The 2021 NFL season feels like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? A Rams team that continuously lit draft picks on fire in order to continue to add win-now veterans saw their all-in team-building strategy pay off with a Super Bowl victory at SoFi Stadium over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Much of that Rams team is no longer together, but what is significant about that season here is that it was the last time the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs had a losing streak. A fumble by running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the deciding blow in a 35-35 road loss at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 that year, and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert tossing a four-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams with 32 seconds left gave the Bolts a 30-24 road win in Week 3 against Kansas City. Those two games make up the last time the Chiefs had back-to-back losses.
Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid Outstanding off a Loss
On the rare occasions the Chiefs lose under Patrick Mahomes, they’re quite sharp at bouncing back in a hurry.
For his career, the Texas Tech product is 12-7 against the spread in the game immediately following a loss.
Shrink the sample to the previous two seasons and bettors will find the Chiefs are 5-1 in such spots, including a perfect 3-0 this season.
When you’re just asking him to win the game, Mahomes is even better historically. Across those 19 contests, the Chiefs are 16-3 straight up in the games immediately following a defeat.
Keon Coleman WR
FLORIDA STATE • JR • 6’4” / 215 LBS
Kansas City has struggled with drops this season. Keon Coleman is a ball winner down the field but, more importantly, he has just a 1.1% drop rate on 87 targets this season.
Fourth-down decisions: Bills seventh, Chiefs 27th
In what could be the best game of the week, both quarterbacks will be facing off against tough defenses.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ offense is first-rate, except for its offensive line play. It will go against a fierce Buffalo Bills’ defense that can stop the run, generate pressure and lock down the back end.
Kansas City’s offensive line will be under immense pressure to protect Patrick Mahomes and create rushing lanes for Isiah Pacheco.
Turnovers have hurt the Bills this year, but their receiving core has also struggled. They could struggle against a good Chiefs secondary. That means they might have to rely on the run game — where they have a distinct advantage — to earn the win.
Kansas City Chiefs
Chance to win division: 95.3%
Remaining strength of schedule: 15th toughest
Why they can win the division: The Chiefs — even after allowing 27 points in Sunday’s loss to the Packers — have a defense capable of keeping them in most games. The offense doesn’t have as much firepower as in recent years, but it has proved it can be efficient when it eliminates turnovers and dropped passes. And maybe the most important reason Kansas City can win the division: The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes. — Adam Teicher
OT Wanya Morris
Head coach Andy Reid said there’s a good chance that Morris is the starter at left tackle instead of Donovan Smith, who’s been dealing with a neck injury that’s causing limitations in his shoulders. That could be a big issue against a formidable Bills pass rush, especially considering edge rushers Leonard Floyd (9.5 sacks) and A.J. Epenesa (6.5 sacks) are having big years. Kansas City would be wise to use their running backs to chip in pass protection, and they may consider moving Mahomes in the pocket on play-action and bootlegs in order to help out their reserve left tackle. If Morris holds up, Bills head coach Sean McDermott will probably panic and send extra blitzes, thereby giving Mahomes plenty of open space to throw downfield. If he doesn’t, then Buffalo’s defense can play more coverage, which is definitely what they want to do this week.
The Packers used formations that featured two tight ends to gain rushing yards. Once they established a strong success rate on running plays, the Packers gained a bigger advantage when quarterback Jordan Love succeeded on play-action passes.
“Everyone wants to get after the quarterback, but you can’t do that until you earn the right to do that,” Spagnuolo said of his players Thursday. “We’ve got to hone in on that part of our game.”
When evaluating the unit’s performance, Spagnuolo said the Chiefs didn’t force the Packers into enough third-down snaps — they finished with 10 — that started as a clear disadvantage for the opposing offense.
Around the NFL
Jaguars coach Doug Pederson says the team will wait until Sunday before deciding whether injured quarterback Trevor Lawrence will start against the Browns.
Lawrence suffered a right high ankle sprain in Monday night’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but he practiced on a limited basis Thursday and was going to do the same Friday. He will be listed as questionable when the status report is released Friday afternoon.
“He’s feeling good,” Pederson said. “He moved around a little bit [Thursday], see how he does today. Kind of base it on the medical staff, how Trevor feels.”
The Jaguars on Friday also placed wide receiver Christian Kirk on injured reserve because of the groin injury he suffered against the Bengals. Kirk is the Jaguars’ leader in receiving yards (787) and second in receptions (57). He will have to miss four games before he is eligible to return from IR.
There’s no guarantee he’ll play, though. When speaking with reporters Friday, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski declined to name a starting quarterback for Cleveland’s game against Jacksonville this weekend.
“Both guys practiced this week,” Stefanski said of Thompson-Robinson and veteran Joe Flacco. “Both guys practiced well, but I’m not going to name a starter.”
Stefanski has every right to be coy about who will play quarterback versus the Jaguars. He has, after all, been forced to start four different individuals at the position this season, and after Flacco surprised most everyone with a strong performance in Cleveland’s Week 13 loss, Stefanski has two decent-or-better options for the first time in 2023.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Riding a rollercoaster of production through the start of the 2023 season, a primetime loss in Green Bay served as another low point — sending some to look for out-of-the-box solutions.
“We just didn’t make enough plays,” first-year Chief Richie James began Thursday in the locker room. “Then we had plays out there to be made… we just ain’t make them.”
James, who spent nine weeks on injured reserve nursing a knee issue, snagged one catch for 12 yards on two targets in the 27-19 loss to the Packers.
“It’s been frustrating sitting there watching… knowing in your mind that you can come and contribute,” James revealed. “But we’re here now, so it’s all about taking advantage of opportunities.”
Chiefs wide receiver snap counts (Week 13 vs. Packers)— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) December 4, 2023
Rice - 46
Moore - 44
Watson - 40
Valdes-Scantling - 33
Toney - 12
James - 4
A tweet to make you think
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on potential injured reserve stints for Bryan Cook and Isiah Pacheco: "We'll see."— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) December 8, 2023
The head coach said both Cook and Pacheco are still being evaluated. Pacheco's injury is to the same shoulder he hurt last year.