Shifts and motions. Not all pre-snap disguises and looks that throw defenses off balance are created equal. However, over the past three seasons, teams earned a passer rating that’s about 14 percent higher when they use pre-snap shifts and motions compared with similar downs and distances results when they don’t use them. Some teams are so adept at using these tactics that they see an even more dramatic difference. This season, the Chiefs have used pre-snap shifts and motions on 81 pass plays (third-most in the league), per Next Gen Stats. Patrick Mahomes has been pressured on 27 percent of his total dropbacks, but just 23.5 percent of the time when using shifts and motions. The Chiefs have used motion at the second-highest rate in the league (72% overall, 70% on passing downs) and average 7.1 yards per play with motion compared to 5.8 without. On passing plays, they average 8.7 yards per play when they use motion and 6.3 yards per play without. While there might not be extremely dramatic disparities between the two sets of data, these edges can be the difference between a drive ending in a field goal or a touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Browns and Ravens both profile as two of the AFC’s top teams – one will win the division, one should make the playoffs as a wildcard. And then there are the Bengals, who have been positively frisky through three weeks.
And that’s where things get interesting. The AFC West is also set to play the AFC North this season. The Chiefs have already lost to the Ravens. But they beat the Browns in week one and will face the Steelers and Bengals back-to-back later in the season. The Chargers, meanwhile, still have all four AFC North opponents ahead.
If every team finishes in the 12-10-win range rather than having a team crank up 14-15 wins, then the entire division heading to the playoffs is possible. Again, that’s not easy. But the Chargers and Chiefs have the kind of offensive power (and are just good enough defensively) to allow them to blow any team off the field in any given week. In fact, the toughest game remaining on their schedules is likely when they play each other.
Chiefs - 7 at Eagles
Yes this is a different spot for this Chiefs than they’re used to. At least the Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes Chiefs. However I believe it will bring out the best in them and there will be a sense of urgency to win this game. There’s a huge discrepancy in the degree of acumen experience between these coaching staffs and there is a massive gap at quarterback as well.
Yes I have serious reservations about the Chiefs defense but I do not believe the Eagles will be that equipped to exploit it. The Eagles will have to run the heck out of the football to have any chance of really moving the ball and that’s not going to be enough to keep Pace with Mahomes. Kansas City will find some joy downfield and I can’t imagine that the cheetah is locked down for a third straight week. Reid pulls out all the stops here and Kansas City gets a comfortable victory to flex its muscles again.
Chiefs at Eagles
The Chiefs are 1-2 three weeks into the year and below .500 for the first time since Week 10 in 2015, a crazy stat and a testament to how good a coach Andy Reid really is. Reid had a health scare at the end of last week but is cleared to coach in his old stomping grounds. KC should be able to throw up some big numbers against a banged up Eagles defense pretty easily, but it’s kind of hard to imagine the Chiefs being able to slow down Jalen Hurts and Co. completely. Nick Sirriani got roasted this week for failing to commit to the run, so one can reasonably expect more than two rushes for explosive playmaker Miles Sanders. This line is probably inflated after an ugly loss to the Cowboys on Monday night, so I’ll take some value with the Eagles here.
The Pick: Chiefs 31, Eagles 24
Bets: Travis Kelce over receptions, receiving yards
What to watch for: Eagles running backs received three total carries in their Monday night loss to the Cowboys. Only 9.4% of their plays were designed runs, the fourth-lowest rate in an NFL game over the past 15 seasons. It proved to be a serious miscalculation. Expect coach Nick Sirianni to remedy that this week, especially against a Chiefs defense that ranks 31st in rushing yards allowed (160.3 per game). — Tim McManus
Bold prediction: The Chiefs won’t commit a turnover, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes will at long last start a game that is decided by more than one score. The Chiefs have turned the ball over six times in the past two games, but they will protect it better against the Eagles, who are tied for the bottom of the league with just one takeaway in three games. The past 10 Chiefs’ regular-season games started by Mahomes were decided by six points or fewer, but that streak will end. — Adam Teicher
“It’s just playing better assignment football I think and just everybody doing their job better,” Niemann explained of the miserable red zone defense. “It’s not a scheme issue or anything like that, we’ve just got to execute at the end of the day. It’s got to be more consistent and a game-by-game thing we keep improving on, and we’re working on it every week in practice.”
Flash back five years ago, how would that number change? Kansas City had spent almost 50 long years waiting for another trip to the Super Bowl, and it seemed like Chiefs Kingdom would be willing to give just about anything to see their team hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
As it turns out, the Chiefs were willing to pay $104,000,000 over five years for a championship.
At the start of the 2019 season, the Chiefs knew their time to win was now. They had come so close to returning to the Super Bowl the previous season, only to lose to the New England Patriots in gut wrenching fashion in the AFC Championship game.
Frank Clark’s role in achieving Super Bowl glory makes it all worthwhile for K.C. Chiefs.
Around the NFL
The Buccaneers listed Gronkowski as doubtful for Sunday night’s game against the Patriots on the team’s Friday injury report. Gronkowski did not participate in Friday’s practice.
Gronkowski suffered the injury when he caught a pass and was hit in the midsection by Rams linebacker Terrell Lewis early in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s loss to Los Angeles. The veteran tight end exited before returning late in the quarter, finishing the game with four catches for 55 yards.
Gronkowski got off to a slow start to the 2020 season before coming on strong to close it, capping his first year with Tampa Bay with a two-touchdown performance in Super Bowl LV. He’s continued to produce points for the Buccaneers, scoring four touchdowns in his first three games this season.
Both Brown and Jones suffered hamstring injuries in last week’s 25-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Brown played only eight snaps before coming out. Jones was deemed unavailable late in the third quarter. Neither of the receivers practiced this week.
Second-year wideout Nick Westbrook-Ikhine will be leaned upon to step in for the injured Brown and Jones. Free-agent addition Josh Reynolds was inactive last week but said he expected to get an opportunity against the Jets.
This past Wednesday, as the team began its preparation for Sunday’s game against the Giants, the practice had a feel unlike the ones that have preceded it this season, according to players I spoke with. Being back on their own practice fields, in their own facility, brought a new energy. Players are trying to prepare themselves for what to expect on Sunday at the Superdome. It’ll be 637 days since the last time the Saints played in front of a full-capacity crowd in their city. It’s already known as one of the toughest places to play for visiting teams. The noise from fans has been known to reach well over 100 decibels.
“I think (Payton’s) trying to simulate it in practice with the crowd noise,” Callaway said. “But from what I’ve heard, from coaches, this crowd ... be prepared. They are going to be hyped. Be ready. The hurricane, the first home game after COVID (capacity restrictions) and the crazy start of the season for us. I know the fans are going to be there. I know the city is going to be there. I can’t imagine how it’s going to be.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
4. Executing pass coverage
Against the Los Angeles Chargers, Chiefs defenders struggled to cover receivers — making life easier for quarterback Justin Herbert. On Sunday, they’ll face some young, talented pass catchers — but no one that should be too much to handle.
A bounce-back performance from the Kansas City secondary will also help the Chiefs’ pass rushers — the linemen didn’t have their greatest day against Los Angeles — but some of the times they did beat blockers, Herbert had the ball out very quickly. If the coverage can hold up a little longer against the Eagles, a player like Chris Jones should be able to take advantage of Philadelphia’s beat-up offensive line.
Jalen Hurts has also struggled as a traditional dropback passer; against Dallas in Week 3, he had a few bad throws that turned into game-changing interceptions. After not forcing a turnover last week, the Chiefs’ defensive backs should have a chance to get some — as long as they properly execute their coverages.