I live in a suburb of Kansas City and not surprisingly I'm inundated with Chiefs coverage. I've heard all of the camp coverage on 610 and 810 wishing I could always get 105.3 The Fan and the Cowboys camp coverage. However, what that coverage gave me is a balanced viewpoint to scout the two teams.
First, I will say that the Chiefs are not the 2-14 team of last year. They have made a ton of improvements. Right now, I would put them in that mass of NFL teams that sit in the 6-10 to 10-6 range depending upon luck and injuries.
That being said, I think it's fairly clear that the Nigerian Nightmare, as is the wont of KC Chiefs fans, has overrated his team and its players based on their dominant victory of the Jaguars. This is not to say that the Chiefs can't win this weekend. They *are* better and Arrowhead is a tough place to play. However, their talent is a definite notch below Dallas's.
Jamaal Charles is one of the best running backs of all time in terms of efficiency. He has one of the highest yards per carry of any running back ever. He's hard to overrate and will be tough for the Cowboys, or any team, to completely stop. He's definitely better than DeMarco Murray. Murray's ceiling is a very good to sometimes great RB. Charles could be a first ballot HOF-er. He's fast, breaks tackles, catches the ball well. He has a small ding from this weekend, but I doubt that will have any real effect.
But that's the only clear-cut advantage the Chiefs have.
Alex Smith is by far their best QB for quite some time. However, we've seen him before and he would not start in the NFC East for any team. He's not a bad QB, but in this, the glory age of the NFL QB in many ways, he's probably towards the bottom 10. He's certainly not as good as Romo.
At receiver, the difference is even more stark. Bowe is a very good receiver, but assuming all are healthy, both Dez and Miles are better. Bowe can be incredibly inconsistent at times, meaning he'll sometimes be awesome, sometimes be out of touch with the play, and usually pretty good. But TWill might be as good as Bowe in a year, and Harris might be their number 2 over Donnie Avery.
McCluster is their version of Lance Dunbar, or rather Dunbar is our version of McCluster given that Dexter has been around for a while. He's OK, but the eye test suggests he should be creating tons of big plays but his longest play in his career is 49 yards and only had 5 total TDs. I suspect that if Dunbar had the same opportunities he'd produce more but we'll see. In any case, he's at best an average player.
Anthony Fasano is their starting TE, yes, that Anthony Fasano. Would you rather have him or Escobar? Probably Escobar. Hanna? Definitely Hanna. I won't even ask about Witten. Justin Durant should have no real problems dealing with any of the Chiefs TEs.
Their OLine has two excellent pieces at tackle in Eric Fisher and Brandon Albert. Right now, Tron is better than Fisher because of experience, but the two will have comparable excellent careers. Albert is better than Free, even as good as Free played last night. Taken as a tandem, it's probably a wash, though they may be slightly better. I think all four players will play well this year overall.
However, our interior line is definitely better. They've had some injury issues among their interior linemen, which might sound familiar and starter Jon Asamoah is questionable this weekend. Even at full health, Leary-Frederick-Waters are definitely better. They have no one as good as Chris Snee, and Hatcher did fine against him. I suspect Hatcher will be a thorn in the Chiefs side. The battle between Ware and those tackles, however, will be fun to watch.
To sum up, on offense the Chiefs have one great player in Charles, three very good players in Bowe, Fisher, and Albert, a good QB and at best league average players around them. They will win very few shootouts, and will probably be league average, maybe less, at around 21 points a game. Charles and Albert are the only two that would start on the Cowboys this year, though Fisher will be better than Albert eventually.
I do think Charles will have 100+ yards from scrimmage. However, I don't think they have any way to attack our LBs with their TEs and underneath WRs. Bowe and Carr will battle, but while Bowe will get some catches, Carr will be able to match up to him reasonably well without necessarily always rolling safety coverage over the top. The speed of our LBs will help limit Charles to merely having a very good day, but not a game-breaking one. In other words, the Chiefs will have some production, but won't score a ton. The Cowboys will be able to have 8 in the box and still hold the Chiefs passing attack in check. They just aren't as explosive as the Giants are.
In a sense, the Chiefs are the reverse of the Cowboys in terms of alignment. Where the Cowboys personnel was more suited to the 4-3 while playing the 3-4, the Chiefs defenders have thrived in their switch from 4-3 to 3-4.
