Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs opponent preview: Chiefs, Week 11

When they play: Week 11 (Nov. 20) in Kansas City.

2015 record: 11-5, won wild card, lost to Patriots 27-20.

Last time vs. Bucs: Bucs won 38-10 in Tampa in 2012, with Josh Freeman throwing for three touchdowns and Ronde Barber returning an interception 78 yards for a touchdown.

2016 outlook: Which Chiefs are the real Chiefs? The ones that opened 1-5 last year, or the ones that won 11 straight? The ones that blanked the Texans 30-0 in the playoffs, or lost to the Patriots a week later? Alex Smith remains unappreciated, and Kansas City's defense, with five Pro Bowlers last year, is still not to be overlooked amid the rising Raiders and declining Broncos in the AFC West.

Player to watch: Smith had an interception percentage of just 1.5 percent last season -- only Aaron Rodgers (1.4) and Tom Brady (1.1) were lower among QBs with 300-plus passes. He did this with arguably one good receiver in Jeremy Maclin. His career postseason statistics? 11 TDs against one interception. He's 32, so his window for a sustained playoff run is running out.

Rookie to watch: Fifth-round receiver Tyreek Hill was kicked out of Oklahoma State after he was charged with violence against his pregnant girlfriend. He'll get a chance to play for the Chiefs, especially on returns, where he's been compared to Devin Hester.

Key matchup: Front seven vs. opposing running backs. Kansas City racked up 47 sacks without any player getting even eight -- once Justin Houston is healthy, he and Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are game-changers. Can second-round pick Chris Jones give them another pass-rushing option?

Familiar face: Former USF linebacker Sam Barrington, cut by the Packers, has returned from an ankle injury that cost him almost all of 2015. Still just 25, he has a chance to show more of what he flashed in 2014 in Green Bay.

Cool stat: With limited targets to throw to, the Chiefs ranked 30th in passing yards (203 per game) and had only 20 touchdowns -- only five teams had less. But they had an NFL-low seven interceptions, so they didn't put their defense in many bad positions at all.

Comments

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