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chiefStats: Five stats that could determine the Chiefs’ game against 49ers

Welcome back to chiefStats — the place where I toss a few stats out into the ethos for Kansas City Chiefs fans to absorb before the game. I am hoping this article can work its way into Chiefs fans pregame ritual.

Last week we talked about the Steelers having difficulty with top five points per game offenses, and it came to fruition when Pittsburgh couldn’t keep up with the Chiefs high powered offense.

Now our focus turns towards the 49ers, and below are five topics which could alter the outcome of the game.

1. 49ers sacks allowed

We’ll start our analysis with a nice little Tweet:

For reference, the worst pass protection team in 2017 (the Colts) gave up a sack percentage of 10.3 percent.

The Chiefs defense has been very inept at sacking the quarterback to start the 2018 season, tallying only two sacks. So far in 2018, the Chiefs have a miserable sack percentage of 1.8 percent; only the Giants have been worse (1.7 percent).

All that said, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on the Chiefs pass rush. Perhaps one reason for the Chiefs low sack totals is that the Steelers and Chargers are just good at protecting the QB. In 2017, the Chargers finished first in the NFL in sack percentage (3.0 percent), and the Steelers finished third (3.9 percent).

On Sunday against the 49ers, we should have a better idea of what the Chiefs pass rush is capable of.

2. 49ers running game

This is the 49ers’ strength. The 49ers have the second-best yards per rushing attempt average in the NFL so far in the young season.

Matt Breida is leading the charge for the 49ers with 184 rushing yards on only 22 attempts — that’s an average of 8.4 yards per attempt. Breida should provide a good test for the Chiefs run defense.

I’m very curious to see how the Chiefs fare against the 49ers running game. I believe the Chiefs strength on defense is their ability to stop the run. Sunday should prove to be a good test on the defensive side of the ball.

If the 49ers get into a shootout with the Chiefs it could spell major problems for their offense if they have to abandon the run.

3. It’s been a while...

Remember last week when it had been a long time since the Chiefs had beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh? Well, the same could be said about the 49ers playing in Kansas City.

Cool story — the Chiefs haven’t lost at home to the 49ers in my lifetime... hopefully it stays that way.

Of course, I missed an important piece of information when crafting the Tweet above:

Ahhhh yes, there we go, now the facts are complete.

4. QB Play

Garoppolo has not played up to the hype in 2018 amassing the following stats:

55.9 Cmp%, 467 yards, 7.9 Y/A
3 TD, 3 INT, 77.4 QB Rating

Contrast this with what Mahomes is doing:

69.1 Cmp%, 582 yards, 10.6 Y/A
10 TD, 0 INT, 143.3 QB Rating

As you can see, there is a massive disparity in quarterback play between the two. Obviously, the Chiefs defense hasn’t been on par with the ones Garoppolo has faced (Vikings, Lions), but Mahomes hasn’t had a cakewalk either. Both the Steelers and Chargers should have good defenses when everything is said and done in 2018.

The last thing the 49ers want to do is get into a shootout with the Chiefs. If the start of the season has anything to do with how the rest of the year will go, the 49ers will lose the game if Garoppolo is asked to keep up with Mahomes.

So if I’m the Chiefs, my goal is to be aggressive and score early.

5. Turnovers

The 49ers have started the season with a bit of a turnover bug, coughing up four turnovers while only generating two of their own.

If the 49ers were to continue to give up turnovers at this same pace, they would give up 32 on the entire season which would have been the third-worst mark in 2017. The 49ers are also on pace to have a minus-32 turnover differential in 2018 — this would have been the worst in the NFL in 2017.

Obviously the 49ers are unlikely to finish the season at the same pace of allowing turnovers, but it bodes well for a Chiefs defense which has struggled to make splash plays so far in 2018.

The Chiefs defense is currently sitting at two turnovers forced on the season. If the Chiefs want to adjust their defensive game plan to include more risk, in hopes to get more turnovers, this week against the 49ers the week to do it.

So to summarize, the keys to the game are:

  1. Chiefs need to take advantage of the 49ers poor pass protection at the start of the season.
  2. Who’s going to win the running game battle? Will the Chiefs improved front be able to stop Breida and Morris?
  3. Will the 49ers continue to lose in Kansas City?
  4. The Chiefs should be heavily favored due to Mahomes’ play being significantly better than Garoppolo’s thus far.
  5. The Chiefs defense needs to play a ball-hawk style, and try to generate turnovers.

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