HOUSTON VS CAROLINA PREVIEW By Brad Lorkovic (LORK 88) What a great opening day we had! Just about everyone stepped up, and for the first time ever, we looked like a team ready to compete, and a team who could achieve a winning season this year. Of course people will continue to say the Chiefs dont look that great this year, but its more than just a win; its justification for everything weve been saying since the off season. This week however, will be a whole different game as we go to North Carolina to take on the Panthers. Theyre also coming off an impressive win last week, and dont look like they want to lose any time soon either. This game looks like it has the makings of one that will come down to the wire, so who takes it, the up and coming Texans, or the well established Panthers? Houstons Running Game vs. Carolinas Run D: This is where we need to step up and really dominate. Green has been solid so far, but needs to work on finishing the runs better. He shows power hitting the hole and can bounce off tackles, which is perfect for us controlling the clock. Dayne last week however needs to step up and hit the hole quicker. He looked good last year against the Colts, but hes looking like he did last year when he would lunge into the pile and hope for something to happen. Our run blocking looked good last week and progressively got better as the game wore on. For Carolina, they have speed on the outside. Peppers runs like a receiver, and their outside LBs can fly. Davis is a converted safety and Beason clocked one of the fastest times for a LB in the combine. The other LB in the middle is Morgan and hes probably top 10 when healthy (has been a big if lately). He flies around the ball and is consistent when hes playing. The rest of the defense surrounds around Kris Jenkins, who is quite possibly one of the quickest DTs off the ball. The other DT is Kemoeatu who is a DT who just eats up blocks. The last man to round out the run defense in the front 7 is Mike Rucker, who can be a player, but is showing his age and the injury last season seemed to slow him down a bit. Regardless, he can step up when needed. For us, we need to give our RBs choices to run the ball. Because of the DTs in the middle, we need to get containment on them and try to run off the tackles and in the middle. It should be tough, but if we can get consistency and use this to control the clock, well be in good shape. Houstons Passing Game vs. Carolinas Pass D: Schaub had a great game last week. He made quick decisions, hit receivers in stride, and was smart with the ball. We need him to repeat what he did this week. We know Johnson will be ready to play, and with Carolinas safeties being more in the box type of players, I like his chances of running deep routes if we get the time. Walter didnt really do much statistically, but contributed in other ways and blended in well. Jacoby is, well, Jacoby. He still is the fast rookie who hasnt dropped a pass yet. Daniels will have a good match up too, but hopefully he can exploit the middle. For Carolina, their strength is at CB. When Lucas is on, hes a tough cover corner. Gamble is a little more inconsistent, but can make plays. My favorite player in their CB group is Richard Marshall (I pushed for Houston to trade with the Bears in round 1 to take him). He had a stellar rookie season, and is probably one of the most balanced players in their secondary. Hes tough on receivers and can tackle well too. The safeties dont worry me too much. They looked good in week 1, but Carolinas safeties are like ours, just a small step up. The LBs can cover too, especially Davis. As a converted safety, thats one of his strong points. However, their pass rush will be the big battle. We all know what Peppers can do, so I wont even get into the havoc that can be caused by him. Jenkins will also be a guy to keep an eye on, as his quickness can cause problems. The other guy to watch for who gets to take advantage of attention being deferred to the rest of the line is Kendal Moorehead because of all the attention his teammates cause. He is a more athletic DT and can get pressure on the QB. For us, we need to get rid of the ball quick and keep them in short yardage situations. When we get into 3rd and long situations is when they get to pin back their ears and let loose, so keeping the passes short and using play actions will be crucial. Carolinas Rushing Game vs. Houstons Run D: This season, Carolina switched to the zone blocking scheme to better suit the RBs. The result? 156 rushing yards between Foster and Williams. They are the key to the running game (obviously). Both have good speed with Williams being the quicker, shiftier RB and Foster being more of a downhill runner. Both are also home run threats when given the right hole. As far as their O line goes, its nothing special, but it gets the job done and is built for the ZBS. None of them are over 315 and can move well enough in space. The key for us is to be stout at the point of attack and not letting plays get outside. Mario did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage and getting to the ball when it was time. Weaver looked slow, and needs to get containment on the outside plays. As far as our DTs, they got good penetration in the middle, but need to work on not getting pushed back and holding the line at the point of attack. As far as our LBs go, we all know they will fly to the ball. Ryans