1) The Chiefs offensive line
This will be an every-week thing until the Chiefs find a healthy, effective combination of big guys up front that can play together for multiple weeks. Last week they struggled a bit against a very active and aggressive Raiders front. Eric Fisher had one of his worst games of the season which makes you wonder if he's fully healthy after the neck injury he suffered a few weeks ago. Zach Fulton did an admirable job filling in at center but Mitch Morse may be back this week. Donald Stephenson even filled in at guard last week when Jeff Allen couldn't go, so we'll see if Allen is back to form against San Diego. Jeff Allen seems to be the catalyst for the Chiefs offensive line. When he's in the lineup and playing well, generally the whole line has a good day. When the o-line has a good day, Smith and the running backs have good days. Keep an eye on the big uglies this week and see if they are getting healthier and finding a lineup that can pave the way for a playoff run.
2) Dee Ford, part two
Justin Houston has been ruled out once again so Dee Ford should get another chance to start. We reviewed Ford's performance last week, and the same concerns that we've always had about Ford still apply. He needs to demonstrate better strength, power and more violent hands in order to be a disruptive force. Tamba Hali is having an incredible season on the other side, so all Ford has to do is play sound football and apply pressure to keep Philip Rivers off rhythm. His development is key for the Chiefs long term plans, so we'll be watching to see if he's making progress.
3) It's 90 percent mental, the other half physical
The Classic Yogi Berra quote applies to this team. The Chiefs have been winning largely due to mental toughness and confidence, along with a physical style of play. The have clawed their way back from a 1-5 start, winning in a variety of ways: coming from behind, blowouts, and clinching games in the fourth quarter. They seem to respond to adversity better than previous Chiefs teams, and so far, have been able to keep the intensity up over a long win streak. Each week, guys like Travis Kelce, Jeremy Maclin, Tamba Hali, Marcus Peters, Eric Berry and Derrick Johnson have not only been making plays ... but they've been doing so with a swagger and physicality that shows they won't back down from anyone.
As long time Kansas City sports fans, we are all quietly waiting for our teams to let us down. Could this be the year that both the Chiefs and Royals exceed our expectations? If they do, it'll be because they have developed a belief that they can and should win each game, along with the mental fortitude to come back when they struggle.
4) Is there a new play caller in town?
Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson reportedly has been given increased responsibility for the offense, including some (not all) play calling duties. I wish we knew if it was him calling the additional downfield passing that's been helping the offense OR if he's responsible for the screens that have become all too predictable at times. Either way, it's interesting to see Andy Reid delegating more, and we'll have to wait and see if he eventually passes along all play calling responsibility to Pederson. Will we be able to tell from the TV broadcast who is calling the plays?
5) Dance with the girl that brung ya
This piece is full of old quotes today but this one from my late Grandpa (and other sources) works too, I think. Be wary of a team on a long win streak (or a long losing streak). Eventually, the Chiefs will lose another game. In order for it not to be this week, they just have to keep doing the things that have allowed them to win each of their last six games. Win the turnover battle, dominate field position, play a balanced offense and a high pressure defense. Do the little things that win ballgames, avoid the things that lose them. It sounds simple enough, and they've been able to do it for the last month and a half ... can they do it again this week?