|Last unbeaten team wary of weakened KC|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 16 October 2008 13:31|
The Giants were 4-0, but the Browns, with only one win, whipped the visiting Super Bowl champs up and down the Dawg Pound.
Now, six days later, the Tennessee Titans (5-0) head for Kansas City (1-4), which learned on Thursday it'll be further weakened by the loss of Larry Johnson. For violating unspecified team rules, the two-time Pro Bowl running back has been benched, leaving Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles, with 117 yards rushing between them, to face a Tennessee defense ranked No. 5 overall.
Even before coach Herm Edwards' announcement, the Titans, the NFL's last unbeaten team, were 8-point favorites as both teams come off their bye week.
``Certainly Kansas City hasn't had the best record so far,'' said Titans quarterback Kerry Collins. ``But to think it's just going to be a cakewalk for us is crazy. We've got to be ready to play. No question about it.''
Linebacker David Thornton knows people are making the assumption ``that we could relax and go out there and they're going to lay down for us.''
``That's not the case at all,'' he added. ``This is professional football, and they're going to prepare to go out and win the football game. They're going to look at their chances and think, `Hey we still have a chance to be a playoff contender.'''
It's doubtful the rookie-laden Chiefs will be thinking that. The youngest team in the league was blown out by Carolina and Atlanta and thoroughly whipped in the only win that Oakland has managed.
They had been energized knowing quarterback Brodie Croyle would return this week after sitting out four games with a separated shoulder. But then they were rudely reminded of their place in the world when Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez spent the bye week trying to get traded to a contender, admitting he would like a chance for a Super Bowl run before his career runs out in another year or two.
When the Chiefs failed to make a deal, the 32-year-old Gonzalez called a players-only meeting to assure his teammates that he meant no offense.
we can be good this year,'' Gonzalez said, straining to be as diplomatic as possible. ``But it takes guys about three years to really get in that groove. That's how long it took me.''
Veteran cornerback Patrick Surtain said Gonzalez removed any hint of ill feelings.
``We know what Tony brings to the table. It was good that he addressed the team, especially with us being so young,'' Surtain said.
Said Gonzalez, ``It's business as usual.''
But for the troubled Chiefs, business as usual lasted only one day before the Johnson bombshell dropped.
Last year, with Johnson sidelined by a broken foot and Smith starting at running back, the Chiefs lost their last eight games.
Now Smith and rookie Charles will spell Johnson, who had 198 yards on Sept. 28 against Denver in KC's only victory since Oct. 21, 2007.
Smith has hardly carried at all this year. He and Charles, a third-round pick out of Texas, will be going against a tough Tennessee defense which is giving up just 95.8 yards on the ground.
``Everybody makes a big deal out of the records, but this is the NFL,'' said Collins. ``It's extremely competitive. It's so hard to win a game week in and week out.''
In one hopeful sign for the Chiefs, Croyle said late in the week his shoulder felt great.
n the right spots at the right time.''
Knowing four weeks ago he would probably make his return this week, Croyle's had plenty of time to prepare.
``I've had a month to get ready for Tennessee. So I've watched a lot of Tennessee (film),'' he said. ``For me personally, it feels like a second opening day.''
An interesting subplot will be Croyle's toughness. In seven starts, he's been hurt three times. Another injury to the third-year pro would sorely tempt the Chiefs to look for another quarterback to feature in their rebuilding effort.
``My ultimate goal is to make sure Brodie doesn't get hit at all,'' said rookie left tackle Branden Albert.
One Titan who's not likely to be lulled into a false sense of security at 5-0 is center Kevin Mawae.
``I've been on a team that started 6-0 and we didn't make the playoffs,'' he said. ``It's still early to talk about anything but the next week. They won their one game at home this year, so we need to be ready for anything they throw at us.''