As the Kansas City Chiefs look primed for another Super Bowl run, they get a visit from last year's champions in their upcoming Week 12 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday.
Despite the success they enjoyed last season, this year's Rams team has hit the dreaded Super Bowl hangover. Their record of 3-7 has them at the bottom of the NFC West standings as injuries continue to plague their star-studded roster. Regardless of who Los Angeles will have available to play against them, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid emphasized that his team will be ready and adequately prepared come this Sunday.
"Well, they've had a change to the team and then injuries," Reid said of the Rams during his press conference on Wednesday. "Those things happen, and that's not something they planned on happening, right? But that's kind of what I see with where they're at, but at the same time, 99 (Aaron Donald), 54 (Leonard Floyd) — [they've] been all over, and these guys haven't changed, and their quarterback (Matthew Stafford) is banged up – whether he plays or doesn't play, they've got good backups there. They've got good receivers, O-line, so you know you've got to get yourself ready."
As Reid suggested, the most notable injury for the Rams is the head and neck injury suffered by quarterback Stafford last week. With an offense already in disarray due to major injuries — starting with the loss of All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp to the numerous injuries along their offensive line — losing Stafford may be the final straw that breaks the backs of the reigning Super Bowl champions.
If Stafford cannot go, undrafted third-string quarterback Bryce Perkins is expected to get the start against the Chiefs though backup quarterback John Wolford has also been practicing.
During his media availability this week, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes offered some advice for the second-year quarterback who could potentially make his first career start on Sunday in front of a raucous Arrowhead crowd.
"Yeah, I think the biggest thing is you got to rely on your coaches and the guys around you," Mahomes advised. "That's the biggest thing that I remember is. Obviously, you're going to a new environment – he's playing at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, I think I was playing at Mile High my first start. You're going to a new environment, it's going to be a challenge for you, but how can you rely on what your coaches have taught you, your fundamentals and your teammates around you to bring the best out of you?"
All their injuries withstanding, one player who will be available for the Rams is superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Players and coaches on the Chiefs have raved about Donald all week long, so it's fair to say he has the team's full attention — and rightfully so. Donald is a force of nature for the Rams – leading the team with five sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits this season. His combination of technique, athleticism and competitive motor makes stopping Donald the highest priority for Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs' offense.
"They have playmakers everywhere," Mahomes said. "99 (Donald), he's strip-sacked me twice last — when we played them — so we got to make sure we account for him every single time that he's on the field which is like every play. So, you have to have a good game plan for him."
Chiefs right guard Trey Smith is expected to see many snaps lined up against Donald on Sunday and shared the same sentiments as his quarterback when it comes to the challenge of stopping him.
"Just have to be technically sound at the end of the day," Smith explained. "He's a great competitor, a great player and when you have a great player, you've got to be on your 'A' game. Ultimately, (I've) just got to work my technique and do what I do best."
Aside from Donald, the Rams' defense is still loaded with talented players at every level of the field. Mahomes is well aware of that fact and says the offense will need to execute at their highest level in order to prevent them from wrecking what could be the Chiefs' fifth-straight victory this Sunday.
"Oh yeah, they have a ton of talent," Mahomes continued. "They're still a great defense. I watched them in all the games they've had this year, and they've done a great job."
"They got 5, (Rams DB Jalen) Ramsey, who's a great player. They've got 54 (Rams LB Leonard Floyd). You can just go down the list, they have great players all throughout that defense. And so, it'll be a great challenge for us as an offense and we have to go out there and execute at a high level and try to limit our mistakes because they capitalize on those."