This week’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers pits opponents that have played some exciting games so far this season against each other. Furthermore, that may be the exact result on Sunday. Two offenses that can beat you in multiple ways. Meanwhile, these two defenses have won by utilizing different sets and looks for quarterbacks.
Despite some of those similarities, there will likely be different recipes used in order to emerge victorious. In fact, we have some of our own ideas for each team entering the contest. The Kansas City defense has been largely impressive against the pass, other than that lone loss. Interestingly, the Panthers present a strong challenge there. Now, let’s get things started with our three keys to victory for each team.
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Kansas City- 3 Keys To Victory
1) Nickel And Dime ‘Em
The Chiefs pass defense has made life tough on opponents. Last week, Sam Darnold was forced to fit balls into tight windows with a large deficit. We have also seen Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward perform admirably in man coverage. However, that may need to change this week. Both players can do well in man, because of their physical style and coverage spacing. Though, this week’s set of receivers, in DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel are much more fast and diverse.
The Kansas City Chiefs would be wise to use their dime package that brought plenty of success in the second half of last season. This allows the defensive unit to add more speed and tighter coverage on the backend, as a whole. Teddy Bridgewater will not hesitate to take his shots. But, the Chiefs are much more comfortable with the Cover 3 look, when facing speed.
2) Copy And Paste
If I’m Andy Reid, I would stick with what worked last week offensively. Patrick Mahomes and the passing offense got back to their roots. We saw quick passes, RPOs aplenty and eventual deep shots taken. Mahomes has quietly improved on his timing and placement on balls deep down the field. That is something that he has been working on the last couple of years.
On the other hand, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle would love to see more wide open matchups in space. The youthful Panthers secondary is much more trustworthy than the lowly Jets. Nonetheless, this is a secondary that has a tendency of missing tackles and allowing a handful of yards after the catch. It is certainly as advantageous of a matchup for Mahomes’ weapons, as it is for the former MVP.
3) Win On Third Down
The Carolina offense enters Sunday with the 11th best third down offense in the NFL. Kansas City boasts the 9th best third down defense in the league. This could very well be where the Chiefs either pull away, or the Panthers stay in it. Bridgewater is deadly in the intermediate passing game. Consequently, the Chiefs have been getting home with their pass rush, more so in this situation. Rookie UDFA Tershawn Wharton has been a diamond in the rough, providing instant depth beyond Chris Jones and Frank Clark. We have also seen inspiring play on third down from Daniel Sorensen and Anthony Hitchens in the box. The Chiefs understand that the Panthers have sustained long drive after long drive. Getting off the field and staying fresh, will be of the upmost importance.
Carolina- 3 Keys To Victory
1) Trust The Run Game
It appears that star Christian McCaffrey is trending to return this Sunday. That is good news for Carolina’s offense, which is schemed to open players up in space. Thrusting the Stanford product back into both the run and pass game is perfect timing, entering a matchup against the defending champs. However, not all was lost when McCaffrey was absent. Veteran Mike Davis was a force to be reckoned with. Due to a punishing run style, and ability to change directions smoothly for a bigger back, Davis kept the Panthers’ pace afloat.
It is not just that they should focus on the run game on Sunday. But, Carolina must trust in it fully. Let McCaffrey attempt to dominate like he can. If he needs a breather while returning from a high ankle sprain, allow Davis to bring a different look into Sunday’s picture. The Chiefs are still looking to improve more in stopping the run. The Panthers own version of thunder and lightning could alter Kansas City’s game plan.
2) Bring The House
Although it did not happen very often last week, the Chiefs got off track when pressure got to Mahomes. This new look offensive line has been mostly dominant. They have not seen the multiple looks that Carolina presents, though.
Sophomore defensive end Brian Burns is the conductor of the Panthers pass rush. He wins with heavy, active hands and a diverse set of pass rush moves. The Panthers will not hesitate to sprinkle in some defensive back blitzes. Rookie Jeremy Chinn is one player that Kansas City will need to be aware of at all times. The more Carolina opens up and uses their versatile skillsets at their disposal, the better against the Chiefs offense.
3) Play On The Prowl
In order to keep up with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Carolina Panthers have to stay aggressive. While Matt Rhule is a fine head coach, his teams have had a tendency to be a bit timid. Look at the Baylor vs Oklahoma game from last year. Rhule’s Bears led the Sooners 28-3 early. Unfortunately, they got conservative and OU came back to win 34-31. Earlier this season, Rhule and the Panthers were indecisive on how they wanted to handle fourth down attempts.
Staying aggressive and adding new wrinkles could possibly turn the tables, forcing the Chiefs to think on their feet. Let Bridgewater add a sense of danger with his dual threat ability. And don’t be afraid to throw disguises against the wall defensively and sticking with them. The Panthers have been in seemingly every game this year, but the W’s have not always come to fruition. Altering those costly decisions may help the Panthers end their losing streak.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.