Rashee Rice – and rest of Kansas City Chiefs’ receivers
Last week, Rice became this first Chiefs wide receiver to go over 100 receiving yards since Week 7 of last season. Rice is a rookie so the onus to step up shouldn’t be all on the first-year wideout. Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman all need to become more reliable threats on the outside. Their inability to create separation and drops have become a theme this season. However, Rice has been the one to show promising signs this year. If Kansas City wants to capture the AFC’s No. 1 seed and successfully defend its Super Bowl title, it has to become less dependent on Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Isiah Pacheco on offense. – Tyler Dragon
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs offense is searching for another reliable weapon to pair with Travis Kelce. While Rashee Rice had a massive game in Week 12, a true contender like the Chiefs shouldn’t place too much faith in any one rookie. While the veteran wide receivers have all disappointed, perhaps the Chiefs should place their faith in the tight end position. Two tight end offenses aren’t incredibly common in today’s NFL, but a brilliant offensive mind like Andy Reid should be able to find a way to make it work. If Zach Ertz can be a reliable security blanket in this offense, then the Chiefs will be one of the most dangerous teams down the stretch.
Bold prediction: The Chiefs will sack Love four times. When defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo wants to bring pressure, the Chiefs have usually been successful this season, and they bring it from many different places. They have 14 players with at least a half sack. Love has been sacked only 22 times but hasn’t faced a pass rush like this one. — Adam Teicher
Stat to know: The Chiefs defense uses DB blitzes on 20% of opponents dropbacks, the third-highest rate in the league. That may not be the best idea against Love on Sunday, as the Packers QB has played well against DB blitzes this season, ranking top-five in QBR, first down rate and sack percentage.
Trent McDuffie has been the Kansas City Chiefs’ most consistent defender through 11 games in 2023 and seems to be on the fast track to stardom entering the home stretch of the team’s regular season.
According to Pro Football Focus, McDuffie has earned an 85.0 grade for his efforts this year, which is the highest of any Chiefs defender and ranks third among all second-year players.
Trent McDuffie: 85.0 PFF grade this season— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) November 30, 2023
1st among Chiefs defenders
3rd among all second-year players pic.twitter.com/i5nNM7bdwq
Jordan Love has played some of his best football since Week 9, winning three of the Packers’ last four games. After tossing five TD strikes — and zero picks — over his last two contests, the first-year starter makes his biggest statement yet on Sunday night when the Chiefs come to town. Love throws more touchdown passes than Patrick Mahomes and leads the Packers to an upset win in prime time.
Love has tossed five touchdowns and no interceptions during the Packers’ two-game winning streak against the Chargers and at the NFC North-leading Lions the last two weeks. He’s even shown an ability to thread the needle for touchdowns like his predecessor, four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
On the other side of the Week 13 “Sunday Night Football” matchup, the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs are struggling by their standards. Their 23.3 points per game, 364.9 total yards per game, 5.7 yards per play and 46% third-down conversion rate are all the worst of the Patrick Mahomes era, since 2018.
Christian Watson under 3.5 receptions (-104): Watson came up big on Thanksgiving with five receptions, but note that he had failed to clear three catches in his other seven games this season. Watson has appeared in 22 NFL games, but has yet to clear eight targets in any of them. Perhaps he’s headed for a breakout down the stretch, but it’s hard to see a big day coming here in Week 13 against a Chiefs defense that has allowed the eighth-fewest WR receptions and the fourth-lowest catch rate (58%) this season. Watson is a good bet to draw L’Jarius Sneed shadow coverage after Davante Adams (five receptions) and A.J. Brown (one catch) were held in check while being shadowed by Sneed over the past two weeks.
Around the NFL
Achane missed the Dolphins’ win over the New York Jets in Week 12 after aggravating his knee injury the previous week in his initial return against the Las Vegas Raiders. The rookie had spent five weeks on injured reserve after originally suffering the knee injury in Week 5.
The third-round pick has rushed for 461 yards and has seven total touchdowns in five games this season, averaging an NFL-high 11.8 yards per carry. His return should give the Dolphins a potent tandem with Raheem Mostert, whose 785 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns rank second and first in the NFL, respectively.
McDaniel wasn’t as definitive about the status of safety Jevon Holland, who has been limited throughout the week with injuries to both knees. The third-year star was at practice Friday and didn’t appear to have any brace or sleeve on either knee, but McDaniel said the team would err on the side of caution.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
There will be another homecoming this weekend as the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the Green Bay Packers. Chiefs second-year linebacker Leo Chenal grew up just shy of four hours away from Lambeau Field, where he will return this Sunday as the opponent of his childhood team.
“It’s definitely a homecoming game — and we’re all cheese heads,” Chenal confessed to the media on Thursday. “Once you get into the heart of Wisconsin, everybody’s a Packers fan and I definitely grew up a cheese head.”
Chenal lived close to two NFL teams, the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, in an area he says is split between the two fan bases. He didn’t attend many games at Lambeau growing up but said Packers games still hold a special meaning in his family.
“We kind of treated it as like a family time, where we sit around a big TV, my whole family,” he recalled. “We were always watching the Packers, supporting them.”
A tweet to make you think
#Packers coach Matt LaFleur tells reporters that RB Aaron Jones (knee sprain) won't play again this week. He hasn't practiced since his injury.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 1, 2023