While playing the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the 13-1 Kansas City Chiefs have a great opportunity to clinch the AFC’s first seed and get prepared for the postseason in all phases; clinching against the Falcons opens the possibility to rest starters against the Los Angeles Chargers next week. So this might be the last time we see some of these guys until the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Here are some Market Movers to watch on Sunday.
- Darwin Thompson: The second-year running back hasn’t seen much action this year; he’s had 13 carries for 52 yards on the season. But with Clyde Edwards-Helaire injured, the Chiefs will need to protect Le’Veon Bell for the postseason. That means getting others involved — especially once they’ve built a lead — so Thompson and Darrel Williams should be prepared to help close out the final two games of the regular season. Of the two, Thompson might be the most fun to watch; he’s got a little Edwards-Helaire in his game. He’ll probably get 5-10 carries on Sunday — and with some success. he can make a case for a longer-term role with Kansas City.
- Chris Jones: With the Falcons interior offensive line ailing — and a pass-heavy game script — all signs point to a big game for the team’s star defensive tackle. At times this season, he’s looked dominant and disruptive — but he’s due for one of those performances where he puts together multiple sacks and highlight-reel plays. Statistically, this defense has been pretty good all season — but to be at their best, the pass rush needs to go up a notch. On Sunday, that could start with the big guy inside.
- Stefan Wisniewski: The veteran offensive lineman got back into the Chiefs’ starting lineup last week — but with mixed results. Early on, it was clear that he was shaking off some rust, but there were plenty of glimpses of the toughness and veteran savvy that made him a valuable member of the Chiefs offensive line down the stretch of 2019. He even caught a Patrick Mahomes pass. Alas, it was ruled a penalty — even after his instantly- memed argument trying to convince the officials it had been tipped. Watch to see if Wisniewski is able to hold on to the starting job — and if his presence can help the Chiefs build on their success in the running game.
Others trending in the right direction: Travis Kelce, Tershawn Wharton, Bashaud Breeland, Willie Gay, Jr.
- Demarcus Robinson: If there’s one guy on offense who is the most frustrating for Chiefs fans to watch, it’s Robinson. On one hand, he does some of the little things that make the offense tick — including blocking and being an outlet for Mahomes when he scrambles. But on the other, he’s the guy making mistakes that leave many fans yelling “What are you doing?” at our TVs — things like running backward, fumbling or dropping passes. The Chiefs seem to trust Robinson, but if it’s looking likely that they are going to clinch the first seed, it might be a good time to start to give opportunities to Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and others.
- Alex Okafor: As John Dixon pointed out, Okafor’s snap count has been on a steady incline over the last few weeks. Presumably healthy — and in a contract year — we should be seeing good production from the 28-year-old veteran. But it’s been a very quiet year for Okafor, with only one sack and 13 tackles in 13 games thus far. Still a very capable defender, it’s time for #57 to make his presence felt — especially with Frank Clark missing some practice time this week.
- Ricky Seals-Jones: Te Chiefs’ fourth tight end has been active just once this season, leaving us all to wonder why he’s still on the roster. In recent weeks, the Chiefs have gotten Nick Keizer and Deon Yelder a little more involved in the offense; they’ve shown up as blockers and occasional targets. So again we ask: if he’s not going to be active, why carry a fourth tight end on the roster?
Others trending in the wrong direction: Ben Niemann, Yasir Durant
Value (sleeper) pick
- Willie Gay, Jr.: Until it happens, we’ll keep predicting the rise of the second-round rookie linebacker. Against the Falcons, the Chiefs will be without both Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson, which means we’ll see a lot more of Ben Niemann — and hopefully Gay. At this point, it’s clear which one of them has the athleticism and upside, but will the rookie finally get to show what he can do? It’s possible we see the first of many games where Gay gets starter reps and makes impact plays. Against the Falcons, look for #50 flying around. He just might cause a turnover or two.