One-time Chief Michael Bennett is active and may get a chance to contribute against his former team
Perhaps his assessment of the place is colored by his prior experience as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. After all, nobody is less welcome in Arrowhead Stadium than the men wearing silver and black.
On the other hand, you'll find a lot of men around the NFL who would agree with Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden: playing in Arrowhead is no picnic. The Kansas City Chiefs are famous for their passionate fan base and the decibel levels they can create inside that giant bowl.
This afternoon, Gruden will lead the 5-3 Buccaneers into Arrowhead Stadium to take on the 1-6 Chiefs. Forget the disparity in the records, he says.
"We're going into a hornet's nest, I truly believe that," said Gruden. "I try to tell these guys: Arrowhead is not for everybody. That is not a good place to play if you're the visiting team."
And it's not just the Arrowhead ambience and the passion of the fans that is a potential stumbling block. It would be an enormous mistake, according to Gruden, for the visiting Bucs to believe the Chiefs are an easy target.
"They've been playing hard and some of the numbers you see with their team are misleading," he said. "They've been hit by some big plays on defense. They've given up some really big gains on the ground at the ends of games when they're frantically trying to do whatever they can to get the ball back. They beat the heck out of Denver and Denver beat us, so you can believe we're motivated for this game. They have a ton of talent, they're young and they're playing hard."
In other words, beware the "trap game." As a matter of fact, throw that term right out the window, because calling it a trap game hints that the favored team will win as long as it doesn't overlook its opponent. Gruden's point is that the Chiefs are as significant a challenge as anyone else on the schedule. The Jets, who barely escaped with a last-minute win over Kansas City in New York last weekend, can attest to that.
"You've got all these channels, all this coverage, stats, information, point spreads," said Gruden. "You've got an analyst on every corner telling you you should win the game. Forget that. You're going to get your face knocked in if you're not ready to play these guys, because they're good. This is the National Football League. We'd better be ready to play, and if we're not we're not going to win."
The Bucs also have to figure out who will be ready to play on Sunday; that is, which players figure prominently in the offensive game plan with another of key performers injured. The Bucs left five players behind in Tampa on Saturday, which will lead to a handful of lineup changes on Sunday.
The five injured players who did not make the trip were FB B.J. Askew, RB Warrick Dunn, S Jermaine Phillips, G Arron Sears and WR Maurice Stovall. Tampa Bay's other three inactive players will be QB Brian Griese, WR Dexter Jackson and designated third quarterback Josh Johnson.
Thus it appears the Buccaneers will have to get creative with their approach in the ground game if they want to take advantage of the league's bottom-ranked rush defense. Without Dunn, Graham will likely have to shoulder more of the rushing load, and former Chief Michael Bennett might also get involved. Without Askew, Jameel Cook may have to pick up some more snaps if the Bucs want to utilize many of their two-back options.
In fact, the Bucs will start the game with Cook at fullback and Graham at running back. It will be Cook's first start since returning to Tampa three weeks ago.
Graham, of course, will eagerly do whatever the Bucs ask of him, as he proved in recent weeks when he attacked a partial move to fullback with gusto. Graham is more than happy to lead the way for other backs, but he is probably the team's top ball-carrying option at this point.
"We've asked an awful lot out of Earnest Graham, we know that," said Gruden. "When you lose most of your backs, the offense isn't going to be the same. It's very difficult on us right now and we've got to stay confident and not worry about things we can't control. It would help to get a few of these guys healthy, but in the meantime we're going to lean on Earnest again. What he has done for us already this year is amazing."
Still, the thinned backfield does add some mystery to how the Bucs will approach Kansas City's defense on Sunday.
"Should we go exclusively one-back?" asked Gruden rhetorically. "Do we get Jameel Cook, who just got back here, into a full-time role? Are we going to get B.J. Askew back? It seems like we don't know what we're going to have until we get to the place we're playing. So we try to break it down, see what we have the men to accomplish and maybe try something new. On the other hand, the two-back game is very important to us and we don't want to get completely away from that."
Jeremy Zuttah will open the game at left guard for Sears. It will be his first start at that position, though he played roughly half of the Carolina game in Week Six when Sears was injured. Zuttah also started the first four games of the season at right guard while Davin Joseph was recovering from a preseason foot injury.
On defense, Sabby Piscitelli will make his first NFL start, taking over at strong safety for the injured Jermaine Phillips.
Kansas City declared the following eight players inactive: P Dustin Colquitt, CB Patrick Surtain, RB Larry Johnson, LB Weston Dacus, T Andrew Carnahan, C Wade Smith, WR Jeff Webb and designated third quarterback Ingle Martin.
The Chiefs also announced two changes to their starting lineup, one on each side of the ball. With Larry Johnson out due to non-injury-related reasons, second-year man Kolby Smith will get the start at running back. Smith was a fifth-round pick out of Louisville in 2007. On defense, former Atlanta Falcon Demorrio Williams will start in place of veteran Donnie Edwards at LOLB.
The Buccaneers and Chiefs will kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET. You'll find the NFL.com Game Center, complete with live play-by-play and statistical updates, at this location once the game has begun. On the Buccaneers.com home page, we'll post a review of all the action at halftime and an extensive game story, with links for stats, photos, scoring information and more, shortly after the final whistle.