AFC West: Dwayne Bowe

Dwayne Bowe has sprained shoulder

December, 22, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has what the Kansas City Chiefs called a sprained shoulder, putting in doubt his ability to play in Sunday’s final regular season game against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.

“He was a bit tender,’’ coach Andy Reid said Monday.

The Chiefs can still make the playoffs with a win over the Chargers, but they need help. the combination of required results make the postseason a long shot for the Chiefs. But there’s a chance, so it’s not a good thing if their leading wide receiver can’t play in a game they would need to win to get into the playoffs.

Bowe
The Chiefs aren’t deep at wide receiver, so the loss of Bowe would leave the Chiefs with a collection of players that includes rookies Albert Wilson and De'Anthony Thomas, Jason Avant, Junior Hemingway, Frankie Hammond Jr. and Donnie Avery, who was a healthy scratch Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Reid was optimistic that Bowe would be available against the Chargers. Bowe missed all of the last practice week because of flu symptoms, but he played anyway on Sunday in Pittsburgh and caught six passes for 57 yards.

So even if Bowe can’t practice this week, he should play against the Chargers if he’s physically able.

“Knowing Dwayne, he doesn’t miss much,’’ Reid said. “I think he’ll be OK once it’s all said and done here. We’ve got a little different schedule because of Christmas and we’ll practice tomorrow. It will be a stretch for him to practice to be able to do that tomorrow but as the week goes on, he’ll be there.’’

The emergence of Wilson has been one of the few positives as the Chiefs have lost four of their last five games. The undrafted rookie has moved into the starting lineup and has 12 receptions for 209 yards in the last three games.

“You see him after the catch and he was a good punt returner and kick returner in college and you see that,’’ Reid said. “You see his ability to kind of work in space and kind of set up his moves.’’
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After losing their season-opener in a rather convincing manner, the Kansas City Chiefs are in a position where they could use a lift from the return of their most accomplished wide receiver.

Bowe
 Dwayne Bowe isn’t waiting until Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos to try to provide that lift. He indicated that process started earlier in the week, shortly after his return for a one-game NFL suspension for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

“Just be myself,’’ Bowe said when asked what he wanted to accomplish this week. “Come in jovial, come in picking guys up and letting them know it’s one game at a time, one play at a time. Just play with energy, just play with passion, just play your game. That’s what I’m preaching to everyone in the locker room, and that’s what we’ve got to bring if we’re going to beat the Denver Broncos.’’

That’s all good, but what the Chiefs really need from Bowe is to play on Sunday as he did earlier in his career. One reason the Chiefs floundered on offense against the Tennessee Titans is that their wide receivers caught just eight passes, which is tied for last in the league with the New York Giants.

“Being a playmaker, you want to make plays whenever the ball is being thrown,’’ said Bowe, who watched the game on TV at his home in Kansas City. “It was hard watching. I’ve seen myself making some of the plays that [weren’t] made. If they happen again, I’ll be out there to make those plays.

“I wish I could have been out there to help my team, but things happen and you move forward and you learn from them and you try to let it not happen again.’’
If you're surprised at this latest news regarding Dwayne Bowe -- he was suspended one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy -- you haven't been paying attention.

Bowe
You remember his four-game suspension in 2009 for performance-enhancing drugs. You recall that earlier in his career, Bowe repeatedly reported to camp in lousy physical condition. You know dependability isn't Bowe's strong suit, despite his three 1,000-yard seasons.

And now the Kansas City Chiefs will be without their most accomplished wide receiver for the season-opening game against the Tennessee Titans.

Bowe, in a statement through the NFL Players Association, apologized to his teammates and coaches and Chiefs fans. I don't doubt his sincerity. But it doesn't change the fact that the Chiefs can't count on him when they kick off a new season.

They will survive against the Titans without Bowe. Their other starting wide receiver, Donnie Avery, had a big game against Tennessee this past season. The Chiefs can cobble together a competent receiving group for one game, with Junior Hemingway, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins and Albert Wilson. They might also go more to a good group of receiving tight ends or Pro Bowl tailback Jamaal Charles that day.

Next time, however, will the Chiefs be fortunate enough to lose Bowe for only one game and against one of the weaker opponents on their schedule?

