1. The offensive line
The Chiefs patchwork offensive line has struggled to protect the QB (18 sacks allowed, tied for worst in the league) and in run blocking. Well, at least if you trust your eyes. Pro Football Focus ranked them higher than expected, which is probably more indicative of poor o-line play across the NFL than it is of improvement for the Chiefs front five.
This could be the first week that they've used the same starting five from the prior week so perhaps they start building that "continuity" thing, which is somewhat important.
The focal point for the o-line criticism has been a moving target: LDT, Fulton, Grubbs, and Stephenson have all had terrible games during the losing streak. Fisher and Morse have generally played better overall but have still been beaten at times.
This week, playing against a defense that isn't among the league's elite, the big uglies need to assert themselves and show they can be a functional unit that doesn't hold the whole offense back. The key for them will be solving the riddle of stunts and blitzes and being assignment sound. They have the physical ability but they can't let themselves get beaten in the mental side of the game going forward.
2. Defensive adjustments
Can Bob Sutton's crew adjust after three straight games where they were outplayed and outmaneuvered? The defense was SUPPOSED to be a strength of this team. There is significant talent at all three levels, with a good mix of youth and returning veterans. However, after three straight games allowing 30-plus points, they certainly aren't performing to their abilities.
The Bears pose some unique threats with big receiving targets and a talented, versatile running back. For the first time since Week 1, the Chiefs aren't facing a QB that's either elite (Manning, Rodgers) or playing like they're elite (Dalton). The elite QBs targeted and exposed the weaknesses on the Chiefs defense, specifically the third corner position. The Bears SHOULDN'T be able to do that this week. Rather, the Chiefs shouldn't LET them.
I'll be watching to see if the defense can set the tone and impose their will on the Bears instead of reacting and getting caught on their heels. They must find a way to keep opponents out of the end zone. They must get the pass rush back to dominance, and create big plays instead of watching the offense make them.
3. The youth movement
It's happening. Rookies and second year players have been eased in to the Chiefs lineup. Some by development, some by injury.
Chris Conley stepping in at WR for an injured and ineffective Albert Wilson?
LB Ramik Wilson playing in place of an injured Josh Mauga?
Charcandrick West taking over for Knile Davis as the second RB?
James O'shaugnessey in the lead for the No. 2 TE?
Dee Ford gradually earning more snaps at OLB?
Keep an eye on these guys on Sunday. They could be the future of this team. Can they contribute now when the team needs a boost?
4. The red zone on both sides of the ball
The Chiefs offense was good between the 20s and terrible in the red zone. Their opponents were just the opposite. Whether it's play calling or execution, the Chiefs have to get better on offense and defense in the red zone, and we need to see it start this week. Obviously when you have seven scoring chances and don't score a TD, your opponent is clearly winning in the redzone. So, pay attention when they get inside the 20s.
5. Can the Chiefs dominate a team they SHOULD beat?
This will show where the Chiefs are in the pecking order of the NFL. Dominate this game, and it's pretty clear where they stand: A good team that will beat bad teams and lose to great ones. IF the Chiefs stumble vs the Bears? Things could get ugly in a hurry.
That said, I wouldn't overlook the Bears too much. They are 1-3, having beaten a mediocre team (Oakland) and lost to three very good teams (Seattle, Arizona, Green Bay). Sound familiar?
They also had two of their losses with Jimmy Clausen at QB. They are 1-1 with Cutler, and the loss was against Green Bay. I do believe the Chiefs are the better team but they have to prove it and they need to do so in convincing manner.