The Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs (which entered the AFL as the Dallas Texans) are generating the highest TV audiences through half of the season.
The most recent Cowboys game, at the Eagles, attracted more than 27.1 million viewers. The Cowboys, via Sports Business Daily, have had the biggest or second-biggest audience in six of nine week of the current season.
The Chiefs have played in the highest-rated game for four of the first nine weeks of the season.
Big numbers are likely for both teams the rest of the way. Upcoming Cowboys games include the late-afternoon Thanksgiving game (against the Commanders), the following Thursday night (against the Seahawks), the next Sunday night (against the Eagles), and a Week 17 Saturday night game against the Lions.
1. The AFC Championship Game will not be at Arrowhead Stadium
Yes, we have to start with a bold one. For the first time in six years, the conference title game will not take place in Kansas City. Sorry, Chiefs fans, but at some point the team will play a road playoff game in the Patrick Mahomes era. During Mahomes’ six years as the Chiefs leading man, this statistic might be the most remarkable: All 10 of his non-Super Bowl postseason games have been at Arrowhead.
That’s why Nick Wright, the co-host on Fox Sports 1’s “First Things First” has rebranded the AFC Championship Game as the Arrowhead Invitational.
The Chiefs are on pace to earn the AFC’s No. 1 seed, which would give them a first-round bye and home-field advantage. Tej Seth, a data scientist with Sumer Sports, projects the Chiefs as the favorite to capture the No. 1 seed with a 54.9 percent chance.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Sure, this is a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, with the offense ranked a pedestrian 12th in scoring after five consecutive years of finishing no worse than sixth. But it’d be foolish to write off any improvement down the stretch from this unit, and Mahomes remains a singular talent capable of reeling off seldom-seen highlights with the flick of his wrist. And, in a rarity, the defense is a source of excitement rather than consternation.
Rookie receiver Rashee Rice has been a revelation for the Kansas City Chiefs offense in 2023, and his stellar play certainly seems to have caught the attention of the experts at Pro Football Focus, who have him graded as the NFL’s fourth-best rookie through nine weeks.
Biggest question(s) remaining this season
Foote: What does McKinnon’s role look like the rest of the way? Last year, the veteran was targeted 51 times in the passing game in Weeks 8-16 and scored eight total touchdowns in that span. He also averaged just under 32 snaps per game, a total he hasn’t come close to sniffing in 2023. Is that an intentional effort by the Chiefs to preserve McKinnon for the stretch run, or is it a byproduct of Pacheco’s emergence? The 31-year-old might be the team’s third- or fourth-best option in the passing game, so there’s plenty of incentive to get him more involved.
Around the NFL
Coach of the Year: John Harbaugh
Baltimore is getting a lot of love here, but Harbaugh has a good case: He’s overseen the installation of a new offense that is humming, a defense that’s playing historically good football, and the repairing of relations between the franchise and its star quarterback. A fair criticism would be that Harbaugh has a lot of help. Jackson is the offensive engine, and Mike Macdonald’s fingerprints are most visible on the defense. But Harbaugh hired Macdonald and new OC Todd Monken in the first place, which is the kind of thing a good coach should get credit for, and making the bold decision to move on from veteran coordinators like Wink Martindale and Greg Roman isn’t terribly common, even if it was time.
Why the Bears won
The Bears defense controlled the tempo of this matchup. Carolina recorded just 97 yards of total offense in the first half, and finished with 213 total yards. The Panthers converted just 3-of-15 third downs, and didn’t score a touchdown, as Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s 79-yard punt return touchdown in the first quarter was the lone end-zone trip for Carolina on Thursday night. The Bears defense also recorded three sacks and nine QB hits.
Credit to Bagent for being a game manager and taking care of the football, but Chicago’s defense came up big.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
VOTING: DE George Karlaftis (6), DE Mike Danna (5), LB Leo Chenal (3), S Justin Reid (2), LB Willie Gay Jr. (1)
It was a strong pool of candidates for this award; the Chiefs’ defense features many ascending players. However, the growth of defensive end George Karlaftis from his rookie year to now has been substantial.
Karlaftis leads the team in sacks (6), matching his season total from 2022 in nine games. He is currently tied for fifth in the NFL in pressures, per Pro Football Focus. He has generated this production by being much quicker off the ball, more flexible, bending around the edge, and faster to his counter move. He has been the team’s best edge rusher but has also moved inside on passing downs and produced there.
On run downs, Karlaftis is stout, firing out to engage blocks with strong hands and rarely getting moved off his spot. That wasn’t the case in his rookie year: he was still adjusting to the strength of the NFL, but he has caught up this season. On top of being strong at the point of attack, Karlaftis has the acceleration to chase down a run going away from him.
A tweet to make you think
Chris Jones mic'd up in Germany... you don't wanna miss this pic.twitter.com/9B742l1aDO— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) November 10, 2023