When the team pulls out a big win against a tough opponent without the MVP, and the defense appears to have made a full turnaround, there are many reasons to be bullish.
When the rally is widespread, and players from top to the bottom of the roster are playing some of the best football we’ve seen out of them, it is a sign that it may be a sustainable rally. When the forecast for the upcoming weeks includes the best player in the NFL returning to a team that has been improving in many ways... it’s hard not to bid the stock of this team to new heights.
Going into this week’s game against the Titans, the Chiefs have plenty of players trending in the right direction and are looking like they have a chance to be among the most balanced teams in the NFL. We’re expecting breakout performances down the stretch, and nearly all signs are pointing in that direction.
This week’s Bulls
- Derrick Nnadi, Khalen Saunders and Mike Pennel: Given how this team has improved against the run and the pass, even when faced with numerous injuries across the front seven, it’s no surprise that there are multiple players on the interior defensive line that have improved their stock. Nnadi, Saunders and Pennel now appear to be part of a nasty rotation of stout interior defenders. They’re shutting down running lanes and pushing the pocket to the point that Chris Jones is more of a factor on the end than inside. Getting positive returns from low-cost assets like these guys is part of what makes this team’s future so bright.
- Emmanuel Ogbah and Tanoh Kpassagnon: As good as the guys on the inside have been, the results from some underrated players on the outside have been an equally positive surprise. The effort has matched the physical traits for these guys who seem to be clicking in their new roles and helping the team overcome injuries to guys like Frank Clark and Alex Okafor. When all are healthy, look out.
- Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton: Much of the talk has been about the improvement in the run defense, and credit goes to the front seven. But, these two corners have been big factors in recent weeks as well. Both Ward and Fenton are tackling well and holding up in coverage. When the pass rush and the coverage are trending up, that’s called complementary football. As Andy Reid would say, “It’s a beautiful thing.”
This week’s Bears
- Alex Okafor and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif: Both of these guys have been trending in a bearish direction and have missed time due to injuries. Each has a relatively substantial price tag, so they need to get back on track or the team could invest in younger, lower-cost assets that can perform at similar levels.
- Mecole Hardman: Start-up companies often have issues that affect their stock before they hit their stride. Hardman’s inconsistencies in handling the football and running routes has limited his on-field effectiveness of late. The team should still be trying to find ways to get the ball in his hands, but Hardman needs to show he is a reliable performer in the coming weeks.
- Cameron Erving: It’s been a very volatile season for Erving. At times, he looks like he can be an invisible (in a good way) part of the Chiefs offense. But, nearly every week there’s a play or two (or more) where he’s beaten badly and/or flagged, costing the offense in very visible ways. The Chiefs super-backup is more valuable when he’s actually able to be a backup.
Observations for Week 10
- The return of Mahomes: This team is trending in the right direction anyway, but getting Mahomes back on the field will be a shot of adrenaline. Expect Mahomes to come in fired up and aggressive to make up for lost time. He might miss some plays early as he could be a little too hyped, but he’ll settle in and the team will rally around him.
- Shady will exit the doghouse: After seeing only six offensive snaps last week, LeSean McCoy is due for a resurgence. Still the best runner on the team, McCoy should work his way back into the lineup and make a difference against the Titans.
- Another test for the run defense: Expect this opponent to try and establish the run, perhaps even more so than the Vikings last week. Given the history of this matchup for the Chiefs, it’s an opportunity to prove that the defensive improvements are for real. I think they do enough to keep on the right track, but that doesn’t mean Henry won’t make a few plays.
If you’d like a complete look behind the curtain, here’s the full database. There’s a new tab for each week.
And throughout the season, feel free to weigh in with your own analysis of the rankings — and the Market Movers you notice!