Kansas City Chiefs · TE
The future first-ballot Hall of Famer is a freestyle specialist on the perimeter with the green light to run to open areas. The unpredictability of Kelce’s routes and destinations makes it nearly impossible to draw up a game plan that neutralizes his impact on the Chiefs’ offense.
Moreover, Kelce’s synchronized improvisation with Patrick Mahomes keeps the pressure on defenders to “plaster” (i.e., stick with their assigned pass catchers during scrambles) No. 87 at all times or risk surrendering a big gain on a broken play or key down. With Andy Reid encouraging his top playmakers to play a two-man game of sorts, the challenge of defending the Chiefs’ passing game drives opposing coordinators crazy ahead of matchups with the defending Super Bowl champs.
2. The red zone will be the key on Sunday.
This point seems obvious, but when reviewing the Chiefs’ matchup against the Broncos two weeks ago, it’s worth discussing. The Chiefs racked up 389 yards of offense in that game, moving into Broncos’ territory on all but two of their 11 offensive possessions. For context, those 389 yards were the fourth-most of any team in Week 6.
Despite that production, however, the Chiefs only scored 19 points due to a 1-for-5 mark in the red zone. In fact, Kansas City marched to the Broncos’ 17-yard line, 15-yard line, 6-yard line and 3-yard line in the first half, but scored only 10 points on those four possessions. It’s all to say that the Chiefs moved the ball well against Denver, but a handful of plays in the red zone were the difference between a potential of 35 points vs. the 19 that Kansas City actually scored.
Fortunately, the Chiefs have otherwise been solid in the red zone this season. Outside of Kansas City’s 1-for-5 mark vs. Denver, the Chiefs have scored touchdowns on 15 of their 23 red zone drives. That 65 percent success rate would rank fourth in the NFL – a significant improvement from the Chiefs’ actual clip of 57.1 percent, which ranks 14th in the league.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Kansas City Chiefs have already brought back one member of last year’s receiving corps. They should now see whether they can land JuJu Smith-Schuster from the New England Patriots on the cheap.
Smith-Schuster, who was inactive in Week 7, hasn’t been a significant piece of New England’s game plan. Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald reported last month that Smith-Schuster is on “increasingly shaky standing on the depth chart.”
With Smith-Schuster having only 14 catches on 25 targets, that statement tracks.
Like Mecole Hardman, Smith-Schuster is already familiar with Kansas City’s scheme and personnel. He caught 78 passes for 933 yards and three touchdowns last season. Even if he might not be as prolific this season, he could be a contributor.
The Chiefs have only $4.8 million in cap space, but that’s more than enough to absorb Smith-Schuster’s $1.1 million base salary. The challenge would be convincing New England to eat the $7.9 million in dead money that it would be left with.
“The Broncos are 2-0 against NFC North teams this year, but 0-5 against everyone else and the Chiefs fall in the everyone else category. On the Chiefs’ end, the only thing that worries me about this game is that I don’t know if Taylor Swift is going to be there. Can someone from Taylor’s camp please call me and let me know, because I need to know how Travis Kelce is going to play.
“If Taylor shows up, Kelce will finish with 200 receiving yards and three touchdowns. If she doesn’t show up, it probably won’t matter because the Chiefs don’t need their good luck charm to beat the Broncos. They just need Patrick Mahomes.”
Chiefs Could Build Trenches with Broncos’ Garrett Bolles
Perhaps the Chiefs are comfortable enough to ride it out with their current wide receiving corps with rookie Rashee Rice coming on and the team re-acquiring Mecole Hardman from the New York Jets just this past week.
They could also turn to the trenches, according to Mosher.
He lists Denver Broncos left tackle Garrett Bolles as a potential trade target, though the obvious drawbacks of working with a division rival apply.
Does Denver really want to help the Chiefs, even if it would ultimately help them? Do the Chiefs was to help the Broncos alleviate some of their future concerns, taking a soon-to-be rising cap number off their hands and forking over draft capital (i.e. cheap labor) to do it? For those reasons and more, Bolles is probably off the table.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Kansas City Chiefs [DraftKings DFS Value: $3,200]: Valdes-Scantling had by far his best game of the season last week, catching a long touchdown against the Chargers. Ride the hot hand Sunday against Denver’s 30th-ranked pass defense.
Around the NFL
Bears quarterback Justin Fields will be sidelined for the second straight game while recovering from his dislocated right thumb.
Fields was officially ruled out Friday after not practicing this week. The Bears head to Los Angeles to face the Chargers on Sunday night, with rookie Tyson Bagent set to start his second straight game in place of Fields.
Bagent completed 21 of 29 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown in Chicago’s 30-12 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. He became the first Bears quarterback to win his debut since Craig Krenzel in 2004.
The 49ers quarterback participated in Thursday’s and Friday’s practices — including a full session on Friday — and should he clear the concussion protocol on Saturday, Purdy will start against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“Yeah, definitely,” Shanahan said Friday on if Purdy would start if cleared. “He was full go today, so he’s just got to pass that tomorrow.”
Purdy is officially listed as questionable for the game. 49ers left Tackle Trent Williams (ankle) is also questionable to play but star wideout Deebo Samuel (shoulder) will miss his second straight game.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Speaking before Thursday’s practice, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo believes that Tranquill will thrive in the role — because they have already seen it.
“We’ve played a couple of games,” the coach recalled, “I want to say it was three total without Nick — Drue has been in there. The guys have felt Drue in front of the huddle all week long, obviously. I think there’s a comfort level with the other 10 [players] with Drue in there now having done it. I think they felt that way when Nick went down the first time.”
Spagnuolo knows the Chiefs are fortunate to have a backup in Tranquill who can operate the entire defense.
“It’s nice to know,” he stated, “we have a guy that can fit in there and not skip a beat. I said this before, I never felt like we had to cut things back when Drue took over in those three games. Nick was gone, and I feel the same way now, so hopefully we can keep tracking upward.”
A tweet to make you think
"I knew when the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes my time in Kansas City was running out..— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 27, 2023
Nobody talks about his work ethic and he's an immense competitor" ~ Alex Smith#PMSLive pic.twitter.com/WyJAbsBBJD