Because there's one thing we know, if we've been paying attention: Bowe will eventually let the Chiefs down again.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs made their decision on Dwayne Bowe for better or for worse last year when they signed him to a lucrative, long-term contract.

They didn’t get their money’s worth from their No. 1 wide receiver last year, when he had the worst statistical full season of his career. Bowe failed to lead the Chiefs in receiving for the first time since they traded Tony Gonzalez after the 2008 season.

But in part because of Bowe’s big contract, the Chiefs were limited in their ability to pursue a receiver in free agency. The only wide receiver likely to make the regular-season roster who wasn’t with the Chiefs last season is rookie Albert Wilson, an undrafted free agent.

So their best chance to see dramatic improvement at the position may rest with Bowe. He had a tough day at practice on Wednesday, dropping a pair of passes and deflected another for an interception.

That’s hardly an indication that Bowe won’t rebound this season. But he hasn’t had a great camp and the Chiefs may be guilty of wishful thinking when it comes to their top wide receiver.

Bowe in September will turn 30, the age when the skills of many receivers start their decline. Could it be that process has already started with Bowe?

We’ll find out soon. Chiefs wide receivers coach David Culley said Bowe is in much better shape than he was last summer. Bowe said he’s in the best shape of his career.

“I know from last year, it’s completely different,’’ said Culley, who in his second season with the Chiefs. “Thirty is a mindset. There’s old 30s and there’s young 30s. Which 30 do you want to be? When he came back, he came back as a young 30 and that’s what you have to do to play in this league for a long time.’’

The Chiefs need Culley to be right. If he’s not, it would be obvious the Chiefs made the wrong decision last year on Bowe.

Camp preview: Kansas City Chiefs

July, 17, 2014
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» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation reporter Adam Teicher examines the three biggest issues facing the Kansas City Chiefs heading into training camp.

Where is Houston? Having outperformed the contract he signed with the Chiefs as a third-round draft pick in 2011, outside linebacker Justin Houston was absent for all the offseason practices, including the mandatory minicamp. Since Houston’s only leverage for getting a contract extension this year is to stay away from camp until he gets it, it's unlikely he will show without a new deal. That would be a tough blow for the Chiefs. Houston is their top proven pass-rusher and arguably their best all-around defensive player. The pass rush, which was on a record pace for sacks over the first half of last season, sagged measurably after a dislocated elbow caused him to miss the final five regular-season games. The Chiefs would not be left without quality edge pass-rushers. Veteran Tamba Hali, another Pro Bowler, is on the other side, and the Chiefs drafted Auburn’s Dee Ford in the first round. Ford looked promising as a pass-rusher during offseason practice, but it’s a bit much to expect him to immediately be as versatile as Houston. Ford was a defensive end in college and has much to learn before he is on Houston’s level.

Who is at corner? The Chiefs released Brandon Flowers last month, leaving them perilously thin at cornerback. With the exception of 5-foot-9 nickelback Chris Owens, all their remaining cornerbacks are big and capable of getting physical with opposing receivers, as the Chiefs prefer. But the quality is a concern. Veteran Sean Smith steps in as the top cornerback, and he held his own as a starter last season. Marcus Cooper will at least begin camp as the other starter. As a rookie, he played well for the first half of last season as the third cornerback, but his play tailed off badly in the second half, to the point that the Chiefs benched him. Cooper has the physical tools to be a decent starter, but he showed over the final few games of last season that he has a lot to learn. The Chiefs drafted Phillip Gaines of Rice in the third round this year, but during offseason practice it didn’t look like he was ready to contribute. Journeyman Ron Parker played well in his one start last season. But he got a lot of playing time during the offseason and was often exposed.

