On Thursday, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus published an article by Ben Linsey identifying 17 matchups — one for each week of the NFL season — that Linsey thinks will be excellent.
Three of them involve the Kansas City Chiefs — and they should be interesting.
EDGE Von Miller, Denver Broncos
vs. RT Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs
Miller’s success has been well documented, but just to put in perspective how dominant he has been, these are his overall grades since entering the league: 90.0, 93.4, 91.5, 90.3, 91.9, 90.5, 91.5 and 90.3. That is eight seasons in the NFL and eight consecutive seasons of overall grades at 90.0 or higher. He’s been unrivaled as a pass rusher, recording a 17.1% pressure rate since 2011, which ranks first among all edge defenders with 1,000 or more pass-rushing snaps over that span.
On the other side, Schwartz hasn’t gotten the recognition of other tackles – still yet to make a Pro Bowl appearance – but there have been few better right tackles since he entered the league in 2012. Over that span, Schwartz ranks third among qualifying right tackles in overall grade, and his 85.6 pass-blocking grade last season ranks second-highest among all players at the position with 300-plus pass-blocking snaps in a single season since 2006.
Schwartz has been one of the few tackles capable of slowing Miller over his career. In 117 pass-blocking snaps in which Schwartz was matched up with Miller, he allowed just 11 total pressures (nine hurries and two sacks). That pressure rate of 9.4% sits well below Miller’s career average. Next year provides another opportunity to see two of the best in the business line up across from each other.
This will be a battle to watch in an important division matchup — the first meeting of these two teams in 2019. Linsey doesn’t mention that this will be a Thursday night game in Denver, which could be a significant factor for not only Schwartz, but the whole team; the Chiefs will face the Houston Texans at Arrowhead just four days before.
Coming off his first All-Pro season — and a contract extension that will keep him with the Chiefs through the 2021 season — Schwartz will have plenty to prove against one of the league’s best pass rushers.
QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots
vs. QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Unlike most of the matchups on this list, Brady and Mahomes aren’t lining up head to head. In fact, they won’t even be on the field at the same time. That being said, the Chiefs and the Patriots figure to be jockeying for positioning in the AFC at this point of the season, and the fates of the two teams rest squarely on the shoulders of their quarterbacks. Brady put together another stellar season, finishing the 2018 campaign with his fourth consecutive season grading at 90.0 or above. Meanwhile, Mahomes burst onto the scene in his first season as a starter with the second-highest grade among all quarterbacks at 92.9 overall.
Last season, Kansas City and New England produced two instant classics – the Patriots narrowly escaped with a 43-40 win in Week 6 and a 37-31 overtime win in the AFC Championship. Mahomes put together a decent stat line in the two games against the Patriots, including 9.7 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 113.2, but two of his five lowest game grades of the season came in those two matchups (65.7 in Week 6 and 72.1 in the AFC Championship). Brady posted game grades of 91.3 and 79.7 in those same games. The higher graded quarterback took home the win on both occasions. It leads to the question – which quarterback will perform better in the matchup next season?
You don’t need fancy proprietary grades to figure out this will be a great matchup for the two teams — and the two quarterbacks who lead them. The Chiefs have had a fair amount of success against the Patriots under Andy Reid — even in Gillette Stadium — but none of it has been with Mahomes under center. You can expect Mahomes to be pumped for this game, and Brady to be... well... Brady.
TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
vs. S Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
Kelce is a mismatch weapon. Someone his size shouldn’t be able to run routes the way that he does. It’s the reason that he has three straight seasons with a receiving grade of 87.0 or higher. Kelce trails only Gronk in receiving grade since entering the league in 2014 at the tight end position. His 2,904 receiving yards after the catch dwarf all other tight ends. The next closest yards-after-the-catch totals are 2,043 (Gronkowski) and 1,556 (Zach Ertz). Put all that together and Kelce is a problem that every defense which faces him must deal with in some fashion.
The Chargers are perhaps better equipped to deal with a player like Kelce than anyone else after having Derwin James fall in their lap in the 2018 NFL Draft. Last season, Kelce’s production did see a dip against the Chargers. In two games, he had just eight receptions for 67 yards against Los Angeles. Specifically against James, Kelce had just two receptions for two yards. This game figures to have playoff implications, and the matchup between the only-improving Kelce and James will likely play a part in determining the winner.
The Chiefs will enter this season hoping this game will be of no consequence — but it would be a mistake to assume so. This will be a fascinating matchup in another divisional game — and if the game is meaningful, it’s likely the playoff implications will be significant. Much could depend on the matchup between Kelce and James.
Click here to read PFF’s complete list of 2019’s best matchups.