Bye Week Take 10

Posted Oct 15, 2011

Ten thoughts as the Chiefs sit idle

Mandated by the new collective bargaining agreement to shut down shop for four consecutive days, Chiefs players and staffers scattered across the country to take in high school football games, visit college campuses, re-unite with family and simply re-charge the battery.

The annual bye week is an NFL team’s only off weekend from late July through the end of the season. Preparations for the Oakland Raiders will resume Monday morning.

While we wait, here are 10 thoughts as the Chiefs sit idle…

1. Todd Haley has succeeded where many professional coaches have failed.

Sitting at 0-3, Haley found a way to motivate a winless team in serious danger of letting the season slip away before it had barely begun. The Chiefs were looking to grasp hold of something, so Haley made “Underdog” t-shirts, encouraged team bonding with bean bag games in the locker room and hammered home a “No Doubt” mentality over the Chiefs two-game win streak.

Players have bought into Haley’s message and are currently playing hard for their head coach.

2. The next two games might just define the Chiefs season.

With back-to-back division games against Oakland and San Diego, the Chiefs have a golden opportunity to gain ground on the two teams currently ahead of them in the division standings.

Of course, the scenario is two-fold. Wins by the Raiders and Chargers would go a long way towards burying Kansas City’s hopes to repeat as division champions.

3. Maybe Matt Cassel is just a slow starter?

After a sub-par September a year ago, Cassel struck gold in the month of October going 63-of-102 passing for 702 yards with 6 TDs and 0 INTs. This year has been much of the same with a September to forget, followed by going 39-of-58 for 517 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs thus far in October.

That’s a combined 102-of-160 for 1,219 yards with 11 TDs and 0 INTs in October over the past two years.

Whatever the reason for Cassel’s October success, the Chiefs need it to continue with two division contests rounding out this month’s slate of games.

4. Jackie Battle’s emergence couldn’t come at a better time. For the first time this season, Kansas City’s rushing output mirrored that of the league’s top-ranked rushing attack. The Chiefs finished with nearly 200 rushing yards at Indianapolis and had two backs rush for more than 50 yards and average at least 5.5 yards per carry or more.

Battle is running with the type of confidence that can rub off on the offensive line and other backs on the roster as well.

5. Dexter McCluster has yet to break a run for more than 24 yards or catch a pass for more than 10 yards. It’s only a matter of time before we see McCluster make a defender miss in the open field before finding daylight for big yardage.

6. A roster move is likely coming in the near future. It appears certain that Jonathan Baldwin will make his NFL debut next Sunday in Oakland, giving the Chiefs a roster heavy with wide receivers.

Kansas City currently rosters seven wide outs, but is short at other positions including tight end, inside linebacker and possibly even fullback depending on the health of Le’Ron McClain. Look for that roster imbalance to even-out sometime over the next week.

7. Speaking of the traffic jam at wide receiver…Keary Colbert looks like he’ll weather the storm. He’s one of the NFL’s feel-good stories of 2011 and has capitalized on his opportunities working out of the slot. Coach Haley seems to like him and so does Cassel.

8. This year, the Chiefs have been outscored 150-77 in the first quarter and 35-6 in the second quarter. Part of that lopsided scoring differential comes from two blowout losses that opened the season, but it’s clear the Chiefs need to be more efficient in the early-goings of football games.

9. Five games into the season, the Chiefs still aren’t settled at outside linebacker opposite Tamba Hali.

After working most of the preseason as a starter, Andy Studebaker received limited defensive snaps in the first four games. Against San Diego and Minnesota, he didn’t record a single defensive play. Then, against Indianapolis, Studebaker played most every defensive snap in base personnel.

Studebaker’s increased workload was geared towards making Houston more effective in pass rush situations (i.e. nickel packages and other sub-sets).

Last week, Houston was able to pressure Colts QB Curtis Painter on a third down snap that forced a critical fourth quarter incompletion. It was the first pressure from any Chiefs outside linebacker other than Hali this season.

10. Three-game win streaks were once rare for the Chiefs, but they’ve become a more common occurrence over the last two seasons. Kansas City won three games in a row to open the 2010 season (vs. SD, at CLE, vs. SF)  and found three-straight wins in a critical November stretch last year as well (vs. ARZ, at SEA, vs. DEN).

Prior to 2010, the Chiefs last three-game game win streak came in 2006 (vs. SD, vs. SEA, at STL). The 2006 season was also the last time that Kansas City won coming out of the bye weekend.

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