A rebound for Bowe? In September, Dwayne Bowe turns 30, an ominous age for a wide receiver because that is when many begin to lose their skills. That process might already have started for Bowe, who had the worst full statistical season of his career in 2013. Still, Bowe represents the Chiefs’ most realistic hope for improvement at what was largely an unproductive position last season. The Chiefs added former Canadian League star Weston Dressler and drafted speedy De'Anthony Thomas in the fourth round, but they are slot receivers and are merely trying to replace the production lost with the free-agent departure of Dexter McCluster. Otherwise, the Chiefs will go with the same uninspiring cast of receivers as last season, meaning Bowe needs to get back to what he was earlier in his career. That is not an unreasonable expectation. Bowe was never particularly fast, so he doesn’t have a lot of speed to lose. The Chiefs need to do a better job of playing to his strengths, the main one being his ability to find yards after the catch. The Chiefs should get back to the bubble screens that were so productive for Bowe earlier in his career.
Bigger is better when it comes to wide receivers. That’s not a secret around the NFL, and it’s not a notion that’s particularly new. Speed matters, but size is generally what wins out.

That’s something all teams, the Kansas City Chiefs included, believe. Bigger, stronger receivers are more capable of shucking physical coverage and making catches in a larger radius, thus giving the quarterback more room for error. That’s accepted fact in the NFL, not opinion.

Now comes my ESPN colleague, Mike Rodak, who covers the Buffalo Bills, with an interesting story. Rodak went through NFL rosters and figured an average height for the wide receivers for each team.

The Bills led the league with an average height of 6-2. Of more interest to you, the Chiefs came in next to last at slightly less than 5-11 1/2. And that doesn’t even count rookie De'Anthony Thomas, who should be playing at least some as a slot receiver but is being listed for the time being as a running back.

Thomas is 5-9.

A height of 6-2 is generally considered the dividing line for a receiver between having the right size and not. Dwayne Bowe at 6-2 is the only Chiefs' receiver who passes the test. Among the others who could or might play a significant amount next season, Donnie Avery is 5-11, A.J. Jenkins 6-0, Junior Hemingway 6-1 and Weston Dressler 5-7.

The Bills, as a comparison, have seven wide receivers who stand at least 6-2.

The Chiefs have some tall tight ends who can help compensate. Travis Kelce, who showed some impressive receiving skills last year before a knee ailment ruined his rookie season, is 6-5, as is Sean McGrath. Anthony Fasano, who caught three touchdown passes last year despite missing seven games with injuries, is 6-4.

But this is an issue for the Chiefs. Their receivers were at or near the bottom of the league in production last year and a lack of size is one reason why.

It’s not just my opinion here. Read what Bills general manager Doug Whaley had to say. The Chiefs may not go on the record as saying so, but they agree, too.

WR has to be priority for Chiefs

March, 17, 2014
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You might like the Kansas City Chiefs to improve at any number of positions before starting the 2014 season and chances are they might agree with you at least in some of those areas. But the fact is they have enough at this point to line up, play a game and at least be competitive with most NFL teams.

You might think the Chiefs have holes in their starting lineup at right guard and free safety, but I don’t think the Chiefs agree with you there. Their actions in free agency would suggest they don’t. At right guard, they watched without a trace of panic as the two players who shared the starting spot last season walked out the door in free agency, Jon Asamoah to the Atlanta Falcons and Geoff Schwartz to the New York Giants. They did sign Jeff Linkenbach from the Indianapolis Colts and he could wind up claiming that vacant starting spot, though his versatility suggests they prefer him as a backup at both tackle and guard. The Chiefs have three developmental prospects in the middle of the offensive line in Eric Kush, Rishaw Johnson and Rokevious Watkins. At this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one of them was a starter next season.

The Chiefs don’t appear interested in re-signing Kendrick Lewis, their starting free safety. But neither have they appeared interested in replacing him through free agency. They could draft a free safety, but the two best prospects will likely be off the board by the time the Chiefs make their first pick. They did re-sign reserve Husain Abdullah, but for backup money. All signs there point to Sanders Commings, a rookie last season, inheriting that job. The Chiefs were impressed with Commings in offseason practice last year and he was going to challenge for playing time but broke his collarbone in the first practice at training camp. That effectively ruined his rookie season but he’s back and will find a role somewhere in their defensive backfield.

Then there’s wide receiver, which is a little bit of a different story. The Chiefs were last in the NFL last season in receptions, yards and first downs from their wide receivers, and that was before they lost Dexter McCluster to the Tennessee Titans as a free agent. It’s unfair and inaccurate to blame this problem on quarterback Alex Smith. The fact is, receivers weren’t getting open enough down the field and dropped too many passes.

