playoffs? What has gotten us this far-running, taking care of the ball, and getting better each game. In our close games, the run production was down. And we hit a lull at Oakland and Denver. That was a tough stretch, playing an overtime game with Buffalo and almost falling asleep, then another overtime game at Oakland that we lost and then the Denver loss. But with that lull, we were able to find an identity for the passing game that made an unprecedented run for awhile before Bowe got shutdown last week. But the defense found itself again and we held on for the win.
So what does this all mean? It means we are finding ways to win games. And it means we are getting all of the components to slowly get onto the field at the same time. That will be the key to go anywhere in the playoffs. We're flying under the radar now, but come playoff time our x and o's will be all over the chalkboards. How do we shut down the KC run, how do we shut down Cassel-Bowe, how do we pass on the secondary and keep Hali out of the game? We can not afford to be one dimensional. And this weekend's game with San Diego will tell us a lot about our chances in the playoffs. For the next four games, we have to show we can run, pass and defend all at the same time. We can not let the stress and excitement of the playoffs get to our young team. No Richardson confusion and meltdown. Focus and drive. Three quarters of a season down and one more to bring it all together.
So what are the keys to shutting down the Kansas City Chiefs? At the beginning of the year, they looked to crowd the box and make Cassel try to beat them. Well, he showed that he and Bowe could do that. So they looked to shutting down Bowe. They did that for one game but our defense stepped up and shut them down as well. The defense has to play at a high level consistently. Defense wins championships. And we have to continue to learn. We do not want our passing game shut down, and this last week we did do a fair job of getting the ball to others. However, we need to get it into the endzone. Tucker, McCluster and Moeaki have to bring their A game. If Bowe gets doubled and troubled, someone else has to get the passes carried across the first down markers and goal lines. We have too many offensive weapons to get shut down on offense. Time to crank it up one more notch. Flying under the radar is good, but it is time to give them a reason to ignore us no more as a legitimate threat.