Their DLine is their weak point, though Dontari Poe will likely be a stud at NT. Poe v. Frederick will be a heck of a matchup. Poe is immense and immensely talented, but his track record shows less production than promise. However, he has had a fantastic preseason and kept it up with 1.5 sacks against the Jaguars. It looks like he has started to understand how to turn his tools into skills and production.
But Tyson Jackson and Mike DeVito are nothing special. Jackson was the 3rd player taken one draft, but has never produced. He's got physical tools but unlike Poe never seems to have translated them into something productive. DeVito is at best a journeyman. Think Landon Cohen and Nick Hayden at best. I think the Cowboys will be able to run to the outside with our TEs blocking their DEs and our OTs getting in space.
Their LBs are pretty good. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are good OLBs, essentially in the class of Anthony Spencer though they have been more consistent than Anthony in actual sacks. Akeem Jordan is at best league average, and we've seen lots of him with the Eagles.
Their big ILB is Derrick Johnson. He is a very good LB and a 2-time Pro-Bowler. He's had some inconsistency issues in the past, but he's gotten better as he's aged. He's never quite been what the Chiefs fans hoped for, which was the next coming of Ray Lewis, but he's fast and powerful and good. He's not the best LB in the NFL, and I would rather have a healthy Sean Lee because of Lee's instincts and coverage ability, but don't underestimate him. I would like to see us run some counters because he's so fast he can sometimes be too aggressive and get out of position.
Flowers is too short at 5ft 9in to match up well with Dez and I think they will put him on Miles. However, I think Miles is quicker now that he is healthy and will give Flowers some fits, especially in crossing routes where our TEs will empty those zones. Smith is tall, but not near as talented as Dez and they will have to give him help if they put him on Dez. Smith may take away some of the jump balls to Dez, but the back shoulder will be there as will be cutting routes such as deep-ins.
The best safety on the field will be Eric Berry, who's very good. He can cover, make some big plays, and assist in the run game. Kendrick Lewis is the FS, and he's OK but nothing special. Think Will Allen. Berry will make some plays, but Witten will have all sorts of mid-range routes open and the occasional play-action seam might be very effective.
Overall, our front 7 is better than theirs, though not by a ton. It's of course hard to make exact comparisons because of alignment differences. However, I think the Cowboys will be able to generate slightly more pressure, though the Chiefs will get some shots on Romo. I think the Chiefs will have more success running against us than we will on them, but that's more because of Charles than because of their defense. However, I don't see any way the Chiefs handle our TEs and RBs in short pass routes. Think of the way the Saints ripped us apart several years ago. If Dunbar is healthy, he could have a couple of huge plays.
Our DBs are slightly better than theirs, mostly because we're deeper. I suspect they'll do their best to start off eliminating deep routes and Dez like the Giants did. However, if Tony stays patient we'll tear them up initially with Witten and Austin across the middle. The Chiefs will *have* to adjust and Dez will have openings in the second half for some deep balls.
I don't see a ton of difference here. Harris is a better returner than McCluster. Bailey is at least as good as Succop as K. Colquitt might be better than Jones, but the difference is not much. Both teams have experienced some inconsistency and breakdowns on special teams, but both have new special teams coaches and we have yet to really see how well these units will perform. So far, the early results favor Dallas (the Chiefs had a safety on their first punt attempt), but we have hardly seen anything yet.
However, it doesn't look like either team has a huge advantage in special teams on paper heading into the game.
Overall, I wouldn't be surprised if the Chiefs are good enough to contend for a wildcard berth. Any game in Arrowhead will be a tough game. They won't beat out the Broncos, of course, because they just don't have enough top-level talent like Charles, but much of their 2-14 record was bad QB play, bad luck, and injuries. Smith fixes the first, regression to the mean will fix the second, and we'll see about the third.
I do think the Cowboys offense will be too much in this game. Yeah, I know they looked bad last night, but given past history that's a blip not a trend, especially given how good our OLine looked. I think the Chiefs will cause some negative plays, but the Cowboys will have those big offensive plays that they normally have that weren't there last night. I think the Cowboys will have significantly more 20+ yard plays.
My prediction is that we win, though it will be fairly tight, something like 24-17, maybe 31-17 if a few breaks go our way. I just don't see the Chiefs scoring more than 20 with that offense against our defense and I see quite a few places we can attack their defense.