4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
FPI chances to make playoffs: 82%
FPI chances to win division: 48%
It’s hard to know exactly which way to overreact to the Chiefs’ victory Sunday over the Cowboys. In the big picture, it was their fourth consecutive victory, a streak that has brought them from below .500 to atop the AFC West. But it wasn’t as good as their takedown last week of the Raiders, a point at which many NFL observers declared the Chiefs “back.”
Regardless of who they really are, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that the Chiefs will be among the seven teams representing the AFC in the playoffs, and more likely than not, they will be the AFC West champion.
Next up: vs. Broncos (Week 13)
This wasn’t about an opponent missing some star players. This was about a hungry defensive line applying relentless pressure, an aggressive secondary suffocating potential targets and a defensive coordinator finding his fastball again. We’ve spent much of the season wondering if the Kansas City Chiefs defense could stop being a liability for this team. A 19-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys just showed us why this unit suddenly is blossoming into a legitimate strength.
For a fourth straight game, the Chiefs limited an opponent to less than 20 points. And they weren’t facing just any quarterback in Week 11.
Prescott, a two-time Pro Bowler, and the Cowboys’ passing game came in ranking fourth in the league at 294.3 yards per game through the air. On Sunday, he threw for just 216.
How else did the Chiefs’ defense dominate Sunday?
Cowboys running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard anchored what previously was the NFL’s fourth-ranked ground attack. The Chiefs bottled up both, and limited Elliott, a three-time Pro Bowler, to just 32 yards on nine carries. As a team, the Cowboys managed just 82 yards rushing on 16 carries.
With the run game going nowhere, the Cowboys struggled on third down, converting just five of 15 attempts. Dallas entered with a 45.7% conversion rate on third down. They averaged a paltry 4.3 yards per play against the Chiefs.
Was Sunday’s NFL Week 11 matchup between the NFC’s Dallas Cowboys and the home-standing AFC’s Kansas City Chiefs a “Super Bowl preview’’?
The Cowboys had better hope not.
Chiefs 19, Cowboys 9 was about Kansas City getting up 9-0 early and then spending the rest of the afternoon at noisy, chilly Arrowhead Stadium enduring now-7-3 Dallas’ day-long attempts to scale unscalable hills.
The Cowboys entered without offensive standouts Amari Cooper (COVID) and Tyron Smith (ankle), lost another offensive standout CeeDee Lamb (concussion at the end of the first half), and needed rookie Micah Parsons to do everything to pressure K.C. quarterback Patrick Mahomes, as Dallas is still waiting on defensive end standouts DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory to come off IR.
The Cowboys committed silly mistakes, as did the referees (Dallas was victimized by a booth review of a face mask, even though face-masking is non-reviewable), and didn’t have the offensive coordination to match the defense’s effort.
1. Chris Jones: Destroyer of Cowboys. The Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle dominated the Dallas offensive line, living in the backfield. Jones discombobulated everything the Cowboys tried to run. The Pro Bowler hogtied Dak Prescott for 3.5 sacks on the night (he came in with three total sacks in eight games). Jones beat every lineman the Cowboys threw at him, including All-Pro guard Zack Martin, generating seven quarterback pressures, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Fittingly, Jones ended the game with a tipped pass that was intercepted to keep the Cowboys out of the end zone. Sunday’s performance was a reminder of what a game-wrecker Jones can be from the interior.
The Chiefs’ defense continued to dominate the entire game, even up until the very last opportunity the Cowboys had to score. With only one-minute left in the game, Jones got pressure from the inside, tipping Prescott’s pass, which led to L’Jarius Sneed’s game-clinching interception.
The Chiefs defense forced a total of six three-and-outs, and the Cowboys went 5-for-15 on third-downs. Prescott’s longest pass of the day was for only 19 yards. Chiefs defensive lineman, Jones, ends the game with a career high 3.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits.
The Chiefs defense finally looks dominant once again as they now roll on from Week 11 with a four game win streak.
Around the NFL
It was a long season-and-a-half for the New England Patriots, and the post-Tom Brady era looked bleak. The emergent Bills appeared built to claim the AFC East for years to come while New England, with their rookie quarterback, were set up for a tedious rebuild. But before Pats fans had much time to process what it would be like to lose and lose often, the team started winning. And winning some more. Thursday night’s 25-0 slaughter of the Atlanta Falcons was New England’s fifth win in a row. And thanks to Buffalo’s recent fall from grace, guess who’s back atop the division? (Feel free to imagine a sly-looking Bill Belichick while you read the rest of this article.)
A few hours later, Huntley showed the football world that the Ravens can win without the 2019 NFL MVP, rallying Baltimore to an improbable 16-13 victory over the Chicago Bears. Huntley became the fourth quarterback over the past 30 seasons to record a game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter in his first career start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The rain fell and the team floundered and you kept wondering when the Tennessee Titans we’d been watching the past six weeks were going to show up.
Alas, we learned that the same team that has been capable of routinely beating the NFL’s best — probability be darned — remains bizarrely prone to the same fate.
Maybe it shouldn’t be. Not if you’d been paying attention to what the Titans’ offense looked like the past two weeks without Derrick Henry — or the past few years to a franchise chronically prone to playing up or down to the competition.
But still …
This was awful. It was a hideous stinker, so smelly that the best course of action for coach Mike Vrabel might be to just burn the tape immediately and not let it fester.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
For over a month now, I have cautiously praised the Kansas City defense, suggesting it might have finally have found its identity. But ultimately, we needed to see a good performance against a high-level offense. On Sunday, Steve Spagnuolo’s defense passed that test with a dominant performance against the Cowboys’ elite offensive group.
Let’s expand on that identity. I believe the unit wants to be scrappy and physical at the line of scrimmage, getting its hands on opposing wide receivers early and often. Up front, Spagnuolo will do whatever it takes to create pressure — but thankfully, with a healthy Chris Jones and Frank Clark (and the addition of Melvin Ingram) it is a whole lot easier than it once was. The unit is forcing the issue at every level of the field. We can now see what it looks like when opposing offenses can’t win one-on-one matchups against the Kansas City defense: a dominating defensive performance.