Here we are the game everyone has circled since the 2023 season pairings were announced. This will be an epic tilt between the Super Bowl LVII Champions and the runner-up! This game has a chance to be a microcosm of activity, setting the tone for both the AFC and the NFC.
Whether or not the Kansas City Chiefs reign supreme after this game or not, this is going to be a fun one for both fan bases. While the rest of the AFC has determined to realign its hierarchy, the Chiefs remain the class of the AFC. We’ll see the best of both the Eagles and the Chiefs as they want to make a statement as to which team is the best in the NFL.
Head Coaches Andy Reid and Nick Sirianni are both competitive as hell, and that alone will make for a great game. For the players, I think we are going to see a superior effort from both squads. Yet, winning and losing comes down to a pair of items. One can the Chiefs defense hold Jalen Hurts and his game in check for 60 minutes? Will the Chiefs offense score enough points to make it easier on the defense?
Whatever your opinions are, two things are certain, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are the driving force for Kansas City. In the last few seasons, that was enough as the evidence shows. This season has been a little different. Whether you consider the absence of Eric Bienemy being a factor (I don’t, look at the Commanders) or the presence of Matt Nagy as the difference, it still falls back to the adage, Coaches coach and Players play.
The offensive production of the Kansas City Chiefs is predicated on two things, proper scheme and superior skill players. Brett Veach has done a remarkable job of bringing these factors to bear. Andy Reid is the ultimate offensive coach if his record is any evidence. Matt Nagy is a Reid disciple. Thus, coaching the offense correctly directly impacts effective implementation and execution.
Now let’s consider the player aspect. Patrick Mahomes has been off his game for a good part of the season. Is this because of his health, mindset, or some other factor? No one knows for sure but the evidence is apparent. This is causal, as well.
Can Mahomes’ supporting cast be an issue?
Yes, it can, and here’s why. Mahomes has had a good set of skill players surrounding him starting with Travis Kelce. The undisputed best tight end in the league and who will likely be considered the best tight end of all time is the only “star” offensive player. Until someone else steps up, that’s always going to be the case. Without complementary pieces, Mahomes becomes a regular guy. No denying his skillset but the problem is after the ball leaves his hands, there is an unknown if it’s not targeted at Kelce.
We talk about pedestrian efforts like it will explain the challenges the team endures. That’s nonsense because these guys are pros. They are paid to play at a high level and most of them want to play well enough to earn a substantial payday. So, what is the headscratcher?
Has Veach brought enough quality pieces to the table for this season’s effort? Yes and no. You have to build it with pieces that you are reasonably sure will complement each other. Those pieces, especially the ones behind the scenes, are directly responsible for evaluation and recommendation. If you receive inadequate or incomplete information, then your decision-making becomes flawed.
I’m not sure if this can explain what we see on the field but I can’t say it isn’t.
The supporting cast, while still very good, has not upped their game substantially enough this season. I’m not going to go into each player’s statistical contribution because the totality of the effort is how you win games. Let’s take a look at where each unit is and compare that to the Eagles.
The Chiefs currently rank 14th in total offense and 15th in scoring. Pretty much the middle of the road on the surface. They are 7th in passing and 21st in rushing. Eagles’ defensive coordinator Sean Desai has his unit 11th in yards allowed and scoring defense ranked 15th. They are 26th against the pass and 1st against the run.
Let’s look at the defense. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit is currently ranked 1st in scoring defense alongside the San Francisco 49ers and is ranked 3rd in yards allowed. They are 4th against the pass and 16th against the run. In the meantime, the Eagles are 8th in total offense and 6th in scoring. They are 12th in passing and 10th in rushing. Of course, the Dolphins in their week nine international game were ranked number one across the board and we saw what happened there.
It appears this matchup will be decided by who wants it more. Here’s what I expect. I believe the Chiefs will be playing lights out on defense. I can see Spags’ unit keeping Jalen Hurts in the box and forcing him to pass. Look for Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed to keep A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith pretty quiet. With TE Dallas Goedert on IR due to a broken forearm, Hurts won’t have many safety valves to go to outside of Julio Jones who hasn’t done much in an Eagles uniform.
Also, watch for Justin Reid and Bryan Cook to keep the secondary under wraps. Hurts may sneak a couple of throws on the defensive secondary, but it won’t be anything sustained. Line play will be the difference for the Chiefs. If Hurts can’t get anything going with the passing game, watch for option plays and play action to try and get underneath shots. Sirianni is going to have a good game plan but Spags is going to make him dig deep into his playbook.
The longer Hurts goes with trying for any completions greater than 10 yards, watch for Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, and Charles Omenihu to ruin his day. I also believe Spags will dial up some exotic blitzes to trick the Eagles’ offensive line into misjudging the downhill game. Watch for Drue Tranquill, Willie Gay, and Leo Chenal to wreak havoc on some of these plays.
All in all, I expect a well-fought game with both teams trying to take advantage of their own strengths to provide a beatdown. The other advantage I specifically did not mention earlier is the home crowd at Arrowhead. This is a home game on Monday Night Football.
While this may be a preview for February 11, 2024, Chiefs Kingdom will be in their Super Bowl mode. You can bet the Swifties will be watching too and we can be sure that Kansas City will burn very bright!
Chiefs 28, Eagles 17