The Chiefs tried to sign free agent Emmanuel Sanders of the Pittsburgh Steelers and thought they had an agreement with him on a contract. They believe Sanders’ agent then shopped the offer to other teams and he struck a better deal instead with the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs haven’t and most likely won’t say anything publicly on this matter but they’re not happy about things because the loss of Sanders stings. He would have been the solution to many of their receiving problems and they know it.

Instead, this is what they’re left with at wide receiver: Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, A.J. Jenkins, Junior Hemingway and Weston Dressler, plus some developmental prospects. You like that mix? They’re good enough for the Chiefs to line up with and not get embarrassed. But probably not much better than that.

In the best-case scenario, Bowe bounces back after a down season, Jenkins plays like the first-round draft pick he once was and Dressler makes the transition from the CFL to the NFL look simple.

The odds are against any of those things happening, much less all three of them. Minus all three things happening, the Chiefs need help at wide receiver in a big way. That's why their priority the rest of the offseason has to be on upgrading their roster of wide receivers.
It was a hectic week for the Kansas City Chiefs this week as the free-agent signing period began. They lost five players who were regulars at some point last year (wide receiver Dexter McCluster, defensive end Tyson Jackson and offensive linemen Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz) but signed three players from other teams (linebacker Joe Mays, defensive lineman Vance Walker and offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach) and re-signed two of their own free agents, reserve linebacker Frank Zombo and backup safety Husain Abdullah.

Now, in this week's Twitter mailbag, we're looking ahead, in some cases toward 2015.
Kansas City Chiefs fans have been less than thrilled with the first few days of free agency. They've watched their team lose five players who were regulars at some point last season while they've added Joe Mays, an inside linebacker who will probably play only on running downs, and Jeff Linkenbach, an offensive lineman who may be just a backup.

Sanders
But the NFL Network reports the Chiefs will visit with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. If the Chiefs could get Sanders under contract, that should be a signing for their fans to be excited about.

If he came to Kansas City, Sanders could wind up being the slot receiver who replaces Dexter McCluster. Sanders caught 67 passes and scored six touchdowns for the Steelers last season and since he turns 27 next week, he should be headed into the best seasons of his career.

Wide receiver is the position of biggest need for the Chiefs. Their No. 1 receiver, Dwayne Bowe, had the least productive full season of his career last year. The Chiefs were last in 2013 in wide receiver receptions, yards and first downs and were near the bottom in touchdowns. That was with McCluster in their lineup.

They were also last in targets, which suggests they weren't getting open. Alex Smith's history is to throw the checkdowns and shorter and safer patterns, so that's part of the issue. But Smith hasn't made a habit of neglecting open receivers down the field, either.

With Sanders, Bowe, A.J. Jenkins, Donnie Avery and perhaps a first-round draft pick (the more I think about it, the better LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. would look in a Chiefs uniform), the receiving positions would be improved. Far from best-in-the-league improved, but good enough to pose a threat to opposing defenses.

Let's put it this way: That group should be good enough to get the Chiefs out of last place in wide receiver production.

Free-agency primer: Chiefs

March, 7, 2014
3/07/14
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: T Branden Albert, G Jon Asamoah, DE Tyson Jackson, LB Akeem Jordan, FS Kendrick Lewis, WR/PR Dexter McCluster, G Geoff Schwartz

Where they stand: The Chiefs need help at wide receiver but may prefer to do their shopping at this position through the draft after having made a sizable financial commitment to Dwayne Bowe last year. The Chiefs have the depth at tackle to withstand the likely loss of Albert, but they'll need to do some shopping if Asamoah and Schwartz, who split time as the starter at right guard last season, depart. On defense, the Chiefs could use another big body for their defensive line, particularly if Jackson leaves as a free agent. A replacement who can be an upgrade over Lewis is another priority. Sanders Commings, a rookie last season, could potentially fill that spot. Whether the Chiefs actively pursue a veteran there could depend on how they feel about Commings' ability to handle the position.

