MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kansas City Chiefs are stepping bravely into their new world Sunday as they take on the Minnesota Vikings without running back Jamaal Charles. Charles, who tore the ACL in his right knee in last week’s game, has been their offensive engine every season except one since taking over as the featured back from Larry Johnson in 2009.
The exception was 2011, when Charles tore the ACL in his left knee in the season’s second game. Those Chiefs went 7-7 without Charles, though it often was ugly. The Chiefs scored more than 13 points just once in their final nine games, though the sluggish offense that year had as much to do with lousy quarterback play as Charles’ absence. That was the year, you’ll recall, of Tyler Palko.
The 2015 Chiefs should be better equipped to handle the loss of Charles. They have Charcandrick West and Knile Davis instead of Jackie Battle, Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones at running back and, more importantly, more stability at quarterback in Alex Smith.
Still, the Chiefs looked intimidated in the 1½ quarters they played last week without Charles. They were as lost as any team ever quarterbacked by Palko as they collected just two first downs and no points after they lost Charles.
Expect the Chiefs, with a week to prepare and collect themselves emotionally, to play better without Charles against Minnesota. Just not well enough to outscore the Vikings.
Minnesota has a nice collection of offensive threats, most notably their own featured back, Adrian Peterson. But the Vikings aren’t scoring points at a rapid pace (20 per game).
They’re going up against a Chiefs defense that allows them in bunches. The Chiefs had almost no success on defense in either of their last two road games, against Green Bay and Cincinnati. They were better against the Bears at home last week until the last 16 minutes, when they allowed 15 points.
So I’m expecting the Vikings to score a bunch against the Chiefs. That will put pressure on the Chiefs, minus Charles, to keep up against Minnesota’s defense, which is allowing only 18 points a game.
That’s too much to expect from a team that scored a total of one offensive touchdown in its last two games and now is without its best player.
The Chiefs should remain competitive for a time against the Vikings, which is more than they were in Green Bay or Cincinnati. But the result will be the same.
Prediction: Vikings 30, Chiefs 16.