clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Chiefs-Ravens what to watch for: Dee Ford, an eye on 2016 and the playoff picture

New, comments

The Kansas City Chiefs visit the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Here's what we're watching for this week.

1) Looking ahead with the offensive line

Chiefs coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey clearly are seeing some things they like on the offensive line. The recently announced contract extension for Jah Reid is a nod to continuity heading into next season. The constant shuffling that has gone on this season continues to show the need for versatile depth. Jah Reid hasn't been stellar at RT, but he brings some nastiness to the group, and he is able to play guard in a pinch. The three year deal may sound like a lot of money but in the grand scheme of things, $4 million guaranteed is a reasonable price to pay for veteran insurance. Going into 2016 with Eric Fisher, Ben Grubbs and Mitch Morse holding down the left 60 percent of the line, and guys like Jeff Allen (if he comes back), Jah Reid, Paul Fanaika, LDT and Zach Fulton all competing for spots on the right side and depth, at least the Chiefs have options.

For the rest of 2015, keep an eye on Jeff Allen, Zach Fulton and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Allen will be seeking to prove he is indispensable and earn himself a new contract. He's done a pretty good job so far this season when healthy. LDT and Fulton should be making the most of their opportunities to start and gain some valuable experience. Either could play his way into a starting job in 2016.

Going into a potential playoff run, the Chiefs need to get healthy and continue to gel as a group. The ability to keep the offense moving regardless of who the RB is, and to give Alex Smith time to continue to develop a downfield game with Jeremy Maclin and Albert Wilson will be key to the team's ability to keep their win streak going.

2) The other WRs

Jeremy Maclin has been outstanding this year. He very easily could cross over the 1,000 yard mark this weekend. But the development of Albert Wilson and Chris Conley should be equally exciting for Chiefs fans to watch. Wilson had his best game of the season, with four catches for 87 yards including that 44 yard TD. Conley's best game was in October against Pittsburgh when he went for seven catches for  63 yards and a TD. But he has been VERY quiet (only two catches) in the six games since then. Alex Smith has been close to connecting with each guy on big plays during this winning streak ... is this the week Conley or Wilson break out?

Just like with the offensive line, how these two guys play may go a long way towards deciding on  needs for the offseason ahead. The Chiefs will at least need Maclin and Travis Kelce producing at a high level in order to keep the offense explosive into the playoffs. They'll also need to see what they have in Conley and Wilson for the future so they are certainly ones to watch this week.

3) Keeping the Pressure coming with Dee Ford

One of the real keys to the seven game winning streak for the Chiefs has been the defense's ability to put pressure on the opposing QBs. Tamba Hali has been playing like he's 28 again. Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard and Allen Bailey have been very disruptive on the defensive line by forcing more big plays than the box score might indicate. Bob Sutton has been bringing pressure from everywhere with guys like Ron Parker and Derrick Johnson getting in on sacking the QB.

Dee Ford answered the call last week with a three sack performance -- easily the best of his career. He showed glimpses of an all around game that could bode well for his ability to start for this team in the future. It will be interesting to see if he's able to get after the QB on a consistent basis going forward. Watch this week to see if he's able to execute secondary pass rush moves, like spins and bull rushes, in addition to the speed rush we always knew he had.

A high pressure defense not only puts pressure on opposing quarterbacks but keeps the Chiefs competitive in every game they play. The Chiefs have allowed an incredible 12 points per game over the last seven games, which is a huge reason they are now putting pressure on Denver and the rest of the AFC playoff teams.

4) Every game is a playoff game

I think we're finally at the point of the season where we can really start thinking of each week as if it's a playoff game. Each win gets the Chiefs closer to a return to the postseason and a chance to break the curse by winning in the playoffs. They probably still make the playoffs if they go 2-1 in their final three games but they'll guarantee a spot by winning out.

If you believe in momentum and confidence going into a postseason run, you'll want to see the Chiefs take care of business against Baltimore and then Cleveland and Oakland. They can't take their foot off the gas just because their opponent is struggling or the playoffs look likely. I'm hoping we see a team that continues to be motivated by winning each and every week and charging into the playoffs with some swagger.