What to expect: The Chiefs should have about $9.6 million in salary-cap space, which is one of the lowest totals in the league and probably won't allow them to win many bidding wars. Even if the Chiefs had the cap room and were so inclined, this isn't a great crop of free-agent wide receivers. Seattle's Golden Tate might make sense for the Chiefs, but only if the price doesn't get out of hand. The Chiefs could look to division rival Denver for guard Zane Beadles if they need a starter to replace Asamoah and Schwartz. Seattle's Red Bryant could be a fit at defensive end if the Chiefs don't re-sign Jackson. Buffalo's Jairus Byrd is exactly what Kansas City is looking for at free safety, but he will likely be out of its price range. If the Chiefs go safety shopping, they might go for a lower-priced option, like Miami's Chris Clemons.

Chiefs mail: Maclin in K.C.?

February, 8, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lots of good Kansas City Chiefs questions this week. Let's get to them.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Earlier I posted on the team grade given to the Kansas City Chiefs by Pro Football Focus and how the Chiefs made the second biggest leap from 2012 to 2013 behind only the Carolina Panthers.

Flowers
The Chiefs' big jump was fueled by improved performances from several players. On offense, the grade PFF gave to running back Jamaal Charles went up dramatically from one season to the next. PFF's grade for quarterback Alex Smith in 2013 was vastly improved to that of his 2012 predecessors, Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel.

On defense, the grades for defensive linemen Dontari Poe, Tyson Jackson and Allen Bailey, linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and safety Eric Berry were all significantly up from 2012.

A few players had their grades drop. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and offensive tackle Branden Albert were among them, but neither player had a huge drop.

One player did have a huge drop; cornerback Brandon Flowers. He will participate in the Pro Bowl on Sunday in Hawaii, more of an honor for what he did in previous seasons than how he played in 2013.

Flowers had some dismal games in 2013, none worse than the torching he received against Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys early in the season, and then by the San Diego Chargers halfway through. In fairness to Flowers, he missed a couple of games early in the season because of a sore knee, and it might not have been right the rest of the way.

Still, it's a fact that Flowers didn't play very well, and it's to the point it's natural to wonder about his future with the Chiefs. He's a 5-foot-9, 187-pound player on a team that now prefers bigger cornerbacks. It's more than a little telling that the Chiefs used Flowers to cover the slot receiver in their nickel defense as the season went on.

Flowers has a big contract (he counts $10.5 million against the Chiefs' 2014 salary cap) and he might not be the best fit for a team that requires it's cornerbacks to play so much one-on-one coverage.

It might be a mistake for the Chiefs to give up on Flowers, who turns 28 next month. Flowers has played well in seasons past, and though he's a little guy, but doesn't usually play like one. He's not afraid to stick his nose into the running game.

But in a division with big receivers like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Keenan Allen, Rod Streater and Andre Holmes, it's a fair question: Is Flowers right for the Chiefs?

It will be interesting to see in the coming months what general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid think.

Bowe more complex than he sounds

January, 15, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dwayne Bowe's interview on Tuesday with Kansas City radio station 810 WHB was interesting on a number of fronts. Before I get to what Bowe said, I wanted to offer some observations about the Kansas City Chiefs' leading wide receiver.

From what I've observed of Bowe during his time with the Chiefs and from talking with several people close to Bowe, he might be the most misunderstood player the Chiefs have ever had. He might have come across publicly over the years as a boastful diva but the truth is that Bowe is probably closer to the opposite.

Between his public comments touting his abilities and the fact Bowe points to the name on the back of uniform at every chance he gets, it's easy to get the idea Bowe is in love with himself. Remember the days of the D. Bowe Show?

Turns out all that stuff was indeed just that, a show. People who know Bowe well describe him as someone with low self-confidence who needed to inflate himself publicly to get ready to play and succeed in a game.

Bowe has, to my knowledge, never publicly complained about not getting the ball enough. That alone is enough to disqualify him as a diva. I had a long talk with quarterback Matt Cassel in his final days with the Chiefs and Bowe was among the subjects of the conversation.

Cassel, knowing Bowe would shortly become a former teammate, still spoke of Bowe in glowing terms. He said Bowe practiced as hard as any receiver he'd ever played with and never once complained to him about how getting the ball.

