What to watch for: Chiefs quarterback Mahomes is third in the NFL with five passing plays of 40 yards or more, and he’s leading the NFL with 18 passing touchdowns. The Titans, meanwhile, have allowed six passing plays of 40 yards, third worst in the NFL. Tennessee’s banged-up secondary has to find a way to keep the Chiefs’ passing game from hitting the big play on Sunday. — Turron Davenport
THING I DON’T LIKE: Titans RB Derrick Henry rushing for more than 117.5 yards against the Chiefs.
Henry has eclipsed 117.5 yards on the ground in four of six games in 2021, and he averages a league-best 130.5 rushing yards per game. His 783 yards rushing this season eclipses the ground totals of 26 NFL teams heading into Week 7. The Chiefs’ defense is allowing 133.2 rushing yards per game (27th in the league).
So, why on earth am I making the argument that Henry will not surpass 117.5 yards on the ground?
Well, there’s no denying it’s a tough task for Kansas City, but I expect the Chiefs’ strategy will be to create fronts that address the problems Henry causes. It’s worth noting that Henry also leads the league in rushing yards when facing a stacked box (eight or more defenders) with 249. However, the Chiefs should be especially prepared to stop the Titans’ zone concepts to continue their improvement in limiting teams from earning rushing first downs. They started Juan Thornhill over Daniel Sorensen at safety last week against the Washington Football Team and the change paid off. Kansas City limited Washington to a season-low 13 points and surrendered just six rushing first downs. (K.C.’s season average is 8.7 allowed per game, ranking 31st.)
The Titans’ banged-up secondary will provide an opportunity for Patrick Mahomes and Co. to score, which means the Titans could be forced to throw the ball more than they’d like to. All this to say, Henry could be targeted as a receiver more than usual, but projects to finish with less than 117.5 rushing yards.
Chiefs vs. Titans, Sunday 1 p.m. ET — CBS
This is one of the big games to watch this week, and the one I think I’m most excited for. Here you have a struggling Titans secondary being asked to stop Patrick Mahomes, and a Chiefs defense best described as “hot trash” trying to stop Derrick Henry.
Sorry, that’s just a recipe for fun. Then you sprinkle on the drama of this needing to be a statement game for both teams. The Chiefs have to win to keep up in the AFC West, and while a win is less necessary for the Titans because the AFC South is the worst division in football, there’s still a need to build confidence for a playoff push.
That the Kansas City Chiefs easily top this list is a testament to both how weird the season has been and how quickly things can go sideways.
That they are just 3-3 is one of the bigger surprises. But there are multiple reasons for those struggles, including injuries and surprisingly reckless ball management by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
But Mahomes’ turnovers are rooted is desperation—the knowledge that he and the offense have to carry the team more than ever.
Because the defense has been terrible.
Yes, the Chiefs are coming off a solid performance against the reeling Washington Football Team. But against the competent offenses of the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills, the Chiefs have been gashed.
Kansas City lost three of those four games.
The Chiefs rank 28th in total defense, 25th in pass defense, 28th in scoring defense and dead last with seven sacks. Kansas City needs help in the secondary. Its need for an edge-rusher is so massive that it defies description.
The Chiefs shouldn’t be reluctant to part with draft picks to get a deal done.
Because there’s no way they will win the Super Bowl with this defense.
Chiefs receive: Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah
Dolphins receive: Chiefs’ 2022 and 2023 fourth-round picks
An old friend is an intriguing target for the Chiefs this year. After Ogbah left the team following the 2019 season, he has been nothing short of impressive with the Dolphins, posting a 10-sack season last year and is well on his way to another great season this year. The Dolphins are a team in flux and they could be motivated to trade Ogbah, as he is playing in the final year of his contract. The only real issue with a trade for Ogbah is his contract, which is sitting at around $5 million currently. A restructure of his contract to include some void years could be in play if the Chiefs do make this move, adding a huge boon to the defensive end room.
Around the NFL
“He has been better than I thought, and I thought he was going to be really good,” McVay said. “I’ve been really impressed with his body of work and his resume over the course of his career. I think he’s doing a great job. I think the best players elevate those around them. I think guys are playing better around him. I think he’s seeing the field really well.”
So far this season, Stafford has tallied 1838 yards with 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Not to mention he’s having a career-high stats season—69.5% completion rate and 9.2 yards per pass. The Rams sit at a 5-1 record, second in NFC West.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., told ESPN that the representatives wanted to get involved because the NFL “holds a special place in American life.”
“The way they handle issues of race and gender and the way they treat their employees really influences the way society handles those very issues,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We’re very much interested in learning more about exactly why the NFL did what they did and the way they did it.”
Gruden resigned as Las Vegas Raiders coach earlier this month following reports that emails he wrote over a multiyear period included racist, misogynistic and anti-gay language. The emails were discovered as part of the investigation into Washington’s workplace culture.
“The biggest fear is that what Jon Gruden appears to engage in is much more common than what we otherwise thought,” Krishnamoorthi said. “That’s what a lot of people are concerned about.”
That said, let’s just dispel a few falsehoods about Lamar Jackson’s play.
No. 1: Lamar Jackson is just Michael Vick 2.0
I’ve seen this said, and I have to assume it’s just from people standing around water coolers who don’t actually watch the Ravens. While it’s true Jackson has the same scrambling, agile running style — when it comes to throwing the football they’re not remotely the same player.
Jackson is in his third year as a starter. In 2021 he’s on pace for 4,777 passing yards (4,496 if we project against a 16 game season). Along with this he’s 67.5 percent of his passes, and pegged to throw 26 touchdowns this year.
Vick only threw for 3,000 yards in a season twice in his career. His highest completion percentage ever on a season was 62.6 percent. The most touchdowns he ever threw for in a year is 21.
The point isn’t to denigrate Vick as a quarterback, but point out they are nothing alike statistically, or how they play. Jackson breaks down plays far quicker from the pocket. He moves through his full progression before looking to scramble, unless it’s a designed run. When he does throw he’s better at ball placement, hitting receivers in stride, and moving the chains.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
“All three of them will be in there going at different spots,” said Reid, referring to Niemann and fellow linebackers Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton. “Spags (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) has got a lot of different personnel groups in there, but all three of them can make the calls they need.”
The NFL first allowed defensive players to wear helmets with a green dot — that is, helmets equipped with radio receivers that enable coaches to speak to them from the sidelines — back in 2008. At that time, the league made it pretty clear that just two defensive players on each team would be allowed to wear these helmets — and that only one of them could be on the field at a given time.
So how would it be possible for all three Chiefs linebackers to be able to make play-calls?
After Reid spoke on Wednesday, some of us had discovered that many references still say that only two defensive players may have radio helmets. But in 2017, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had been asked about a similar situation with his defensive play-callers.
“By rule, we can have three guys, because the NFL acknowledges that a second-level defender wearing the green dot, whoever he may be, is not an all-situations player,” said Tomlin at the time, per Steelers.com. “Sometimes you may have a guy who stands in front of your huddle on first and second downs, and he’s a Vince Williams-type, and on third down you might have an oversized safety standing in front of your defense. We’ve never had those issues because of Ryan Shazier. He’s an all-situations player.”
A tweet to make you think
Chiefs-Titans tale of the tape pic.twitter.com/3mcmSa20It— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) October 23, 2021