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Kansas City: The Breakdown

A win this week against the Chiefs will take a little of the pressure off the Rams heading into two inter-division clashes with the 9ers and Seahawks and after seeing Kansas City fall 31-0 against the Chargers, there is every reason to be confident. The Chiefs, like the Rams, are in a rebuilding phase, so success this year is seen as a bonus. Currently at 8-5 they only hold a 1 game lead over San Diego and will certainly be looking to get back on track in week 15.

What has made the Chiefs so dangerous has been their double-headed monster in the backfield. Everyone in the league knows that Jamaal Charles is the superior back, but heavy doses of Thomas Jones has kept Charles fresh as the season wears on. Charles has 192 carries to Jones’ 190, but there is a more obvious difference on pass plays, where Charles has been on the field for 259 plays, Jones only 135. Their on-field production has also separated the two. Charles has 1,177yds & 6.1 avg compared to Jones’ 766yds & 4.0 avg, although Jones has outperformed Charles for touchdowns, 5 to 3.

When it comes to their rushing tendencies, the Chiefs favour running outside the left of their O-Line, especially bouncing it out wide of the opposition LDE (15%), rather than directly behind LT Brandon Albert (8%). Jones is more effective running outside the RDE though, with a 6.8 avg vs. 5.3 avg on the opposite side. If the Chiefs do run to the right, it is less likely to be behind RG Ryan Lilja (7%) or RT Barry Richardson (9%). When Dexter McCluster has lined up as a RB he has also preferred running to the left. With the Rams injury issues at OLB, Vobora, Chamberlain and Kehl will be under pressure to have good games and looked upon to mop up when the D-Line can’t…

The rest of the breakdown after the jump!

The passing game has been very effective with Matt Cassel at the helm. Having thrown 23 TDs to only 4 INTs he was quietly having a very good year. However an emergency appendectomy caused him to miss last week and that was a major reason for the Chiefs embarrassing 31-0 defeat. Brodie Croyle could only manage 7/17 for 40yds (and 4 sacks) so Cassel’s return is crucial if Kansas want to win. Cassel was helped by Dwayne Bowe’s phenomenal 7 game streak with 13 TD catches, but 1 catch for only 3 yards in the last two weeks shows he can be contained. Cassel’s dependence on Bowe as a deep threat is emphasized by the fact he’s only completed 1/12 to the deep left, so I’d expect to see the Rams safeties cheat towards Bowe on Sunday. It is also worth noting that Cassel has been good when blitzed (61.3% completion rate) but not when actually pressured (47.6%), so if Atogwe isn’t on helping over the top on Bowe, he should be blitzing from the box.

Defensively for the Chiefs their stars are in the secondary. Brandon Flowers is establishing himself among the elite shutdown corners with Asomugha and Revis, while Brandon Carr is also playing pretty damn well. So far in 2010 both players have allowed less than 50% of passes in their direction to be completed. Rookie nickel Javier Arenas and safety Eric Berry have also shown flashes of great play so Sam Bradford will have his work cut on finding open receivers. Linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali have been their other difference makers. Hali has 13 sacks for the season and an impressive 49 QB pressures (only Chris Long, 52, has more). Johnson has racked up 99 tackles with his solid play against the run.

If the Rams are to win this game the will need to attack the weaknesses of the Chiefs defense. Hali is their only real pass-rush threat so must be accounted for. The best way to do that will be to run right at him. By the same token Johnson’s weakness is in pass-coverage, so short passes over the middle will test his limitations too. A heavy dose of Steven Jackson should also help things and lessen the pressure put on Bradford to pick apart the Chief’s defensive backs.

Prediction time

The Rams are 4-2 at home, the Chiefs are 2-5 away. If Cassel can’t go the Rams can sell out against the run and it’s an easy St. Louis victory by 2 TDs. If he can it will be a close game, probably decided by two match-ups: SJax vs. Johnson and Bowe vs. Bartell. Rams still win though, but only by a field goal.

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