Jamaal Charles in on pace for career-highs in rushes, receptions and touchdowns. He's also averaging less than 5.0 yards per carry for the first time in his career, and has dealt with more nagging, minor injuries than usual. Are Chiefs fans concerned at all about his central role in the offense, given his body type and playing style? Or is he handling the increased workload fine?
Thorman: Well, he continues to play so he is handling it fine -- so far, at least. There's definitely some concern from Chiefs fans regarding his workload. It's an awful lot, way more than he's ever had before, and he has had at least four minor injuries dating back to training camp. He's so, so important to the offense that we do worry about it often. The problem is, who are they going to replace him with? Knile Davis has 17 career carries and the Chiefs haven't shown much of an inclination to get him involved. So, to me, it sure seems like they're banking on Jamaal staying healthy enough to play this season.
Alex Smith has been as advertised, playing consistently, keeping the Chiefs competitive and making enough plays to stack up wins. His playmaking ability with his legs, in particular, seems to be something that's flying under the radar this season. How worried should Bills fans be about Smith's sneaky-good running ability?
Thorman: That surprised me as well. I know he wasn't a complete statue back there but I didn't realize he would be doing so much running in Kansas City. I think this is what people mean when they talk about Alex being a smart quarterback. When the defense drops back and gives him a lane big enough to pick up a chunk of yards, he's going to take it. (The occasional personal foul from the defense for hitting him as he slides isn't bad either.) You go look at his stats and you'll see that he is good for 5-6 carries and 30 yards. That doesn't seem like much but when two of those runs come on third down, it means a little more. Alex won't beat you with his legs but he probably will take the opportunity to run for a first down if you let him. As you said, he just needs to continue to stack up good play after good play which have been turning into wins.
Bob Sutton sort of came out of nowhere, it seems. He worked under four different New York Jets head coaches over the span of 13 seasons, was only a play-caller for three of those, and wasn't even the most notable defector from Rex Ryan's coaching staff this past offseason (that would be Bills coordinator Mike Pettine). Andy Reid gets most of the credit for the Chiefs' turnaround, but how important has Sutton been in that effort?
Thorman: Sutton is really important. Honestly, Andy Reid shouldn't get much credit for the defense. I remember going to training camp practices, and even some practices this season, and you'll notice that Reid hardly spends any time at all with the defense. Now, he's the head coach and sets the tone for everyone (a HUGE part of the Chiefs success) so of course he's involved but I really do think he's let Bob Sutton do his own thing on defense for the most part. And it's obviously worked. The personnel hasn't changed much but everyone seems to have taken a big leap from last year and Sutton's scheme -- sending dudes from everywhere! -- fits this team really well right now. Other defensive help has come from unlikely stars, such as Dontari Poe's big jump this year and Marcus Cooper coming out of nowhere to be a very good third corner.
More so than even its vaunted pass rush, the Chiefs seem to thrive on their ability to win the turnover battle. They're a league-leading plus-12 in the category this year, ranking second in the NFL with 20 takeaways and have the fourth-lowest giveaway total with eight. Buffalo's offense turns the ball over a lot, but how concerned are you, if at all, about the Chiefs offense playing a Bills defense that's forced 15 takeaways and ranks second in the NFL with 27 sacks?
Thorman: Sure, I'm concerned. I don't think many Chiefs fans are taking the Bills lightly. With last year's Chiefs, you could see the individual talent that each of the players had, but they just didn't consistently put it together, which led to some poor outings. I feel like that's sort of the same thing with the Bills. There are a number of guys on the Bills defense that can blow up so that's a concern. Alex Smith has been good about protecting the football and with him you may not bait him into a bad throw but you will stop him from even making the throw and taking a sack instead. The Chiefs offense stays close to the line of scrimmage so while there are a lot of passes, there aren't a lot of risky passes. One thing to note is that Jamaal has become a bit of a fumbler this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Chiefs turn it over once, but anything more than that seems unlikely.
In a conversation between SB Nation's NFL bloggers earlier this season, you mentioned that you'd be "fine" with the Chiefs winning nine games. Granted, that was after Week 2, so it's safe to assume your stance has changed on that matter. Kansas City is almost certainly playoff-bound, and the AFC isn't exactly stuffed with powerhouse teams, so: how far do you think the Chiefs are capable of advancing in the postseason this year?
Thorman: With a defense playing at the level they are? The Super Bowl seems within reach. The important caveat being that they haven't played any of those teams they would likely have to play in the playoffs. Really, though, for the Chiefs to make a run, I think they would need home field advantage. You take that defense playing so well, put it in Arrowhead Stadium, and it's possible the Chiefs go on a two-game run to make it. I'm realistic enough to know they won't be the popular pick once the playoff field comes out but the homer in me almost certainly won't let me pick against them.