NFL Stock Watch: Chiefs don't get no respect
The NFL Stock Watch takes a weekly look around the league at who's up and who's down.
At 7-0, the Kansas City Chiefs are the NFL's Rodney Dangerfield. No respect, I tell you. They're undefeated, they've got one of -- if not the -- top defenses in the NFL, their offense doesn't make many mistakes and they're playing a replicable style of football.
And yet no one wants to drink the Kool-Aid. I'm not sure why not. We've seen our back-to-the-pack, early-season contender drop off. That was Miami's gig, and at this stage the Miami Dolphins 3-0 start feels like a fever dream.
Kansas City's a good bet to stretch its winning streak to nine games, with matchups against the Cleveland Browns at home and Buffalo Bills on the road in the next two weeks. That's when we'll find out a lot about the Chiefs. Both their games against the Denver Broncos come in the next three weeks and the very sneaky San Diego Chargers are sandwiched in between.
But why will Denver automatically dominate Big Red and Co?
If you saw what happened to the Broncos on Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts you understand they're beatable if you can a) pressure Peyton Manning and b) play strong man coverage against their wide receivers.
That's what the Chiefs success this season is predicated on! Justin Houston , Tamba Hali and Dontari Poe are a force to be reckoned with up front. Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith are playing well on the back end and Eric Berry 's an enforcer.
The Chiefs can slow down the Denver attack. It's just a matter of whether or not they can keep up with the Broncos. With Alex Smith under center there's no guarantee. Maybe their schedule has been soft. But right now the Chiefs are rolling, and they deserve the accolades that come with being the last team to keep the corks on ice in Miami.
Mario Williams , DE, Bills: Super Mario shouldn't get all the credit for a beastly performance Sunday against the Dolphins. Going up against Tyson Clabo and Jonathan Martin has its perks. But he was dominant and a large reason the Bills won were his fourth-quarter sacks. One of them was particularly terrifying, as Williams blew by Clabo and annihilated Ryan Tannehill .
It hurts to watch but it's still mesmerizing. Earlier in the game Williams had his way with Martin, literally tossing the second-year tackle with one arm and then almost bringing down Tannehill.
All told Williams had three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, with the added bonus of temporarily moving into Tannehill's kitchen. No wonder the Fins traded for Bryant McKinnie .
Ryan Mathews , RB, Chargers: I really don't want to get sucked in here after years of disappointment ... but Mathews looks like he's turning the corner, right? Back-to-back games of 100-plus yards and 4.93 yards per carry make you want to believe though. Mathews is doing everything right too, telling reporters he doesn't want to talk about his performance and insisting they speak to the offensive linemen instead.
Robert Mathis , DE, Colts: Mathis might very well be the Defensive Player of the Year midway through the season. What's really amazing about it is how quietly he's putting up his stats -- his 11.5 sacks tie his career high. And there wasn't a much bigger one than the hit he laid on Peyton Manning Sunday night. A brutal blindside blow, it forced a fumble, which resulted in a safety and ultimately a nine-point swing.
Jarrett Boykin , WR, Green Bay Packers : Ted Thompson runs an unknown wide receiver farm in his free time and Boykin is the latest product. No Randall Cobb or James Jones ? No problem. The undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech stepped into the lineup and promptly caught eight passes for 103 yards and a score. Boykin said he and Aaron Rodgers had "a better rhythm" a week after Boykin struggled some in the pass game. Against the Browns, the 6-foot-2 wideout said he was "in that groove" and felt "invincible." With Cobb expected to miss a large part of the season, Boykin needs to be -- and might very well be -- a big contributor for Green Bay.
Jordan Reed , TE, Washington Redskins : Reed had his third game with more than five catches on Sunday, and is quickly developing into a quality weapon for Robert Griffin III . Reed's a versatile receiver too, as he showed with his touchdown catch just before halftime on Sunday.
I wrote about it in Sorting the Sunday Pile this week, but it bears repeating: When the Redskins offense is operating at a high level, there are huge sections of space available for short stuff over the middle. Fred Davis was supposed to be the guy who could fill that space and develop into RG3's top weapon but it hasn't happened. And Reed is taking advantage.
Nick Foles , QB, Philadelphia Eagles : Doesn't it feel like a week ago that we were all clamoring for Chip Kelly to hand the full-time quarterback reins Foles. (You guys were doing that too, right?) He lit up the New York Giants in backup duty and then tore up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary. Out of nowhere, Foles looked lost against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7. 11-for-29 for 80 yards? That's a 38 percent completion percentage and an even worse 2.76 yards per attempt. You just don't see that. He made it obvious, too, that Michael Vick is the best option. Once again Vick finds a window open.
Trent Richardson , RB, Colts: My colleague Ryan Wilson did a nice job covering the Richardson issue in his excellent, weekly Coach Killers piece. But he still warrants a spot here for his struggles since coming to Indianapolis. His production has gone down since the Colts traded for him despite the Indy offensive line playing well. His 3 yards per carry are the definition of pedestrian, and if he can't close out games -- and he couldn't against the Broncos Sunday -- the entire point of trading for him is lost. At least he doesn't have to get tackled by Pat McAfee ?
Chris Clark , OT, Broncos: Clark isn't some high-pedigree lineman who's expected to be dominant for the Broncos every game. He stepped in for Ryan Clady when the All-Pro lineman went down and he's done a fine job of protecting Peyton Manning through the first part of the season. Manning's was only sacked five times before Sunday night ... and that's when things got bad. Clark couldn't keep the Colts pass rush out of the backfield, and with the Indy cornerbacks doing a strong job of manning up the Broncos wideouts, Peyton was in big trouble. It's foreshadowing for what could happen if Clark's play slips.
Josh Freeman , QB, Minnesota Vikings : There was no reason for Minnesota to roll Freeman out onto the field on Monday night. He wasn't ready to play, he didn't appear to know the playbook and he might've been more accurate kicking the ball against the Giants. The biggest problem for Freeman -- and the Vikings -- is they've got to keep rolling with him under center moving forward. They'll face the Packers Sunday night, play at Dallas the week after and then face the Redskins on short rest in Week 10. At least they'll get 10 days before facing the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle the week after? It's not going to be easy adjusting on the fly for Freeman.
Sam Martin , P, Detroit Lions : It's tough to pick on a rookie punter, but Martin's mess up against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday might've cost Detroit the game. With 26 seconds left in a tie game, Martin shanked a 28-yard punt, setting up Andy Dalton to get Mike Nugent in range for a game-winning kick. Martin says that he was expecting a blitz that never came and didn't realize it until it was too late. Part of this falls on Jim Schwartz for not calling a timeout amid the madness and making sure you get a good punt off (or telling Martin to call a timeout if he was worried). But ultimately the kick falls on the punter. Maybe he needs a better routine.
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