does a great job of shooting gaps and is a sound tackler. Clark was a nice surprise as he did a good job running plays down and staying strong. Greenwood looked fine as well (I really didnt notice him too much, but that means he really didnt do much as far as screwing up goes). Overall, outside containment is what we need to work on for this game. Carolina likes to run off tackle and get to the edge, and with their speed, they can do this effectively. If we can make them run more in the middle, I like our chances against the run. Carolinas Passing Game vs. Houstons Pass D: Sad to say, David Carr wont be starting at QB, so no sweet revenge for us. Instead, it will be Delhomme, who has started off great so far. He made his reads, and most importantly made zero bad decisions. A big benefit however was the time he got to make his reads. His O line gave up zero sacks last week, which needs to get fixed this Sunday. As far as targets go, Steve Smith is the obvious one. He may be small, but he plays like hes 64 220. He can beat you deep, make the tough catch, and will run reverses to use his speed to expose defenses. Outside of Smith, the Panthers have some other targets that can occasionally do some damage. The one that has emerged this season has been TE Jeff King, who has been a nice safety valve for Delhomme. After Smith, Drew Carter and Kerry Colbert round out the WR group. Carter is big and fast, but is still working his way up the depth chart. Colbert hasnt been the same since his rookie year, and has turned into more of a possession receiver. For us, the key will be to get pressure. Mario did a great job of getting pressure, but part of that is due to pressure coming from the DTs. Another big part will be us matching up with Steve Smith. He can get deep, so our safeties will get tested often. If we can keep them from going deep, well be much better off. We can play passing teams that keep things intermediate, but CC and Hutchins will really have to prove themselves in coverage this week. Position Battle QB Advantage: PUSH RB Advantage: CAROLINA WR Advantage: PUSH TE Advantage: HOUSTON OL Advantage: CAROLINA DL Advantage: CAROLINA LB Advantage: PUSH CB Advantage: CAROLINA S Advantage: CAROLINA K/P Advantage: PUSH RET Advantage: HOUSTON Key Factors To The Game 1) Don't give up the big play. Carolina is synonymous with Steve Smith, and one of his biggest assets as a player is being able to stretch a defense and get behind it (he had a 68 yard TD catch against St. Louis last week). This will demand a lot of Dunta and our safeties deep, but luckily Hutchins should be a bigger help in that department. Carolina has a solid running game and Delhomme does throw to other receivers, but I feel that if we can stop the big play and force them to be dependent in other areas, it would make it easier on our defense. 2) Win the turnover battle. We won it last week easily with 2 INTs and 2 Fumbles recovered versus our 1 fumble and INT each, and we ended up with great field position and a win. We've got to keep that up this week as well. Carolina will be ready to blitz and force bad decisions, so we need to be smart on offense. On defense, we need to force turnovers to put our offense in good positions and keep Carolina from scoring. I know it sounds simple and easy, but it really will be imperative to the game that we do so. 3) Run the ball successfully. We did a decent job of this last week and it gave us control of the clock and stopped and potential of Kansas City coming back. However, this week we need it more so that we can keep the defense honest and balanced. If Ahman and Dayne can get going on the ground, then it lets us open up the playbook and keep the defense in check. It also helps neutralize their pass rush and make them focus their efforts in other areas. KEY MATCHUPS 1) Houston O Line vs. Carolina D Line This will be our biggest test as Carolina has a defensive line that is talented and experienced. Our O Line was successful last week when it came to the run game and giving Schaub time, but there's a big difference between a full strength Carolina D Line and a Chiefs D Line with their top player suspended. Schuab gets rid of the ball fast, but he'll still need time. If he gets it, we could have a successful day. 2) Steve Smith vs. Dunta Robinson Both are small, aggressive, and fast which should make this match up extremely interesting. Smith already broke off a big play last week against St. Louis, but Dunta Robinson has had a great start to the season, getting in on a bunch of plays while leaving his receiver with very little. This goes with the 1st key to the game, in that if Dunta can slow Smith down, our defense stands a lot better chance and can focus in other areas. However, we're in trouble if he struggles, unless our safeties give us support deep. FINAL SAY To win this game, we need to play sound football. Carolina is a solid team, but has been flakey when it comes to playing consistent football over the season. We need to be the team that is more consistent and takes care of the football. The name of the game for us will be controlling the clock. I feel that if we can keep their offense off the field, we can hopefully stop them from getting hot. It will be a tough game and well need a good amount of plays to keep it close, but we can play with Carolina. I wouldnt be surprised if the game came down to the last few possessions in the 4th quarter.