Feature the screen game
As the Chiefs head into the season’s final quarter, Reid must find a way to generate more “explosives” (20-yard plus pass plays) with the collection of playmakers at his disposal.
Surveying the group, the Chiefs have an intriguing mix of pass-catchers with punt returner backgrounds (Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore) and dazzling open-field running skills (Rashee Rice). In addition, the Chiefs’ running back rotation features a group of pass-catching specialists with sticky hands and wiggle. Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Pacheco all excel in the passing game.
With those skills in mind, Reid’s game plans should feature every conceivable screen pass in the book to accentuate his playmakers’ strengths on the perimeter. The Chiefs’ top players possess the skills to turn short, high-percentage passes into big gains with crafty runs in space. That includes Toney, Moore and Rice snagging collegiate-like bubble screens or jailbreak screens, McKinnon, Edwards-Helaire and Pacheco slipping out of the backfield on an assortment of slow screens and Travis Kelce touching the rock on a tight end delay or slip screen.
For a team looking to establish a rhythm while fortifying the trust between Mahomes and his pass-catchers, the screen game should boost the unit’s confidence with “easy” catches, producing positive gains on the perimeter.
6 - Patrick Mahomes
Not so dissimilar to Hurts, his Super Bowl foe, Mahomes has taken turns playing hero and falling victim to his own folding surroundings in an off year. Without reliable pass catchers, he’s struggled to push the ball. But he can’t be counted out. (-1)
PATRIOTS VS. CHIEFS
Spread: Patriots +9.5
The Kansas City Chiefs have lost three of their last four, including their last two games. This stretch is a complete departure from the norm in the Patrick Mahomes era. Kansas City’s underwhelming skill group continues to be its biggest problem.
For the New England Patriots, Bailey Zappe had an excellent first half against the Steelers last Thursday. However, apart from that 21-point spike against Pittsburgh, the Patriots have scored 20 points in their three previous games.
The Chiefs’ defense can carry Kansas City to victory.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 24, Patriots 13
Sit of the Week
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, New England Patriots [DraftKings DFS Value: $5,800]: Elliott fared well as New England’s lead back last season, but much of that was based around a positive game script. The Pats racing out to another early lead is a lot less likely against the Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs Defense [DraftKings DFS Value: $3,900]: The Chiefs are a better defensive football team than many realize, and while the Patriots scored 21 points a week ago, they scored 13 points combined in the three games preceding that.
Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs
Rice has been a risky option in fantasy leagues all season because of his lack of playing time.
Most fantasy starters typically play at least 70% of offensive snaps, a mark Rice failed to reach over the first 13 weeks of the season.
His playing time has slowly but surely risen all year, and it took a dramatic turn in the right direction this past week when he played 85% of the offensive snaps.
Rice was held to five or fewer receptions over the first 11 weeks of the season but has caught at least seven passes in each of the last three games. He’s scored the seventh-most fantasy points at the position in that three-game stretch.
The increase in playing time and consistent play should make him a fantasy starter going forward, regardless of the opponent.
Rice has the sixth-best matchup of the week, according to our WR/CB matchup chart.
There’s a chance Rice might not have the same volume if the Chiefs can get out to a big lead and run the ball, but even a slightly worse game still makes him worthy of being a fantasy starter.
The Chiefs have lost three of four, but if you want to find a silver lining, their offense has been moving the ball more consistently than it was earlier in the season. Kansas City’s three highest offensive success rates all year have been the last three games. I still don’t trust those wide receivers in a big spot, but there are definitely more signs of life for the offense as a whole.
The Patriots beat Pittsburgh last week to pick up their third win of the season. There’s a lot on the line here. If the season ended today, New England would have the second pick in the draft. But a win here, combined with a Cardinals loss, would knock the Patriots down a spot. But I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. Bailey Zappe didn’t suddenly turn into Joe Montana, and the Chiefs need a get-right game. I think Kansas City avoids a three-game skid and takes care of business.
The pick: Chiefs (-8.5)
3. (AFC West Champion) - Chiefs
The computer hasn’t exactly lost faith in the Chiefs yet, despite the fact that they have a 1-3 record since their Week 10 bye. According to the computer, the Chiefs (8-5) have a 10.28% chance of winning the Super Bowl, which is the third-highest in the NFL, behind only the 49ers (31.97%) and Ravens (17.06%). Remaining schedule: at Patriots, Raiders, Bengals, at Chargers.
Around the NFL
The 63 points were the third most scored by a team in the Super Bowl era, and the second most in NFL history by a team that was shut out in its previous game, one behind the 64 points the 1934 Eagles had against the Cincinnati Reds. The Raiders also saw their season point differential move from minus-57 to minus-1.
It was a complete demolition as the Raiders, under interim coach Antonio Pierce, ended a three-game losing streak to improve to 6-8 while scoring seven touchdowns on offense and two on defense and having five takeaways. The Raiders led 42-0 at halftime.
Brock Purdy or Christian McCaffrey for most valuable player. Who ya got?
Well, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t about to be baited into answering that loaded question. However, if Purdy or any other NFL quarterback comes up short when the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player is revealed at NFL Honors, Shanahan believes there’s no other choice but CMC.
“I mean, are you trying to get me in trouble with those two guys?” Shanahan answered Wednesday, via team transcript, when asked how to decipher between McCaffrey and Purdy as MVP with them on the same team. “That’s the only reason I wouldn’t overly comment on either one of them because I don’t want them to cancel each other out.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Speaking before Wednesday’s practice, head coach Andy Reid recalled seeing his squad focus on their next opponent, the New England Patriots, in the locker room following the narrow defeat.
“I felt that way even towards the end of their little bit the locker room,” the coach revealed. “When I got done with [the media] and came back, they’re going forward.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes spoke after Reid and explained what he has seen from his teammates since the loss.
“I think once the game was over,” Mahomes explained, “and you got to sleep and came back on Monday and Tuesday, I think everyone’s mind was in the right spot. In this league, you have to move past that stuff, and we’re going to play a great football team that plays extremely hard and is playing better football right now than they’ve played all season long. It’s going to be a great test for us and a great challenge, so I think guys’ heads are in the right place.”
In years past, former Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy — now with the Washington Commanders — seemed to take charge in resetting the team through rough stretches. Mahomes believes it is now up to the players and coaches who worked with him, including this season’s offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, to take up that mantle.
A tweet to make you think
Things could have been so different for Staley had he just taken that tie.— Tom Childs (@tomchilds56) December 15, 2023