On this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three focus points on offense — and three on defense — as the Kansas City Chiefs perhaps preview the Super Bowl against the New Orleans Saints.
Here are the focus points to watch on Sunday:
Offensive line injuries
Mike Remmers missed practice this week. The window for Mitchell Schwartz to return is open but he has yet to be activated. There are significant concerns with the health of the tackle position, and it’s a terrible week for that reality. Even if Eric Fisher — who practiced Friday — and Remmers do play this week, it’s a big task handling a talented defensive front in New Orleans.
With the Chiefs hobbling into New Orleans along the offensive line, do the Chiefs adjust the play-calling? This game doesn’t ultimately decide whether the Chiefs retain the one seed — and two very winnable home games remain on the schedule against Atlanta and the Los Angeles Chargers. Andy Reid could elect to play things a little more conservatively — getting the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands quickly, leaning on the run game (albeit against a great run defense) and try to ensure their quarterback is protected.
A nightmare matchup
The Saints are uniquely capable of giving the Chiefs fits — even when they are fully healthy. They can get home with four rushers behind a great defensive line — and match up in man coverage as well as anyone in the NFL. New Orleans has run a lot of Cover 2 Man this year and if you can do that with a level of success against the Chiefs, it could slow them down. If the Saints do run 2-Man, Mahomes’ legs could be a valuable asset.
Drew Brees return
As of the recording of the podcast, there were still questions about who would start this week for the Saints. It’s since been announced that Brees will return this week. The game plan changes drastically between the two styles. Brees will prioritize getting the ball out of his hands quickly and to his playmakers in space. Taysom Hill would have presented more issues in the run game — with his size and athleticism presenting a challenge for a poor tackling defense.
Handling Alvin Kamara
One of the last players the Chiefs defense wants to see in space is Alvin Kamara. That will surely be a frequent occurrence in this game with Brees under center. Kamara is a bad matchup for Chiefs linebackers and could further expose tackling issues on this football team. Expect Kamara to get the ball early and often. How the Chiefs’ defense responds to the challenge could determine the outcome of the game.
Pass rush return?
The Chiefs were able to generate pressure last week against a poor offensive line and a quarterback who held the ball in Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa. Can they do it this week against a much more daunting challenge? The Saints’ offensive line is one of their strengths — with talent at all five positions. The Chiefs are in for a dogfight up front — and the pass rush will have to get home quickly if they’re going to affect Brees. The ball should be gone quickly, which could neutralize most efforts to affect the quarterback. The defensive line needs to step up for the Chiefs to have success defensively on Sunday.
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