Fast-forward to 2019, though, and the Chiefs suddenly boast a defense to match their potent offense. Don’t believe me, skeptics? Just take a quick look at the numbers. Kansas City is holding opponents to averages of 19.1 points, 348.5 total yards and 219.0 passing yards per game this season. Those figures are way down from last year’s marks: 26.3 ppg, 405.5 ypg and 273.4 pass ypg. Most importantly, the Chiefs are winning on third down, allowing conversions just 35.8 percent of the time. This makes life difficult on opposing quarterbacks, as evidenced by the 80.9 overall passer rating allowed. The Chiefs also struggled in these two areas in 2018 (41.5 percent on third down, 92.7 overall passer rating allowed), and this year’s drastic improvement has given the team a legitimate chance of toppling the heavyweights on the way to a title.
The Colts’ ability to run was a major reason why Indianapolis pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the season. While Kansas City gained just 36 yards on the ground, Indianapolis rushed for 180 yards and a score on 45 carries. Marlon Mack, arguably the Colts’ best offensive player this season, led the way by rushing for 132 yards on 29 carries. And while he wasn’t prolific, quarterback Jacoby Brissett was efficient, going 18-of-29 through the air while scoring the Colts’ only touchdown on a one-yard touchdown.
Chargers (5-10) at Chiefs (11-4)
What to watch for: The Chiefs have 20 interceptions against Philip Rivers in their past 11 matchups dating to 2014, including four in this year’s game in November. With the Chiefs playing well defensively, there’s no reason to believe Rivers can flourish against them this time. -- Adam Teicher
Last year, Kanas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named NFL MVP after leading his team to a 12-4 record and a berth in the AFC Championship game in just his second season in the league. In a case of déjà vu, second-year signal-caller Lamar Jackson is poised to do the same thing or better with the Super Bowl-favorite Baltimore Ravens this season.
Given the recent greatness of 22-year-old Jackson and 24-year-old Mahomes, it’s easy to overlook that, on the whole, this decade has actually been a pretty poor one for drafting an NFL quarterback, at least compared to the decade before.
Without a doubt, the Packers would like to go back to 2016 and select Hill with the 163rd overall pick. But in reality, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to land Hill with the 165th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Chiefs’ speedy wideout fell later in the draft due to his off-the-field issues in college. Nevertheless, Kansas City decided it was worth the trouble to take the risk on a talent like Hill.
Chiefs -8.5 vs. Chargers
Someone explain to me how the Chargers get off the mat for this game after being embarrassed last week “at home” by the Raiders. The Chiefs have everything to play for here: if they win and the Patriots lose, Kansas City is the No. 2 seed and gets a bye in the first round of the playoffs. A Pats loss is unlikely, but the Chiefs also need to win to stay ahead of the Texans, so I expect a full effort from KC here. They’ve been playing good football and would likely want to roll it into the playoffs with a strong performance in Week 17. Don’t expect them to pile on the points, but we’ve seen them really lock teams down, giving up just 31 points the last four weeks. The Chiefs are going to win this game by double digits, mainly because the Chargers seem pretty checked out on the season. Philip Rivers offers some significant backdoor cover potential, but he could also help the Chiefs steal a cover with a pick six, which would not be out of character whatsoever.
“I feel like, as a team, we’re playing really good football on offense, defense and special teams,” Mahomes said.
“I feel like we’re hitting our stride here as we’re hitting the playoffs. Where we were last year, we were kind of hot in the middle, and as the season ended, we fluctuated a little.
Joe Montana (1979-1994)
Brett Favre: A lot like Tom (Brady), he made it look easy. And I know it’s not easy. Believe me, I know it’s not easy, it’s far from easy. I ran that offense. But his footwork, his timing, his accuracy, there was never a double-clutch -- it was always in rhythm.
Around the NFL
Since 2001, the Patriots are 12-1 when securing a first-round bye. That one loss came to the New York Jets in the 2010 playoffs after Mark Sanchez threw for 194 yards and three touchdowns at Gillette Stadium while Tom Brady was sacked five times.
In the Spotlight
QB Joe Burrow, LSU: Burrow is perhaps the biggest name from a smorgasbord of potential stars headlining the New Year’s Six. The Heisman Trophy–winning All-American quarterback is the odds-on favorite to become the first pick of the 2020 draft—and with good reason. The Tigers signal-caller completed 77.9 percent of his passes for 4,715 yards, 48 touchdowns, and just six picks this season, rising from QB afterthought in 2018 to legit star in LSU’s new-look spread offense. Burrow’s an aggressive, accurate passer who’s capable of threading the needle downfield and making defenses pay with his legs.
The NFL still has the ability to place Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list, which would essentially be a paid suspension. That is almost certainly what they will do if Brown signs with a team before they conclude their investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Presuming Dallas misses the playoffs, I expect the franchise will kick the tires on college coaches, and not just Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. Baylor’s Matt Rhule should be in that mix.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
CB Mo Claiborne won’t play in the game, but it is not injury related. He has been ruled out, as he is excused for non-injury reasons.
Utility OL Cam Erving was added to the injury report on Thursday with an illness. LG Andrew Wylie (ankle) was limited all week. Erving, Wylie and DT Xavier Williams (ankle) are officially questionable.
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