1. The return of Jeff Allen?
I wasn’t lying when I said this would be on here every week. This week the key will be the return of Jeff Allen (assuming he's returning). When he has been in the lineup there has been a clear uptick in the OL play as a whole. Zach Fulton has struggled a bit at left guard (this play notwithstanding). If Allen is back and can stay healthy the rest of the season, he can be a nice boost to this offense as they head towards a possible playoff run.
2. Remove all hope
The Chiefs have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and stay in the race for the AFC West. What’s standing in their way? A struggling Cleveland team with Johnny Football behind center and a Raiders team they know very well. Watch to see if the home team is able to keep their intense focus up and bury the Browns early. The broadcast team said it many times last week: you don’t want to give your opponent any hope. You also don’t want to give away a winnable game, and go into Week 17 as a win or go home vs. a division rival.
3. To rush or to contain?
With Tamba Hali potentially playing with a cast or not playing at all, and Justin Houston sitting out once again, the Chiefs will be shorthanded (pun intended). Dee Ford had a quieter game last week after his breakout performance against San Diego. He’ll be tested this week, not only with trying to provide an outside pass rush in place of Houston but he’ll have to be smart vs Manziel. Ford, like Hali early in his career, tends to get himself too far upfield where his speed is used against him. Keeping containment vs. the run and the running QB will be key this week for the young OLB.
Pressure coming from inside will again be key. No QB likes to see 300-350 pounds of nastiness throwing interior aside or into their lap but it can be especially problematic for inexperienced gunslingers. Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard need to eat this week. By pushing the pocket from the middle, the Chiefs can stop Manziel from stepping up and likely force him to make some rushed and ill-advised throws.
4. Building an identity
During this winning streak, the Chiefs have been able to get back to doing what makes many football teams successful: running the ball, winning the turnover battle, playing great defense and taking shots downfield (at least a little). Can we say that they’ve built their own identity? Eric Berry and Justin Houston have taken on emotional leadership roles along with Tamba Hali and Alex Smith. They are a focused team that seems to have a knack for making a play when they need one. They are outscoring teams in the fourth quarter 50-0 in the past five weeks, which shows they can put teams away. They are a hard hitting, opportunistic defense that is able to produce turnovers. They are an offense that has good balance and can beat teams on the ground or in the air.
5) Can they get back to playing stellar special teams?
One of the few weaknesses of this team over the past few weeks have been the special teams units. Frankie Hammond, Jr. has struggled with fumbles as the punt returner. De'Anthony Thomas may not be back this week. The snapper / holder / kicker issues seem to have subsided at least for one week. Winning the field position battle and executing on special teams are key to winning close games against good teams … which the Chiefs could be doing in the playoffs.