In this weekly opponent scout series, I’ll break down the Kansas City Chiefs’ upcoming opponent by examining their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies — and how those things affect their matchup with the Chiefs.
Fresh off their second win of the season, the New York Giants will travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Chiefs on Monday Night Football — and for both teams, this Week 8 matchup is pretty much do-or-die.
The Giants are coming to Kansas City with a 2-5 record. They have defeated the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers; the former was a come-from-behind win in overtime, while the latter was a 25-3 beatdown administered on Sunday.
They average 19.9 points per game — the NFL’s eighth-lowest rate — and own the league’s 19th-ranked rate in total yards per game. They rank 10th in pass attempts this season — mainly because they’ve trailed in a lot in their games, but also because their rushing game has been inefficient; their rate of 3.8 yards per carry is the league’s seventh-lowest. They’re the 27th-ranked team in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA.
On defense, they’re allowing 25.7 points per game — the NFL’s 10th-most. They have the 13th-highest rate of total yards per game allowed. Their 38.3% third-down conversion rate allowed is the 13th-lowest — and they rank 19th in defensive DVOA.
Injuries have begun to empty the skill-position cupboard the Giants stocked this offseason. Running back Saquon Barkley is unlikely to play on Monday, while wide receivers Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Sterling Shepherd are all dealing with injuries.
That leaves quarterback Daniel Jones to carry the load himself — and he has no problem doing so. The Giants’ offense relies on him to be a threat in both the passing and running game. With Barkley injured, Jones might be the team’s best ball carrier.
#Chiefs have struggled to contain designed QB runs, and they'll get tested once again this week— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 28, 2021
Giants run zone reads and option plays to give Jones a chance to run -- and it seems like they've ramped it up since Barkley's been hurt. He might be their best ball carrier currently pic.twitter.com/GqjGJrczVI
If the read is correct, the offense will have numerous ways to give Jones a designed carry. Primarily, the Giants will run a zone read — where the linemen leave the backside edge defender alone, allowing Jones to read him and keep the ball if he crashes down on the handoff action with the running back. They’ve also shown a willingness to run speed options from under center.
They're also a play-action heavy team, with a lot of bootlegs from under center and sprint out passes to simplify reads for Jones and let him use his athleticism— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 28, 2021
Here, he makes a move to avoid Brian Burns on the bootleg, then throws an accurate sideline pass for a big play pic.twitter.com/OY2pn0ZbZ7
With the team’s heavy use of play-action, Jones is often throwing on the move — and in those scenarios, he has the talent to make tight-window throws. His athleticism will allow him to run away from defensive linemen or make a penetrating defender miss with a move. Once he’s in the clear, he shows good fundamentals when throwing on the run.
With Barkley out, New York will rely on running back Devontae Booker as their other rushing threat — but he’s averaging just 3.2 yards per carry on 49 attempts. The team’s lack of rushing success is tied to the condition of their offensive line; they’re missing multiple starters due to injury.
If their receivers can go, the most dangerous of the bunch is first-round rookie wideout Kadarius Toney. With the ball in his hands, he has become one of the league’s most electric players, showing incredible shiftiness and elusiveness — which also translates to route running. If healthy, it will be hard for any Chiefs defender to keep up with him before the throw — and get him to the ground after the catch.
The Giants have had their ups and downs on the defensive side — but when they’re up, it’s because of the disruption caused by their talented defensive line. Veteran defensive end Leonard Williams and rookie edge defender Azeez Ojulari lead the group in pressures. Williams has 4.5 sacks this season, while Ojulari leads the team with 5.5.
On defense, the Giants have talent up front. Leonard Williams (99), Dexter Lawrence (97), and rookie Azeez Ojulari (51) can all create havoc on any given pass-rush snap— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 28, 2021
Williams rushes from edge or 3T. Lawrence wins with overwhelming power. Ojulari has natural bend and speed pic.twitter.com/iWVhq6dSJm
The flashes of the talent, however, are just that: flashes. The Giants have the league’s fourth-lowest pressure rate as a team — even while being among the leaders in blitz rate. While they don’t affect opposing quarterbacks consistently enough, they have the talent to get hot for a game — just like the Tennessee Titans’ pass rush did against the Chiefs in Week 7.
At the off-ball linebacker position, the Giants trust second-year, former seventh-round pick Tae Crowder to play more than 80% of the defense’s snaps; former Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland is the second inside linebacker in their 3-4 base formation. Crowder’s athleticism allows him to fly all over the field, while Ragland tends to be slow to fill a run gap.
The New York secondary is talented — and utilized well by the defensive coaching staff. James Bradberry and Adoree Jackson are the full-time starting outside cornerbacks, while a combination of safety Jabrill Peppers, cornerback Darnay Holmes, and safety Julian Love man the slot. Unfortunately for the Giants, Peppers has been placed on their Reserve/Injured list — and will not play against the Chiefs.
In their back end, they appear to emphasize pre-snap rotations with their interchangeable safeties: starting in a one-high shell then dropping into two-high by the snap or vice versa— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 28, 2021
Think this could be a key to their strategy against #Chiefs. Make Mahomes think harder post-snap pic.twitter.com/cPPttLkRLk
The Giants’ two interchangeable safeties are Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney, who play both one-deep and two-deep coverage shells; either can handle the different alignments.
The coaching staff has shown an emphasis on disguising their coverages pre-snap, rotating their safeties as the cadence progresses to give the quarterback more to process post-snap. It would make sense for them to do it against the Chiefs, too, starting in a one-high safety look and rotating to two deep before the snap — or vice versa.
The bottom line
The Giants will test the discipline of the Chiefs’ defensive ends and linebackers with zone reads and a heavy dose of play-action passing. Jones is not afraid to tuck it and run — and he’s not the easiest guy to catch or bring to the ground. The Chiefs’ off-ball defenders will be challenged to simultaneously respect both his throwing and rushing ability.
For the Chiefs’ offense, the offensive line’s performance in both the running game and in pass protection will be the most significant factor in the unit’s success. Just like the Titans in Week 7, the Giants’ defensive line can come alive — but neutralizing them would lead to a reliable running game and the more comfortable version of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The more comfortable he is, the more confident he will be while operating from the pocket — and reading the disguised coverages the Giants will present in the back end.