Me: I saw that the Chiefs have scored the same amount of points as the Saints this season. That's impressive but that stat alone doesn't tell the story. How much of that scoring can actually be credited to the play of the offense?
Joel: The Chiefs offense is very average (or below average) once you take away the defense and special teams TDs. There are 10 of those, so the Chiefs lose almost a touchdown per game in their averages once that's taken out. A lot of people look at that as a knock on the Chiefs offense -- that they're not scoring a lot. But I look at it as a positive for the defense and special teams. 10 TDs in 13 games is a pretty big sample size so the Chiefs certainly aren't going to apologize that part of their offense is their opportunistic defense and their return game. It's all part of the whole package of playing the Chiefs.
Justin Houston's status looks a bit uncertain this week. Do you think he will be able to go and how different is the Chiefs' defense with him and without him?
Completely up in the air right now. Andy Reid is calling him day to day and he finally got in some practice (limited, individual drills) so the progress is there. It was said to be a 2-3 week injury and it's been about 2.5 weeks so far. I would prefer that he sit this week if there's even the slightest chance of re-injury, especially if the Chiefs clinch a playoff spot before the game kicks off. Your guess is as good as mine at this point on Houston's availability. We're all wondering. The Chiefs defense doesn't change much without him in there. Obviously they're not as good but the scheme doesn't change. Frank Zombo replaces Houston and, while he's no Justin Houston, Zombo is a serviceable backup having started on the Packers Super Bowl team. But the Chiefs are going to do what they do defensively regardless of whether a player or two is hurt. You may see a corner or safety blitz an extra time or two if they're not getting pressure with Zombo.
Branden Albert also looks questionable. Do you think he will be able to go and if not, how do the Chiefs look at left tackle if he can't go?
Albert hyper-extended his knee in the Week 13 game against the Broncos and then missed last week's game against the Redskins. With Albert out, swing tackle Donald Stephenson moves to the left side. Stephenson played a good game in Albert's absence and considering Albert is on a one-year deal, that particular line is something Chiefs fans (and the team itself) are very interested in seeing. Fisher has had his ups and downs this season, playing on the right side all year long. At first it was little injuries holding him back and then it was consistency. While he hasn't dominated, he's shown me enough for me to believe he can become a good player. It's unclear if Fisher will move to left tackle next season. Guess it just depends on what happens with Branden Albert.
The Raiders are going to have to try and find a weakness on this Chiefs team and exploit it. What do you think that weakness will be?
The Chiefs are susceptible to the deep ball. They love to rush the passer and wreak havoc there. When they do that, they leave a single safety out deep while playing man coverage. That means that if you have any deep ball threat, you can take advantage of the Chiefs secondary. The hard part about that is the offensive line has to block long enough for the quarterback to drop back and the receivers need to be able to get open.
What Chiefs player(s) might we not know about but should keep an eye on in this game?
Defensively, Frank Zombo will be replacing Justin Houston, which is worth watching. Marcus Cooper is a cornerback who kinda came out of nowhere to begin playing regularly in the Chiefs defense. Brandon Flowers moves inside to the slot when Cooper comes in. Offensively, Geoff Schwartz recently replaced Jon Asamoah at guard, and done a pretty good job. Also keep an eye on Junior Hemingway in the red zone. He's the Chiefs fourth receiver option but has two touchdowns on his eight catches.
Hopefully I'll be able to link my answers to his questions at some point as well.