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Kansas City Chiefs +9.5 at Carolina Panthers


10/5/08


The 1-3 Kansas City Chiefs, fresh off of a pasting of division rival Denver that finally put them in the win column, now hit the road to face the NFC South Division co-leader, the 3-1 Carolina Panthers.


The Panthers are 2-0 SU and 1-0-1 ATS at home this year after a 24-9 win over division foe Atlanta last week, and a come from behind 20-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 2. The Bears actually held a 17-3 lead in that game well into the 3rd Q, but Carolina rallied to score 17 unanswered points to take a 3 pt lead with around 4 min. left to play in the game. The Panther defense then came up big to stop Chicago on their final 2 possessions to seal the win. Against Atlanta, the Panthers were up just 14-9 at halftime, but they held Atlanta scoreless in the 2nd half to end up with the easy win.


Carolina has averaged a modest 22 pts in their 2 home games and has given up an average of just 13 pts. Overall the defense has been rather stout in only giving up an average of under 300 yds per game in total offense. They are giving up an average of around 114 yds on the ground, but just 182 yds through the air, with Philip Rivers 217 yds being the most given up in a single game so far. They have only given up 4 passing TDís in their 4 games, but 3 of those came in a single game vs the Chargers. Their success in defending the pass comes as somewhat of a surprise considering they have only managed to come up with 7 QB sacks and only 1 INT all year, however they have had the luxury of facing 3 of the less daunting passing offenses in the league in Chicago, Minnesota and Atlanta. They have also not been able to force many turnovers this year as they only have 3 fumble recoveries to go with the single INT.


On offense, Jake Delhomme has been efficient enough to keep them in games but has not done anything spectacular. He had a decent game against San Diego and a very good game against Atlanta, as he passed for a combined 541 yds and 3 TDís and no INTís in those 2 games. But he was just average against Chicago and Minnesota as he combined for just 319 yds, 0 TDís and 1 INT in those games. Overall, he has completed around 60% of his passes for just 3 TDís and 1 INT for a very pedestrian QB rating of 86.8.


Of course he was without star WR Steve Smith for the first two games, so there is definitely room for improvement from here on out. The ground game wasnít able to get anything against the Vikings, but if you throw out that game, theyíve been able to average around 125 yds per game with the duo of RBís Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, who have combined for 100 carries and close to 400 yds. Stewart has been the workhorse around the goal line and has been able to rumble for 4 TDís in 4 games.
 

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The Kansas City Chiefs have had a rough start to the season, mainly because of issues at the QB position. Starter Brodie Croyle was injured in the 1st game of the season against the Patriots, and then backup Damon Huard was injured in the 1st Q of the following game vs the Raiders, forcing the Chiefs to resort to their 3rd stringer, QB Tyler Thigpen, who had never started an NFL game and who had only had a total of 6 passing attempts in his 2007 rookie year. The results were pretty disastrous as Thigpen completed just 40% of his passes for a total of just 279 yds in 2 games, with 2 TDís but 4 INTís, resulting in blowout losses to both Oakland and Atlanta. Whatís interesting though is that the Chiefs were actually in that Oakland game until the end of the 4th Q when Raider RB Michael Bush ran 32 yds for the clinching TD with under a minute left in the game. In the 38-14 loss to Atlanta the following week, 17 of those Falcon pts were set up from Thigpen miscues as Atlanta had one drive of 9 yds to set up a FG, another drive of just 40 yds for a TD and an INT return for another TD. The Kansas City defense has seemed to take the full brunt of the blame, but they are probably not quite as bad as it seems. They did hold New England to just 17 pts in the opener. And then last week they held the previously high-scoring Broncos to just 19 pts. Cutler was forced to play catch-up so the 360 yds passing looks worse that it was, but they did intercept him twice too. With QB Huard back at the helm, the Chiefs offense was clicking as Huard hit 21 of 28 passes for 160 yds and a TD, and RB Larry Johnson rumbled for 198 yds on just 28 carries for 2 more TDís and a nice 7.1 yd per carry average.


Iím not saying that the Kansas City defense doesnít have its issues. And the Carolina defense has certainly been more stout than the Denver defense the Chiefs faced last week. But Carolina hasnít really been blowing many teams out either, as theyíve had a 10 pt loss and two wins by 3 pts or less in their 4 games this year. The Kansas City team we saw last week, and in Week 1 vs the Patriots, is probably a lot closer to the real Chiefs than the team we saw in losses to the Raiders and Falcons with their 3rd string QB in there. The Panthers seem to do a lot better on the road, and as the underdog, than in roles as a home favorite. They are just 12-21 ATS in their last 33 home-favorite situations. More recently, they are 4-8 ATS in their last 12 games as a home favorite. Whatís funny is that, looking back to 1996, in 65 games as a home favorite they have only been favored by more than 9 pts one time. Iím not sure what is so different about this Panther team that warrants them being 9.5 pt favorites, but Iím sure it has more to do with the perception that the Chiefs stink way more than they really do. Kansas City is 7-2 ATS in their last 9 roles as road underdog. They were road dogs of greater than 9.5 pts 3 times last year and covered them all. Iíd take the 9.5 pts, but shop for 10, or even consider buying the hook to make it 10 just for comfortís sake. Regardless, itís Kansas City +9.5.
 

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