Every week, teams design a game plan with hopes of slowing down or completely eliminating opponents’ better players. The Kansas City Chiefs, now in position for home field advantage in the AFC, still have to take care of business. This week, a trip to the Superdome against the New Orleans Saints will have a lot of star studded matchups on display.
Both pass rushes are going to be critical in this matchup between the Chiefs and Saints. While both presumed starting quarterbacks respond differently to pressure, we have seen how that has affected them lately. And from a Kansas City perspective, there is one clear playmaker that they must limit as well. In preparation for Sunday, the coordinators and game designers will have their attention turned to the following players. Here are three key matchups that we have our eyes on.
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Chiefs Offensive Line vs Saints Pass Rush
If you have been following us and the Kansas City Chiefs offense all year long, you know how much of a liability this offensive line has been. We saw more struggles last week against Miami. Obviously, the Dolphins presented a challenge going into the game. Pressure by the defense led to uncharacteristic turnovers and frustrating ends to drives, however.
In addition, right tackle Mike Remmers left the game with an injury. He had performed admirably stepping in for Mitchell Schwartz. And while the jury is still out on former UDFA Yasir Durant, turning to your third right tackle of the season is dire. As of today’s writing (Wednesday), Andy Reid said Remmers did not practice to open the week. Neither did other offensive tackle Eric Fisher. Both missed with a “tight back,” according to Reid. Their status will me highly monitored entering Sunday.
Above all, the Chiefs have to account for defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson. Jordan can wreak havoc just as much in the running game, as he can rushing the passer. His size combined with instinctiveness will need to be contained. While they cannot count on it every time, the Chiefs must be able to help chip Jordan when needed. On the other side, Hendrickson is among elite company on the season in sacks (10.5). After many games of being inactive, battling injuries or simply not standing out, the Florida Atlantic product has started to put it together. These two win with a sense of quickness, lateral mobility and heavy hands. The Kansas City interior has to also account for the relentless styles of David Onyemata and Malcom Brown.
Chiefs Pass Rush vs Saints Offensive Line
We have to also look at the other offensive line versus pass rush matchup. The Chiefs were able to get after Tua Tagovailoa fairly consistently and comfortably by rushing four last week. Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Alex Okafor and Tershawn Wharton all registered a sack or multiple hits. On paper, this New Orleans blocking unit looks like a more stout test this week. But, they are coming off of a horrid performance against a Philadelphia Eagles squad. This defense had been chasing their own tails, while struggling up hill for multiple weeks. Misplaced double teams and out of place slide protections left the door open for free rushers at Taysom Hill. Additionally, Hill is still learning the nuances of timing in the pocket.
Assuming that he is the quarterback again this week, Kansas City should feel ecstatic. Of course, Hill’s legs must be accounted for heavily. The Chiefs have been able to create more natural pressure, though. Clark and Okafor will be key against the likes of Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead. But most of all, the New Orleans Saints have to take care of Jones. The trio of Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy and either Cesar Ruiz or Nick Easton were the most disappointing for the Saints last week up front. If number 95 in red and gold wrecks the game plan and takes over like we know he can, the Saints offense will begin to flounder.
Kansas City Defense vs Alvin Kamara
No doubt about it, the most dangerous player to Kansas City on Sunday is Alvin Kamara. The do it all running back can beat you on the ground or through the air on the receiving end. His versatility of being able to win from multiple areas of the field will be a compelling obstacle to try to get over. If Kamara is lined up out wide, do we see L’Jarius Sneed lineup across from him? What about in the slot? That could also garner the attention of Sneed. If not, look for Tyrann Mathieu or even Rashad Fenton to be paired with number 41.
In the run game, the Chiefs have to tackle as well as they have the last two weeks, which is with heavy pursuit and quick closes on the football or ball carrier. You cannot allow Kamara to utilize his shiftiness and speed in short areas. Teams have proven that he can be slowed down or stopped. Doing that for all 60 minutes and finishing the job are a different story. If Kansas City can force others like Tre’Quan Smith or Jared Cook to make multiple plays, the Chiefs will be comfortable.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– 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.