Based on both teams’ brands, Chiefs-Saints would seem like a clash of the offensive titans. These franchises lead the NFL in points in the past three years, and this season, Kansas City’s offense is operating on another plane of existence. Last week against the Dolphins, Mahomes had perhaps his worst half as a pro, throwing two interceptions and taking a 30-yard sack—and the Chiefs still entered halftime up 14-10. But Kansas City’s offensive line is hurting. The Chiefs might be without their top three tackle options this week, and they’re going up against perhaps the league’s best pass-rushing duo in Saints defensive ends Trey Hendrickson and Cameron Jordan. Plus, New Orleans has one of the league’s deepest secondaries. If any defense can emulate the impact Miami’s unit had last week, it’s this one.
9-4 · AFC No. 6 seed
The Colts might be the one AFC team the Chiefs do not want to face in the playoffs. Frank Reich has built the perfect group to knock off the champs, with a hard-hitting defense that opts for coverage over blitz pressure and a run-oriented offense that also features a veteran quarterback with big-game experience. As a result, the Colts can employ a keep-away strategy that reduces the total number of possessions in the game, while challenging the Chiefs to dink and dunk the ball down the field against a defense built to defend those tactics.
Examining the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense, the presence of DeForest Buckner, Justin Houston and Denico Autry enables defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to utilize a four-man rush with seven defenders in coverage. The zone-based premise can be effective for the Colts due to their overall team speed, particularly when it comes to the linebackers and defensive backs. They are outstanding tacklers in space and their ability to limit YAC is essential to winning with these tactics.
Offensively, the Colts’ five-star O-line could enable Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines to grind it out between the tackles on an assortment of power runs that wear down Kansas City’s defense as part of a ball-control strategy that keeps the game close into the fourth quarter. If the Colts aren’t able to hog the ball with a ground-and-pound attack, the presence of Philip Rivers gives them a chance to win a shootout with the veteran throwing the ball all over the yard. Despite his turnover history, No. 17 can catch fire at a moment’s notice and that could be enough to push Indianapolis over the top.
Nate Burleson: Patrick Mahomes bounces back from the three-pick performance in Week 14 with a statement game. He adds to his MVP case by throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions against a Saints defense that ranks in the top five in several major categories. Chiefs win their ninth game in a row.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs · OT
Replacing: Mike Remmers (back)
With Mitchell Schwartz (back) on injured reserve and Remmers going down with a back injury last week, the undrafted rookie filled in for Remmers on 24 offensive snaps and gave up a sack against Miami. Andy Reid praised Durant for his play in Week 14. After watching the tape, I’d agree with Reid’s positive assessment of a rookie who has improved since his college days. At Missouri, he was viewed as a size prospect (6-foot-7, 330 pounds) with long arms who would be hard to get around but needed to develop his technique. In the run game against the Dolphins, Durant showed aggressiveness, stayed on his feet and was able to cover up his man. However, he has limited foot quickness and redirect ability, which will cause him to have trouble in pass protection with speed rushers, stunts and inside moves. I’d expect Cam Jordan to challenge the rookie with inside moves on Sunday.
All that said, I do think his techniques have improved already from college.
What to know for fantasy: Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been held under 40 rushing yards in four of his past five games, and despite being a fantasy first-rounder, he has just two top-10 performances this season.
Betting nugget: Kansas City has won five consecutive one-score games, though it has failed to cover in all five. It is the first team to win but not cover five straight since the 1986 Patriots.
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 26, Saints 20
Triplett’s pick: Chiefs 27, Saints 24
FPI prediction: KC, 55.2% (by an average of 1.8 points)
Kansas City Chiefs
Fifty years after climbing the mountaintop in Super Bowl IV, Kansas City finally reached the summit again. The Chiefs trailed, 20-10, after three quarters before stunning San Francisco by ending the game on a 21-0 run. The win was a coronation for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2018 and took home game MVP honors with his clutch fourth-quarter performance. It also concluded a redemption arc for Andy Reid, who’s staked his claim as one of the best coaches the game has ever seen by putting to bed his past failures in big games.
Around the NFL
NFL insider Adam Schefter, who was on ESPN’s Get Up on Thursday, said that the Bengals could be a potential landing spot for Winston.
“I’ll give you a place that makes a lot of sense right now— Cincinnati, which will have Joe Burrow coming back, you don’t know if he’ll be ready for the start of the season. Jameis needs to play and impress people, he needs an opportunity, but he needs an opportunity where he might be free after that year...”
It makes sense to Schefter but not to many others as the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with their top-overall pick in 2020. Burrow tore his ACL about a month ago, and that’s where Winston may come in. Burrow could easily miss the start of the 2021 season.
Smith will be replaced by second-year QB Dwayne Haskins against the Seahawks (9-4). Haskins will make his first start since a Week 4 loss to Baltimore. Coach Ron Rivera benched Haskins after that game, saying the team wanted to see more growth — and multiple sources in the organization said he needed to do more preparation while not at the facility.
Now he’ll be tasked with helping Washington’s playoff chances. The team is 6-7 and owns a one-game lead over the New York Giants in the NFC East.
“I would say I’m pretty resilient,” Haskins said. “Life gets at you fast, and the biggest thing you can do is stand in the fire and walk through the flame and that’s what I did.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is aware of the narrative — but he’s not concerned about it affecting him.
“Le’Veon and I was talking about it today at practice... I really don’t feel like I would hit a rookie wall,” Edwards-Helaire assured in his Friday presser. “I think it’s more of a mental thing, I think it’s about how everybody else gets in your head. I’m just here playing football. I got hit with a lot of stuff early on, and they saw I could take it all in. I’ve been in a lot of other pressured moments in a long season, so I just don’t feel like I’m going to hit a rookie wall.”