Last year, with his contract winding down and his time with the Chiefs looking like it might be near the end, rumors were floating that Bowe wanted out of Kansas City. At the time, I was working for the Kansas City Star and Bowe sought me out to tell his side of the story and say he was hurt by the rumors and would prefer to stay with the Chiefs and finish his career with them.

Cynics immediately suggested Bowe was merely engaging in some public contract negotiations by trying to make it appear he was still interested in returning to the Chiefs. Time has proven that Bowe was being sincere, something I strongly suspected at the time because of the look in his eye and the tone of his voice.

Mainly of his own doing, I don't think Bowe gets treated fairly in Kansas City. He certainly didn't help his cause with the interview on Tuesday.

In it, Bowe suggested that:
  • He put three of his teammates in the Pro Bowl with his great play in 2013.
  • He was being profiled by police in Riverside, Mo., in his November arrest for marijuana possession.
  • The media in the hick town of Kansas City was out to get him.
  • Next season he will be as fast and quick as Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.
  • The passing game would flourish next season if the Chiefs find another great receiver to play along with him, a not-so-subtle dig at Donnie Avery and his other fellow Kansas City wide outs.

As far as the profiling and what will eventually become of his marijuana possession case, I'll hold off judgment on that one. I don't know what it's like to be Bowe and until I do I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

On everything else, that's just Bowe being Bowe, or more correctly Bowe being the guy he thinks he needs to be.

Kansas City Chiefs season wrap-up

January, 8, 2014
1/08/14
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 10
Preseason Power Ranking: 19

Biggest surprise: The Chiefs plucked rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, off waivers to start the regular season. Cooper played better than the Chiefs had a right to expect for a long stretch of the season as the third cornerback. He had a rough stretch late in the season before bouncing back at the end. At 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, Cooper has the size to match up with the league's bigger receivers. Cooper projects as nothing less than the Chiefs' third cornerback next season and could eventually become a starter.

Biggest disappointment: Offensive tackle Eric Fisher was the first overall pick in the draft last year but rarely played like it. The Chiefs used Fisher on the right side, and he initially had trouble making the transition. He also had trouble avoiding nagging injuries, which caused him to miss four games, including the playoff loss to Indianapolis. Fisher should eventually develop into the kind of player the Chiefs envisioned. He showed great athletic skills that will help him reach his potential. Fisher was usually unable to anchor against a strong pass rush and that's where many of his problems occurred. A year in Kansas City's strength program will benefit Fisher greatly.

Biggest need: The Chiefs need a fast wide receiver to energize their passing game. They gambled by giving Dwayne Bowe a lucrative long-term contract last offseason, but Bowe didn't play like a No. 1 wide receiver until the playoff loss to the Colts. Bowe will turn 30 next season, so if nothing else, it's time for the Chiefs to plan for someone else to step into that top receiver's role. The Chiefs have a couple of fast wide receivers in Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins. While Avery delivered some big plays, he dropped too many passes and disappeared too many times. Jenkins hasn't been able to establish himself as a consistent threat.

Team MVP: The Chiefs have at least a couple of defensive candidates but the better choice is running back Jamaal Charles. He supplied much of Kansas City's offensive production, particularly early in the season when the offense around him frequently sputtered. Charles led the league in touchdowns and expanded his game to become a much more dangerous pass-catcher. Coach Andy Reid and his offensive staff did a much better job of getting Charles matched up against linebackers in the open field, and he rewarded them with a number of big plays. If the Chiefs had not lost five of their final seven regular-season games, Charles would have been a strong candidate for league MVP.



Something will have to give when the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs meet in an AFC wild-card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.

The Chiefs have lost seven straight playoff games, tying them for the longest playoff losing streak in NFL history. The Colts have lost three straight wild-card playoff games.

This is the second time the teams will meet in a three-game period. The Colts, who are on a three-game winning streak, beat the Chiefs 23-7 at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 22.

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher break down the matchup.

Teicher: The Colts were wobbling coming into Kansas City a couple of weeks ago but seem to have righted themselves that day. What can you point to as the reasons?

