This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns face an uphill battle as they take on the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on the road. Will Jason Campbell be fed to the wolves, or will the Browns look much better with a quarterback other than Brandon Weeden?
To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Matt Conner from Arrowhead Pride and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "I love the Chiefs' defense, but despite the fact Kansas City is 7-0, they scare me less than several other teams in the league because of their offense. The Chiefs seem to have an efficient offense (which isn't something to complain about), but they aren't an offensive powerhouse. With that in mind, do the majority of Chiefs fans confident enough to feel they are the best team in the NFL, or just a "really good team that will be in the postseason mix?""
Matt: "I think most fans fit somewhere in between. While some extreme fans will be found -- curmudgeons who aren't pleased despite the perfect record and homers who can't admit any faults on the roster -- the reality is that most Chiefs fans realize that this is a very good team carried by an elite defense. The holes are there, but every team in the NFL looks flawed this year. Chiefs fans have to be happy with the issues they have compared to other teams."
Chris: "Between Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, the sack numbers for the Chiefs are just absurd right now. Looking at the defensive rankings, Kansas City is ranked 20th against the run, and 29th in rushing yards allowed per rush. Is the run defense the weakness of this Chiefs defense?"
Matt: "The first instinct is to laugh at any notion of "weakness" in this defense. That said, you have some numbers there that made me look again. The Chiefs have given up 769 rushing yards in 2013. That's the 11th most, so we're looking at a below average number there. The key, however, is this: they've given up two rushing touchdowns. Two. While some teams have had success running the ball in doses, they don't reach the one place that matters most.
In addition, the stats against the run are completely skewed by the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs surrendered 264 rushing yards that game alone. The Cowboys mustered 37. The Texans had 73. The Jags had 71. So it's clear that some teams have shown some success against the run, but the Chiefs don't allow anyone in the end zone. And that's the bottom line."
Chris: "We're always looking for a weakness on an opposing team's offensive line. First, how would you rate the Chiefs' offensive line overall, both in pass blocking and run blocking? Second, who is your most vulnerable offensive lineman in pass protection?"
Matt: "The offensive line has been average so far this season. Branden Albert is the MVP of the unit on the left side, and the Chiefs would do well to tie him up long-term if possible. The interior is a mixed bag although they are all young players getting better. Jon Asamoah is the highlight at right guard, and the team hopes high draft assets like Jeff Allen (2nd round, 2012) and Rodney Hudson (2nd round, 2011) can develop as expected.
The selection of Eric Fisher has been an interesting one so far, one based on future potential than present production. That means he's going to be the most vulnerable on the line simply because he's prone to clear rookie mistakes at right tackle."
Chris: "The Chiefs have played two close games at Arrowhead so far – one against the Cowboys, and one against the Texans. Is there a common element that the Chiefs struggled with in those games that made them close down to the final whistle?"
Matt: "To credit both Texas teams, the Cowboys and Texans are veteran teams who know how to keep a game close even when the execution is sloppy. In addition, the Chiefs offense has had a tough time putting teams away and capitalizing on the mistakes of others. While the Chiefs keep winning, every game, including these two, have remained closer than they should have been since KC's defense tends to dominate nearly every series."
Chris: "Tell us about one player on the Chiefs who could have a big impact this Sunday, but who might not be well known to Browns fans."
Matt: "If you're not already familiar with seventh round rookie Marcus Cooper, he's been a great addition at cornerback for the Chiefs after claiming him on waivers from the 49ers earlier this year. He stepped in for Brandon Flowers while the Chiefs' top cornerback was injured and the defense didn't miss a beat. Since Flowers came back, the Chiefs have sat veteran Dunta Robinson in favor of the rookie. That's a very good thing. On a defense filled with Pro Bowlers and dynamic young talent, Cooper has made his presence felt. That's quite a feat."
Thanks again to Matt for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find my answers to Matt's Q&A with me over at Arrowhead Pride.