If the Jeckel-and-Hyde Kansas City Chiefs knew what lay ahead of them when they last played at New Arrowhead Stadium almost three weeks ago, they might not have played as poorly as they did in barely escaping with a win over then-winless Buffalo.
As any athletic coach of sound mind and body would advise under similar circumstances, the Chiefs, now 5-4, have no choice but to forget the devastating last two weeks at division-rivals Oakland and Denver and get on with what they need to do to get their heads back on straight, learn from the experience and come out well-prepared for the next game.
The silver lining in the aftermath of the last two games just may be that once you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s no way to go but up. Last Sunday, against a Denver team that was 2-6 and in their last game before hosting the Chiefs gave up 59 points to the visiting Oakland Raiders, coach Todd Haley’s team was at its absolute worst. Kansas City found itself down 35-0 before it even realized what had happened. That was with six minutes still to go before halftime, and it only got worse from there.
Yes, the Chiefs woke up enough to put 29 points on the scoreboard and produce over 400 yards of offense, but most of that was in garbage time when the game was well in hand and the Broncos were just sitting back in a soft, prevent defense. The game was effectively over after the first 15 minutes.
Now comes Arizona, who, like the Chiefs, are in the midst of a multigame losing string. The Cardinals (3-6) have lost four straight after getting off to a 3-2 start. Kansas City is hoping that home cooking and home cheering and the friendly confines of New Arrowhead will be just what the doctor ordered to get the team back on the winning track.
In 10 games previously against Arizona, the Chiefs are 7-2-1, including a perfect 3-0 in games played at Arrowhead. The last time these two teams met was four years ago in Arizona, where Kansas City prevailed 23-20. This is Haley’s first game against his old team, for whom he was offensive coordinator before accepting the Chiefs’ head coaching position following the 2008 season.
It will be interesting to see how Kansas City and its NFL-leading running game will do, playing at home and going against another team that is not very good in defending the run (the Cardinals rank near the bottom of the league in rushing defense). The Chiefs are averaging 162 yards rushing per game, while the Arizona defense gives up an average of 132 rushing yards a game. Like last week’s Chiefs’ opponent, Denver, Arizona is near the bottom of the league running the ball, as well. So here we go again, hopefully this time with a much different result.
In addition to being the best rushing team in the NFL, the Chiefs also are capitalizing on turnovers. Through nine games, Kansas City has scored 58 points off of takeaways and given up only 7 points for a net positive of +51 points on the season, second best in the league to Green Bay’s +62.
Kansas Cty is favored by a touchdown in Sunday’s game with Arizona. My gut tells me the Chiefs will come out all fired up and eager to show Kansas City fans what they’re made of. Ring up win number six for the hometown boys, giving the Chiefs as many wins this season as they had in the last two seasons combined.
If it’s all about wins and losses, the Chiefs are definitely on an upward swing.
In other games of note in the NFL this week, two longtime NFC North Division foes whose seasons are going in opposite directions, Green Bay (6-3) and Minnesota (3-6), go at it in Minneapolis.
Vikings quarterback Brett Favre made his 294th consecutive start last Sunday at Chicago. That may not be the best news for Minnesota, as the Louisiana gunslinger’s skills are clearly declining. He is third from the last among the NFC starting quarterbacks in passing efficiency. In fairness to Favre, however, his options at receiver seem to be getting thinner by the week. One thing that is going good for Minnesota this season in an off year winning-wise is Adrian Peterson, who is again leading the NFC, second overall in the NFL, with 908 yards rushing through nine games.
Injuries can be the great equalizer, though, and Green Bay is the league leader in that dubious category with 11 players on injured reserve.
Without question, the spotlight game in Week 11 of the NFL season is the annual fan’s favorite between New England (7-2) and Indianapolis (6-3). The Colts are another team struggling with injuries this season. But as long as they have Peyton Manning at the controls, they’re never out of any game. This year’s game is being played at Gilllette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and it should be another great one. Tom Brady and the Patriots do not lose many at home, where the Pats are 4-0 this season. Meanwhile, all three of the Colts’ losses this year have come on the road, where Indianapolis is 1-3.
Not far behind the New England-Indianapolis showdown insofar as must-see matchups this week is the Sunday night game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, both at 6-3. This should be another good one, with the Giants having won five of their last six games and the Eagles coming in with four wins in their last five contests, including a 59-28 demolition of Washington on Monday night in the nation’s capital. Philadelphia has won the last four games between these NFC East combatants.
Who would have ever thought at the beginning of the season that when the Detroit Lions visited Dallas in Week 11, the two teams would have identical records. If you think that’s surprising, had this game been last weekend, the Lions (then 2-6) would have had a better record than the Cowboys (then 1-7), picked in the preseason to be a leading Super Bowl contender and potentially the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their own building.
Here are the rest of the games on the NFL schedule and the Kansas City Sports Examiner’s picks for this week:
National Football League picks/Week 11
Chicago 17 @ MIAMI 21 (Thursday night)
Arizona 20 @ KANSAS CITY 30
Washington 17 @ TENNESSEE 27
Green Bay 21 @ MINNESOTA 27
Detroit 21 @ DALLAS 31
Oakland 17 @ PITTSBURGH 28
Buffalo 17 @ CINCINNATI 27
BALTIMORE 24 @ Carolina 13
Cleveland 20 @ JACKSONVILLE 23
Houston 20 @ NEW YORK JETS 27
Tampa Bay 20 @ SAN FRANCISCO 24
Seattle 17 @ NEW ORLEANS 31
ATLANTA 24 @ St. Louis 20
Indianapolis 24 @ NEW ENGLAND 28
NEW YORK GIANTS 24 @ Philadelphia 17 (Sunday night)
Denver 14 @ SAN DIEGO 27 (Monday night)
Last week’s picks: 8-65
For the season: 87-49
For more information:
National Football League official website
Past/present NFL team, individual stats
Additional Kansas City Chiefs news
Kansas City sports coverage/commentary