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Chiefs-Panthers focus points: Christian McCaffrey back in the mix

The talented Carolina running back is expected to make his return in Kansas City.

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

On this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory (and the 200th episode), we talked about two focus points on offense — and two on defense — to watch as the Chiefs play their last game before the bye at home against the Carolina Panthers.

We also talked to Billy Marshall of Cat Scratch Reader about the matchup.

Here are the focus points to watch on Sunday:

Offense

Dealing with soft coverage...again

The Panthers are one of the most zone-heavy teams in the NFL and are very likely going to sell out to limit the explosive plays. The Chiefs will have to — again — be content with taking the underneath throws. If they can hold up in protection, you might see some double moves materialize down the field that could allow the Chiefs to generate some chunk yardage through the air. Last week, the lid blew off against the Jets and Tyreek Hill scored two long touchdowns. If they can’t hold up in protection, they will have to sustain drives.

How does the running back room shake out?

It’s hard to make any real assessment on the outlook of the running back room moving forward based on the game against the New York Jets. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire outperformed Le’Veon Bell and looked more explosive. Bell still has a role, but I would venture to say that Edwards-Helaire gets noticeably more touches this week.

Defense

Will a hobbled pass rush get going?

This is a good week to find out if anyone outside of Chris Jones and Frank Clark can provide consistent pressure. Clark is dealing with a knee injury. The Chiefs have recently struggled to generate sustainable pressure — especially without scheming it. Steve Spagnuolo will likely have to blitz to speed up Teddy Bridgewater — but who among the supplemental pieces along the defensive line will step up? Keep an eye on undrafted rookie free agent Tershawn Wharton.

Return of the Mc

Christian McCaffrey will return to the Panthers offense after an absence due to injury. We have yet to see the full reveal of offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s vision for one of the best, most dynamic running backs in the NFL. The ways we saw Clyde Edwards-Helaire utilized in the passing game at LSU came from the mind of Brady — who moved to Carolina after winning a national championship in Baton Rouge. We know what he’s capable of dialing up — and he has a phenomenal back to utilize in a diverse way. There is assuredly stuff not yet on tape from Brady that you can expect on Sunday. The Chiefs will have their hands full in his return.


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