Oh, and then there’s the dome factor. Mahomes has actually never played under the roof during his two-plus seasons in the NFL. He probably should have played his first NFL dome game last February, but it’s kind of a jerk move to bring that up here. Anyway, try to contain your shock, but Mahomes was, uh, kinda good in indoor settings at the college level. Well, in four such games, Mahomes did have a 1-3 record. Which, well, he played for Texas Tech. So maybe it’s a miracle he won a single one of those games. But in those four games, Mahomes averaged nearly 500 yards passing (492.3, to be exact), while throwing 19 touchdowns against just four picks. Yes, three of those games were against Baylor, a.k.a., the Big 12’s Lions. But he did do it against LSU, as well, so it wasn’t just the opponent.
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) @ Detroit Lions (2-0-1)
What to watch: Patrick Mahomes (duh)
Technically, this is a matchup of undefeated teams, the first time the Lions have been in such a game after Week 3 since 1962, according to ESPN Stats & Info. In reality, the Lions tied the Cardinals in Week 1. This is the highest over/under total of the week, perhaps because it is the first regular-season indoor game of Patrick Mahomes’s career.
Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
So much of Patrick Mahomes’ damage this season has come on connections with his seemingly bottomless group of talented wideouts. Even without Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and rookie Mecole Hardman in reserve. Each has produced a game with at least 97 yards and a touchdown this year. Dazzling football fans and fantasy managers everywhere.
As a result, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce has become the somewhat overlooked member of the Kansas City receiving corps. Though he has only one touchdown so far this year, he has recorded at least 88 yards in each of the Chiefs’ three games. And while Mahomes looks to his speedy wideouts for the big plays, he still comes back to Kelce in high-leverage situations.
Next Gen Stats says ...
Mahomes’ ability to drive the ball down the field has few peers in the NFL. He averages 9.2 air yards per attempt and 23.0 yards of air distance per attempt. Though most tight ends run routes that don’t take them far from the line of scrimmage, Kelce makes his way down the field like a wide receiver, averaging 11.9 air yards per target. Kelce also creates at least 3 yards of separation on 32 percent of his targets, second-highest among tight ends with at least 15 passes thrown in their direction.
“He’s so much fun to watch that I compare (Mahomes) in a football sense to the great home run hitters in baseball,” Fox Sports analyst Charles Davis said in a phone interview. “Whatever your era was, when that player came to town, you went to the ballpark to watch. You went early for batting practice to see that guy. If you were around and Babe Ruth was playing, you wanted to get there to see Babe Ruth at batting practice. You wanted to see Hank Aaron at batting practice, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, (Barry) Bonds. ...
“So you got there early to see those guys swinging the bat. I know people get to the football stadium early to see Patrick Mahomes warm up and throw it pregame. That’s who he is now. He’s that rock star that we all want to get a look at and see when he decides to show that arm off in pregame. Because to us, that’s special.”
“I think they’re pretty close to being the same type of guy,” Lewis said. “They both can extend plays, they make great passes, they make plays out of nothing. I think that’s how they’re alike.”
There is one area, however, where Lewis sees Mahomes perhaps owning a slight edge over Favre: guiding laser-like throws into tight windows.
“I think Brett maybe throws just as hard as Pat, is able to put things in windows like Pat is,” Lewis explained. “I think Pat is a little bit higher up on the Richter scale with that type of stuff.”
Yardage figures are generally going to be inflated against the Chiefs, who have held leads of at least 17 points in each of their three games. But their inability to finish defensively in the season opener against the Jaguars -- the Chiefs allowed 13 points in the final quarter -- and against the Ravens have them frustrated.
”We went into halftime with [the Ravens] having less than 10 points and the game ended with 28 points,” defensive lineman Chris Jones said. “The rushing yards tripled after halftime. As a defense, you don’t like that. You kind of have to be consistent with it, especially on defense when you have the lead coming out of halftime. You want to put your foot on their throat and just dominate the game right there. I feel like we kind of let them back into the game.”
The Los Angeles Chargers figured to gain a fourth-round compensatory pick, per Korte, when the Raiders signed former Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams. However, when the Arizona Cardinals released former Chargers defensive lineman Darius Philon, the Williams pick was negated.
The Kansas City Chiefs similarly were stung when the Indianapolis Colts eventually released former Chiefs running back Spencer Ware. That took away a pick Kansas City could have received for the loss of cornerback Steven Nelson, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There’s still a remote chance the Chiefs get this pick back, however, and it is an indication of just how complicated the compensatory formula is. The Chiefs need Oakland Raiders offensive guard Jordan Devey to start for most of the season — Korte estimates 13 starts or more for Oakland — for them to get the pick back. Devey has started the first three games, two at left guard (for the suspended Richie Incognito) and the last one at right guard.
Stat to know: According to ESPN’s coverage analysis using NFL Next Gen Stats research, Mahomes is averaging 12.5 yards per attempt with six passing touchdowns when facing zone coverage this season, both of which are the best in the NFL. But the Lions have used man coverage on 68% of their snaps this season, the third most of any team this season.
While Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has been sacked only three times in three games, he was sacked an average of 43 times per season for the previous five years. He’s not particularly mobile. He’s willing to stand in the pocket an extra second or two.
For Clark, that represents opportunity.
Well, depending on the attention he receives.
“It’s nothing new with sacks, but I understand that they come in bunches,” Clark said. “They come over time. You just have to stay consistent in your action and what you’re doing. Right now, I’m more focused on winning, and I feel like that’s what we’re doing. I feel like we’re playing good team ball.”
Shady shining once more. Running back LeSean McCoy has been an invaluable addition to the Kansas City Chiefs so far. The Buffalo Bills released the six-time Pro Bowler in August, after he posted career lows in rushing yards (514) and yards per carry (3.2) in 2018. All he’s done since signing with the Chiefs -- and reuniting with head coach Andy Reid, who coached McCoy during the first four years of McCoy’s career in Philadelphia -- is prove he still has plenty left at age 31.
McCoy currently leads the team in rushing with 158 yards on 29 carries, and he’s been the best back in their backfield rotation. “He still has the vision and the shiftiness,” Reid said. “He was never the fastest guy in the world. He’s fast enough, but that’s not his game. His game is the great vision and the ability, with the quick feet, to move. He still has that.”
The Lions finally got a big play out of their special teams last week, when Jamal Agnew returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. But they had another critical error as well, allowing a late field-goal block that kept the Eagles in the game. For as much as Lions coach Matt Patricia stood by Agnew after his early-season mishaps, he still replaced Agnew on punt returns near the goal line last week. Sam Martin is having a nice season punting the ball, and there are no concerns about Matt Prater even though he’s missed two of his six field goals this year, including the block.
The Chiefs are among the fastest teams in the NFL and that speed shows on special teams. Rookie return man Mecole Hardman is a walking big play, though the Chiefs will use De’Anthony Thomas on punt returns, too. In the kicking game, Harrison Butker is a perfect 6-for-6 on field goals this year, though he did miss an extra point last week. Dustin Colquitt is netting just 35.6 yards per punt so far this season, so there could be opportunities for the Lions the few times the Chiefs punt on Sunday.
Around the league
“Business is business. Football is football,” he said. “I had conversations with [general manager] Tom [Telesco] during this process. We talked a few times. He definitely let it be known that he wanted me back, that he had no problems, that he understands the player’s perspective, so that makes me feel better about it.
”We good. They’re not treating me any differently. We all right. Football is football. Business is business. Unfortunately we couldn’t figure this thing out, but we’ve got more than enough time to.”
Another aspect of the holdout could be the financial fallout. But the 26-year-old is ready to step up and face the penalties of his absence.
”It comes with consequences sitting out. To think the fines completely would be washed away, I knew if I got in this position, it wouldn’t be,” Gordon said. “You do something against the rules, you’ve got to pay the consequences and those that are there, so I understand that. But I think they did what they could to help satisfy me and make me feel better about being out there.”
Belichick was asked, then, if his decisions are based on his gut.
”I’m not saying it’s a gut thing. It’s an individual analysis based on the things that are pertinent to that game and that situation,” he said. “I don’t really care what happened in 1973 and what those teams did or didn’t do. I don’t really think that matters in this game -- or ‘83 or ‘90, pick out whatever you want.”
Belichick then smiled and said, “It’s not really my thing. And I like math, too, by the way.”
Because this air raid thing might actually work out
The Cardinals took the biggest risk of anyone searching for a head coach this offseason, pulling Kliff Kingsbury from the USC coaching staff only weeks after he’d been fired at Texas Tech. This gave Kingsbury the chance to back up his own hype and add reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray to his advanced spread offense — an opportunity the former Big 12 standby jumped on with the top pick of the draft.
The results so far have been mixed. Murray has thrown more passes than anyone else in the league through the first three weeks, but his 5.7 adjusted yards per attempt is 30th-best in the league — right above Eli Manning in the standings. The plus is that this pass-happy approach has revitalized Larry Fitzgerald, who is currently on pace for a 96-catch, 1,349-yard campaign in his 16th season as a pro.
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Lions QB Matt Stafford may have injured his hip during Detroit’s Friday workout. After no appearance on the report all week, Stafford was listed as limited on Friday due to injury, and his status is officially questionable for the game. Stafford has started 131 consecutive games for the Lions. The Detroit Free Press is reporting there are no signs his injury is serious. Undrafted rookie David Blough is listed as the Lions’ backup.
Tom Childs (@tomchilds56)
This game will bring back fond memories for Chiefs fan across Europe. Back in 2015, the Chiefs and Lions met in London in what was expected to be a very close affair. What followed was total domination by the Chiefs. Fast forward to this week and you have to say that domination by the Chiefs offense is far more likely than a close game. The Lions will simply not be able to keep up with the Chiefs offense, so I’m going for a repeat of 2015. Chiefs 45, Lions 10
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