On Sunday of the NFL’s Week 3, the Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) could be walking into a trap against the Chicago Bears (0-2) on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Headed into the weekend, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Chiefs as 12.5-point favorites over the Bears. That’s tied for the highest spread of the weekend; the Dallas Cowboys hold the same line over the Arizona Cardinals.
Aside from the Bears’ woes on the field, Chicago also dealt with off-field headlines this week — including their defensive coordinator Alan Willliams unexpectedly stepping away from the team.
It all sets up perfectly for one of two things: a Kansas City blowout, or a contest too close for comfort.
Here are five things to watch on Sunday.
1. Getting the passing game going
Heading into Week 3, Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes ranks 17th in yards per pass attempt, 23rd in completion percentage and 20th in passer rating among NFL quarterbacks.
Those are unheard-of low marks for the Chiefs’ passing game — and it’s time to turn that around. Mahomes admitted this week that the team has struggled to beat zone coverage, which speaks to a lack of timing (and instinctual trust) with his pass-catchers.
Enter the Bears’ defense — which has allowed 8.9 net yards per pass attempt this season, the league’s second-highest mark. Through two weeks, it has yet to force a turnover — and has tallied just one sack.
This is a get-right spot for the home team’s passing attack — and it is needed.
2. A big advantage for the Chiefs’ defensive front
Last Sunday, Kansas City’s defensive line harassed Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence. This Sunday, it have a chance to terrorize Chicago’s Justin Fields even more.
The Bears’ pass protection has been one of the league’s worst: 13% of the unit’s passing attempts end up as sacks — the NFL’s highest rate. The league has only two starting quarterbacks who see less pressure per dropback than Fields, who faces it on 47% of his pass attempts.
Justin Fields has been the 3rd-most pressured QB in the NFL this year, & the 2nd-most sacked— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) September 22, 2023
His tackles have struggled with containing rushers from the edge. RT is rookie Darnell Wright, starting LT is now injured
A bad snap to add insult to injury towards the end pic.twitter.com/yjL89e03YD
The mismatch up front may be enough for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to temper his blitzing tendencies. For instance: if the Chiefs align defensive tackle Chris Jones over the right tackle on every third down (like they did against Jacksonville), Jones would once again be facing a rookie. In this case, it would be Darnell Wright, who has allowed a sack and seven pressures this season.
3. Disciplined blitzers
Still, Spagnuolo is obviously going to test the young Chicago quarterback with some blitzes, and it will likely cause confusion. So when he panics, it will be up to the Chiefs’ defense to finish the job — but that’s likely to be easier said than done.
The #Chiefs defense will be facing Justin Fields on Sunday, who may be looking to use his legs more in KC— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) September 22, 2023
Chicago has not been able to get Fields going as a designed runner, but his scrambling still popped v GB
KC pass rushers/blitzers will need discipline in their rush paths pic.twitter.com/7zXGluw5lj
On Thursday, Spagnuolo was clear that the team is focused on containing Fields — whose athleticism allowed him to accumulate 1,143 rushing yards last season.
“If you go watch film from last year, when he does [run], it’s scary,” he pointed out. “We saw something on one of the PFF slides: he has had as many of those takeoffs to 20 miles per hour as Tyreek Hill — and we all know what Tyreek can do.”
Chicago has not had the same success getting Fields into open space as last year; so far, the team has been unable to open up designed runs for the quarterback. But this week, Fields told local media that he will try to think less — and play more instinctual football.
That could be interpreted as Fields being more willing to use his legs — to be more of a playmaker — to get the Bears’ offense out of its funk. Either way, Spagnuolo is preparing for a playmaker.
“It’s a concern,” he noted. “It would’ve been whether he said that or not — because if you let him do that, he can wreck the game.”
4. How sudden injuries are dealt with
This week, we learned that wide receiver Richie James is dealing with an injury that will linger past Sunday’s game. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub did not appoint a specific player to replace him as a returner, so what we see on Sunday will be interesting.
A toe injury kept wide receiver Kadarius Toney from practicing on Wednesday and Thursday — but he was back at work on Friday. He would be one of a few available options. Another would be wideout Skyy Moore. But that might not only put his value to the offense into question, but also impact his confidence; he clearly struggled with returning punts last season.
PFF tracks Defensive Stops, a tackle that constitutes a "failure" for the offense— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) September 20, 2023
The #Chiefs leaders through 2 games:
Nick Bolton - 6 in 119 snaps
Leo Chenal - 5 in 54 snaps
Justin Reid - 4 in 136 snaps
Mike Danna - 4 in 111 snaps
Drue Tranquill - 4 in 42 snaps
Linebacker Nick Bolton did not practice at all this week — and his absence will obviously be impactful. However, the team may feel comfortable letting him heal up with patience; linebackers Drue Tranquill and Leo Chenal will just play more snaps, giving them a larger sample size to show off their talents. Each have made significant impacts in limited snaps.
5. Creating more turnovers
During Thursday’s press appearance, Spagnuolo also mentioned three aspects of the game that he believes the defense could improve upon. One was creating turnovers.
The Chiefs have forced two turnovers this season. Only five teams have forced fewer. In Week 1, cornerback Trent McDuffie forced a turnover when he came up hard on a tackle, helping the ball pop free. In Week 2, a pass (that turned out to be a lateral) was recovered by cornerback L’Jarius Sneed after it fell to the ground.
We must give credit to McDuffie for an effective tackle — and Sneed for a heads-up play. But it would also be nice to see Kansas City’s back end force a turnover through the air — or for see the pass rushers focus on prying a ball loose from Fields. While the Chiefs’ defense has been impressive so far, it won’t reach its peak until it starts actively forcing turnovers when opportunities present themselves.
Kickoff for Sunday’s game is set for 3:25 p.m. Arrowhead Time.