Kansas City fans and players couldn’t have asked for a better bye weekend. The Chiefs gained ground on all their AFC rivals without stepping on the field. An angry 49ers team decimated the Jaguars while Lamar Jackson and the Ravens fell short in a spicy AFC North matchup, losing on a Dustin Hopkins 41-yard field goal as time expired. The Chargers lost a shootout while the Bengals lost their matchup to rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and the Texans on a 38-yard game-winning field goal by Chiefs legend Matt Ammendola, who was just signed this week by the Texans. The Chiefs’ path to the #1 seed in the AFC looks much smoother as long as they stack wins.
If the playoffs started today, neither the Buffalo Bills nor the Cincinnati Bengals would make the playoffs. The surprise replacements for those two? You guessed it: the Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns. Speaking of playoff teams, the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles roll into town next week for a much anticipated Super Bowl LVII rematch on Monday Night Football. They are in an excellent position for the #1 seed in the NFC, and after a gut-wrenching loss in their last matchup with the Chiefs, you can imagine the Eagles will be ready to roll. With both teams coming off a bye week, they will be rested and healthy. The main difference? Andy Reid’s famous record of playing after a bye week. Coach Reid is 27-4 in his career, coming off a bye. Expect the Chiefs to be up for the challenge.
It is no secret that Andy Reid’s offense likes to throw the football. I’ve always imagined Coach Reid saying, “Why run when you can pass”? It’s great to see Patrick Mahomes throw missiles to Travis Kelce, but you can’t argue with the facts. When Isiah Pacheco has 12 or more carries this season, the Chiefs have not lost a game. The Chiefs must run the ball on early downs and get into short-yardage situations. The Eagles rank #1 in defensive rushing yards allowed this season, only giving up 66.3 rushing yards per game, so this will be challenging. This game will be won and lost in the trenches. Keep an eye on big defensive tackle Jordan Davis for the Eagles. It will be crucial that the Chiefs lineman keep tabs on him in the run game.
The QB sneak is the one thing that comes to mind when I think of the Eagles. The tush push. The brotherly shove. Whatever you want to call it, it works. Since 2022, Jalen Hurts and the Eagles have converted the QB sneak at a success rate of 92.5%. No team does it better. The key to taking this strength away from them? Avoid short-yardage situations. The Chiefs’ defense will need to get pressure on Jalen Hurts and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Look for Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to dial up some unique blitz packages. I’d like to see some safety/corner blitzes from Mike Edwards or Jaylen Watson. The key player for the defense will be linebacker Drue Tranquill, who is having a fantastic first year in Kansas City. He is leading the team in tackles with 56 and doing a superb job filling in for Nick Bolton, who is on IR. Tranquill’s style of linebacker play is fast and physical, with the ability to sniff out plays and make big tackles.
The key player for the Chiefs offense will be Rashee Rice. He has become a go-to guy for Mahomes as the season has progressed, and every time he touches the ball, it feels like he could take it to the house. Getting him consistent targets will be necessary to get first downs and ultimately score touchdowns. In the game against the Dolphins in Germany last week, he was only targeted two times but, when he was, he scored a touchdown and had a big first-down catch. It is clear Mahomes trusts him and that he can be a reliable playmaker. They need to give him the ball. If the Chiefs can establish the run early with Pacheco and take care of the football, I think they will beat the Eagles. My challenge to the Chiefs this week is not to turn the ball over, as they have been struggling lately with taking care of the ball. This game will be hard-nosed and physical and will be decided in the trenches. No matter the final score result, the Chiefs must come out on top to maintain control of the #1 seed in the AFC. The great Al Davis once said, “Just win, baby.”
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