It’s Kelce Bowl II, Andy Reid against his old team once again, the Super Bowl rematch and the clash of the best two teams in the NFL this season.
The Kansas City Chiefs' defense has improved to the point where they should be a reason for optimism. But the storylines for this one come down to the adjustments the Chiefs might make coming out of the bye in order to get the offense going.
Who is going to emerge from the receiver room? Will they consistently run the ball? Many questions need to be answered, and the team seems to believe the answers are in the room already.
Here are a few Chiefs who could be trending heading into Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles:
Running back Isiah Pacheco: In an attempt to speak it into existence, I’m highlighting the young running back in this matchup. The Chiefs need the spark and balance that Pacheco brings to this offense. They need to be able to control games in the second half. They need to get their screen game going against an aggressive Eagles’ front. For all of these reasons, they should be building their offense around No. 10 going forward.
EDGE George Karlaftis: The Chiefs' pass rush is working well as a unit, and the guy leading the way is Karlaftis. His six sacks in the first nine games tops even Chris Jones (though CJ has 5.5 in 8 games), but “Furious George” is impacting games each week, with four tackles for loss, three batted passes and a forced fumble. He seems to have improved his flexibility, added to his pass-rush moves, and still has the nonstop motor that was his calling card in the draft. With Charles Omenihu and Chris Jones complementing his game, Karlaftis should hit double-digit sacks in his second NFL season, exceeding all expectations. The Eagles' offense can beat teams in a number of different ways, and it’s going to take all of these guys being aggressive but disciplined to keep them out of third-and-short situations.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes: I’m breaking my rule of not including Mahomes as bullish in the “Market Movers” pieces. He’s already number one on the roster and in the league over the past few years, but the first half of the season was just a little bit below his usual high standards. So, our expectation should be that he’ll be on an upward trend in production in the next nine games and into the postseason. Mahomes tends to play up to the competition in big games — and what regular season game is bigger than this one? Watch for some Mahomes magic on Monday night.
Others trending in the right direction this week: Trent McDuffie, Rashee Rice, Drue Tranquill, Bryan Cook, Charles Omenihu, Trey Smith, Noah Gray, Justin Reid
Tight end Blake Bell: I still love the idea of the “Belldozer” — the former quarterback known for winning in short-yardage runs, now (arguably) one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. But it’s been difficult to see the contributions from Bell this season. The short yardage stuff isn’t working, and he’s not a threat in the passing game (three catches on five targets for 19 yards and a touchdown this season), and he lost a key fumble. The Chiefs' offense has been dynamic in the past, using multiple tight ends and winning on downfield passes. But they’re missing that other passing threat — previously, it was Jody Fortson. Bell still helps as a blocker, but there’s little reason to believe he’s going to be a weapon against the Eagles.
Running back Jerick McKinnon: Has last year’s playoff hero lost a step? He still seems to have a nose for the end zone, scoring three receiving touchdowns so far. But he’s averaging just 1.9 yards per carry on the ground and seems to lack the burst we’re used to seeing. Perhaps they’re saving him for the postseason run again, or maybe he’s slowing down and won’t be as useful. Now that the Chiefs had their bye week to self-scout, we’ll see what reps McKinnon gets against the Eagles.
Wide receiver/returner Richie James: He’s back from injured reserve, but what role is there for James? Coaches have already confirmed that Mecole Hardman will retain the return duties. James has only one catch this season for six yards in his two games played — so that doesn’t give us a lot of confidence that he’ll step in on Monday night and help. In fact, it feels like he’ll probably be on the game-day inactive list.
Others trending in the wrong direction this week: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Joe Thuney, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Value (sleeper) pick: Wide receiver Skyy Moore
Moore’s stock has been low for a very long time. Far from what we hoped he’d be at this point, he has not increased his target share or taken over the JuJu Smith-Schuster role. But, his two catches against the Dolphins before the bye were solid — a 23-yard catch and another chain-mover. Maybe it’s a sign of good things to come?
Moore is an energy-giver, playing with a youthful enthusiasm every week, and there are some types of plays where he can be really effective (like slants, crossing patterns, screens, and short out patterns). If the Chiefs narrow the field of receivers down, and at the same time let Moore do what he does best, perhaps there’s still a chance that the coaches’ faith in him pays off in the second half of the season. This week, he’ll face the Eagles, against whom he scored his first NFL touchdown in the Super Bowl. If he can find success again on Monday night, he could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem in the wide receiver room.