1) Is Eric Fisher back in the starting lineup? Does he help the offense?
Andy Reid indicated Fisher was back working at RT but he wasn't yet clear on if he was the starter. The status of the former No. 1 overall pick is one of the biggest stories of the season so far.
The optimistic fan will believe Andy Reid's story: Fisher was hurt, and high ankle sprains tend to linger. No reason to put him out there until he's healthy enough to be effective.
The cynic will say: this is is just another indication that Fisher is a bust, along with his "demotion" to RT. Anything the Chiefs coaches say is nothing more than a coach sticking up for his players in public. Their actions prove that they aren't happy with Fisher's play on the field.
I hate this debate because I've watched a LOT of Eric Fisher film and I believe the guy is better than advertised and when healthy he'll prove it in 2015 once-and-for-all. Fisher, to my eye, has all the physical tools you'd ever want from a starting tackle in this league. He has always had great feet and athleticism, and finally started to display the strength we've wanted to see in 2015 preseason. It's hard to give up on guys like that.
That being said, the move to RT and the leaked reports of the team not being happy with his decision to miss Week 1 are pretty damning, and difficult to defend. The ONLY way that this argument gets settled in a positive manner is on the field. Fisher HAS to be a starter, and he HAS to prove that he's improved ... and it HAS to start this week.
Jah Reid has done his best in the first two games to step in at RT. But frankly, it hasn't been good enough. By most accounts, he "held up well" in the Houston game, and struggled vs the Broncos. Pro Football Focus had him at a -2.4 in Week 1, and -4.9 in Week 2. Those grades were easily the worst on the team, and from re-watching the games, I agree with them, at least directionally. Andy Reid has clearly been trying to scheme around the offensive line's inability to pass block and it's hurt their production thus far.
With Fisher back in the game, hopefully as soon as Monday night, perhaps the Chiefs can open up their offense a bit more? It takes good protection to effectively throw the football, especially downfield ... maybe this is the week we see the full playbook.
2) How do the Chiefs bounce back from a gut-wrenching loss to the Broncos?
It's been said that bad losses linger longer with the fans than the team. We can only hope that this is true for the Chiefs this week. I won't compare it to the Colts loss in the playoffs but I can't recall another time when this team has done everything it needed to do to beat a good team but then managed to still lose the game. In this case, they lost by doing the ONE thing you can't do and still win in this league -- turn the ball over.
I don't expect that turnovers will be a problem with this team... I can't imagine a scenario where they have five turnovers again this year. How they respond emotionally to losing a prime-time, division rivalry game at Arrowhead is yet to be determined. Will they come out fired up, determined to prove that the Denver loss was a fluke and that the Chiefs deserve to be in the conversation of the best teams in the league? OR will the Chiefs come out flat, lacking confidence, indicating a season-long problem?
The Chiefs have the talent to win, and it appears they have the leadership and personalities to keep a loss like that one from ruining a season, but until they show it on the field vs Green Bay, we won't know exactly how they'll respond.
3) Will TE James O'Shaugnessy grow into a larger role?
The rookie showed that the game wasn't too big for him last week with two huge catches, including one in the final drive where the Chiefs took the lead. His role was still limited, with only 14 offensive snaps and it was mostly in the three TE sets. What stood out was his game speed. O'Shaughnessy's two catches were Smith's two longest completions of the day.
If Shag can keep making plays in the passing game, he and Kelce make an exciting pass catching duo at the TE position. Assuming he develops into even an average blocker, he should be able to increase his playing time, possibly into the No. 2 TE role.
That said, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves after just two catches in one game. But we will be watching to see if he can build on what we saw versus Denver.
4) Will Aaron Rodgers pick apart the Chiefs secondary?
The reviews of the Chiefs secondary covered both extremes: Rookie Marcus Peters has received all of the positive press, even some early Defensive Rookie of the Year predictions. Peters has been fun to watch thus far with seven passes defended and an INT in each game. Can he keep making plays this week? Even if he's able to make a couple more "splash" type plays, we also need to see if Peters can develop into a consistent "shut down" type CB. He's not there yet having allowed 14 catches for 177 yards and three TDs thus far. Monday night represents another big stage for the rookie to show his progress.
Journeyman Jamell Fleming has been the target of all of the criticism, especially after the loss to Denver. To my eye, Fleming was in decent position given his tough assignments but "decent" coverage can be exploited when Manning and those two WRs are on the same page.
When Sean Smith is back from suspension next week, we can assume Fleming will go back to being what he has been -- a solid fourth CB who is a good tackler. He can give you some snaps but he shouldn't be left on an island against top WRs. That's the issue, however. Smith won't be back until after this week's game vs Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is clearly the best QB in football, and he will be targeting Randall Cobb, James Jones and Davante Adams early and often on Monday night.
The Chiefs defense does have the antidote for most human QBs in the form of an athletic, active front seven that can put pressure on any given snap. The problem is, Rodgers isn't human. Check out his PFF stats under pressure, and let me know where he's vulnerable:
It's clear that Rodgers will make plays whether he's under pressure or not. The Chiefs secondary needs to have short memories and Bob Sutton will need to make sure that guys like Fleming have help in order to contain the Green Bay passing attack, and limit the yards after the catch. Thus far in the 2015 season, the Chiefs defense has only missed five tackles, which is best in the league. Keeping that trend going this week, and avoiding getting beat deep should help contain Aaron Rodgers which is the best we can hope for... other than another pick six from Marcus Peters.
5) Can the Chiefs get the offense hitting on all cylinders?
I don't care about WR touchdowns. Let me rephrase that: I only care about WR touchdowns to the extent that scoring a couple will (hopefully) shut down that annoying rhetoric.
I would like to see the Chiefs offense do what it showed was possible in Week 1 vs Houston. Or even better, the 2014 New England game or the 2014 Seattle game. Find an offensive identity, mix up the run and pass, keep the defense on its heels and score enough points to win the game.
This week, the Chiefs face a Packers defense that isn't on the same level as Denver or Houston. But they do have some talent: Clay Matthews, Datone Jones, Julius Peppers and BJ Raji are all off to very good starts in 2015. They'll be a challenge for a Chiefs offensive line that still isn't at full strength.
I mention the Seattle game last year for a reason. One piece of the blueprint is there. Control the game by running the ball, mix up the formations and looks enough to keep them guessing, and make sure the Chiefs walk away with seven points when in the red zone. The New England win in 2014 and the Houston win this year are a slightly different blueprint. Both games featured Alex Smith throwing three TDs and Kelce having a big day catching the football.
The goal for Andy Reid's offense should be clear. Run the football, take some more shots downfield (as protection allows) and focus on getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers: Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin. I'd also like to see De'Anthony Thomas more involved. He can put pressure on the defense, and help make plays by giving Green Bay a wild card to account for.
Let's see if they are able to put it all together on Monday Night Football.