Wells: Most fans would say it's because of quarterback Andrew Luck. Don't get me wrong, Luck has been as good as expected, but the change has been led by the defense. The Colts have 12 sacks and have forced eight turnovers, including four against the Chiefs in Week 16, during their three-game winning streak. That's where Luck and the offense come in. You give Luck a short field to work with, and the odds are pretty good that he'll lead the Colts to a score. They scored a quick 17 points in the first quarter against Jacksonville last week.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid decided to rest most of his starters against San Diego in the finale. Do you think that was the right thing to do?

Teicher: Undoubtedly. The Chiefs didn’t get a bye in the playoffs, but Reid created one for eight defensive and seven offensive starters who didn’t play against the Chargers. I would expect that to be reflected in how those guys play against the Colts. Momentum going into the playoffs is overrated. The NFL is such a week-to-week deal that it’s almost impossible for a team to carry anything over from one game to the next, and even at that, the starters were able to get in some practice time last week. Not that this is a huge thing with the playoffs beginning, but the Chiefs got a good look at some of their backups under game conditions against an opponent that needed to win. In several cases, they liked what they saw.

Donald Brown was the Colts’ playmaker against the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago. He obviously is fast and has more power than you would think by looking at him. Why don’t the Colts use him more as their featured back and why did they trade for Trent Richardson?

Wells: Brown took over the starting spot from Richardson against Tennessee on Dec. 1 because Richardson was having a difficult time finding a rhythm. I still think the Colts made the right move in trading for Richardson, because Brown has been inconsistent for most of his five seasons with the Colts up until now. Richardson is still the future for the Colts; they have no intention of parting ways with him after the season. They still envision him and Luck having a great future together. And Brown said it best earlier this week, “There are only a handful of teams that only use one running back. We’re going to need two, three running backs to get through the playoffs.”

Speaking of running backs, it looked like Jamaal Charles was going to have a huge game against the Colts (not that 106 yards is a bad game) after the first series. He ended up with only 13 carries. How come the team’s best player didn’t have more carries or more catches, for that matter?

Teicher: Reid messed up that one and he beat himself up for it afterward. You can count on that not happening again this time around. Charles was given the ball 18 times (13 carries, five receptions) against the Colts two weeks ago. That actually wasn’t a season low for him. He had 16 touches (and a monster game) the week before in Oakland and 18 touches in two other games (both Chiefs losses). Another thing to remember is the Chiefs had only 53 offensive plays against the Colts, their second-lowest total of the season. They didn’t have the normal amount of opportunities to get him the ball. But whether or not the Chiefs have a limited amount of snaps on Saturday, they will get him the ball more often. He’s their best offensive player, so they’re making a huge mistake if they don’t.

Linebacker Jerrell Freeman is another player who had a big game for the Colts when they played against the Chiefs. Has he had other games like that this season? Give us a little scouting report on his strengths and weaknesses.

Wells: You have to credit Colts general manager Ryan Grigson for finding Freeman. Grigson is known for finding players in different parts of the world. He’d probably go to Antarctica to scout if there were a football team there. Freeman is a former Canadian Football League player. He led the Colts in tackles as a rookie and would be the team’s defensive MVP if not for a player named Robert Mathis. Freeman reached double figures in tackles in 12 of the 16 games this season. He has no problem being matched up against a running back out of the backfield, a tight end or even a wide receiver if he has to, because he’s athletic enough to defend them. An argument could be made that Freeman deserved a Pro Bowl nod.

This is not a knock against Charles, but how come the Chiefs had a running back lead them in receiving this season? I would have said Dwayne Bowe led them in receiving if you asked me to take a guess on their leading receiver this season.

Teicher: It’s a number of factors. The Chiefs wanted to use Charles more in the open field and get him in favorable one-on-one matchups, and it’s easier to do that by throwing him the ball. Ideally, the Chiefs would go down the field to their wide receivers more often, but Bowe, Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster haven’t been able to get open consistently and have delivered few plays. Quarterback Alex Smith has tended to do the safe thing and opt for the checkdown to Charles rather than take a chance down the field. It’s something the Chiefs will need to correct next season. They’ll find another receiver or two in the draft or through free agency.

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