Non-conference games have little to no affect on tiebreakers for NFL playoff seeding. However, this game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints is filled with major implications. Both teams have to take care of business, in order to enter the playoffs with full confidence. Kansas City currently holds the number one seed in the AFC. But, Pittsburgh and Buffalo are lurking with very winnable games on tap this weekend. The Saints are also hoping to down the Chiefs, while still receiving help from those that face the Green Bay Packers.
This week presents multiple challenges for each team in many areas. How will Drew Brees look in his return from multiple rib fractures and a collapsed lung? Will the Saints defense bounce back from last week’s disappointing result? Will the Chiefs take better care of the football? We hope to answer some of those questions in this week’s game preview. How can either Kansas City or New Orleans emerge victorious? Here are our three keys to victory for both teams.
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Kansas City- 3 Keys To Victory
1) Limit Pressure On Mahomes
Whether we see Eric Fisher and Mike Remmers start at offensive tackle or not, the Chiefs have to find a way to keep the pressure Patrick Mahomes faces to a minimum. We have seen the interior blocking struggle against powerful defenders, who know how to use their leverage as a strength. The matchups against defensive tackles like David Onyemata and Malcolm Roach will be key. Combination blocks or double teams might work best there. Elsewhere, who ever plays at the tackle spots cannot become stagnant. Being able to keep the feet moving and forcing guys like Cameron Jordan or Trey Hendrickson to alter rush lanes will allow Mahomes more time.
If Andy Reid needs to design a moving pocket or longer drop backs, whatever it takes to ensure 15 has enough time to create plays. If they can limit pressure the quarterback should be able to create splash plays against a streaky secondary who has struggled to make ball hawking plays.
2) Make Brees Beat Man
If you look at some of Drew Brees’ best games over the course of the last two years, it is crazy to see teams attempt to run zone coverage against him. For example, think of the Sunday night game at Tampa from this season. The Buccaneers left Brees perfect openings to either throw striking darts on a rope, or enough to drop it in a basket. The future Hall of Famer has been becoming more reliant on quick passes and smash concepts.
On the other hand, Kansas City has been running man coverage concepts to success. Bashaud Breeland continues to break up plays and frustrate opposing receivers. Charvarius Ward has been extremely sticky in coverage lately. Meanwhile, L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton continue to improve in the slot. If the Chiefs can continue to execute these man coverage attempts on Sunday, it will force Brees to either hold on to the ball for too long. And the New Orleans offensive line is banged up. Or, he will have to fit it in to tight windows. That has become less of a common occurrence for the Saints QB.
3) Do The Little Things
Last week, the Chiefs lost the turnover margin four to one. They still got the win. Though, it was much more difficult than it should have been. The last of Mahomes’ three interceptions reenergized the Dolphins in the fourth quarter. New Orleans enters Sunday with 20 takeaways on the season. They have defenders with size and quickness that attack and close well on the ball carrier. We have also seen an increase in defenses looking to strip the ball away from the opponent’s grasp. The Chiefs have to play sound fundamentally and not beat themselves with turnovers, gifting the other team with fresh opportunities.
New Orleans- 3 Keys To Victory
1) Go Deep
The Saints having Brees back and not having to start Taysom Hill is a plus against the Chiefs. They know scoring often will lead to victory. But, this New Orleans offense must also be able to get out of comfort zone so to speak. That would be attempting deep shots to keep the Kansas City defense honest. It does not have to happen on every pass attempt. Sprinkling it in there enough is the best course of action against this defense, though.
Sticking with the dink and dunk action is what the Chiefs want. If the defensive backs can keep the routes and the balls in front of them, they are completely comfortable. Rather, throwing in longer pass attempts could keep them off balance. This can also be beneficial to the Saints on crucial downs, and it could also force Kansas City to play more mixed coverages. Let Michael Thomas (if healthy), Tre’Quan Smith and others have a shot in one on one situations. It can’t hurt.
2) Feed Alvin
Alvin Kamara is the exact type of player that gives Kansas City fits. A playmaker who can play multiple positions, beat you through the air or on the ground and has the shiftiness to force missed tackles should be a focal point. While Brees was injured, Kamara went through a bit of a dry spell. He was targeted less and the rush attempts were more obvious, due to a lack of balance.
The Chiefs have tackled well the last two weeks. Nonetheless, we know this team can catch a case of the whiffs every so often. They currently have 96 missed tackles on the season, which ranks as the ninth most in the NFL. Designing the game through Kamara will not only challenge the defense in red and gold. Furthermore, it could open up advantageous looks for the other Saints skill players. That may become important in a potential shootout.
3) Stop The Run
Last week, the Saints allowed a whopping 246 rushing yards to the Eagles. This was appalling for many reasons. For one, Miles Sanders exploded for a huge game (14 carries, 115 rushing yards, two touchdowns). He had previously accumulated a diminutive average of 39.4 rushing yards over the last five games before facing the Saints. And New Orleans seemed to totally forget about the rushing ability of Jalen Hurts. In all, they allowed 6.8 yards per carry on the day.
This seems like a game where Clyde Edwards-Helaire could get rolling in. Entering the final stages before the playoffs, we have seen a decrease in snaps for the rookie from LSU. One week an illness held him out of the starting role. Le’Veon Bell has also provided a much needed additional pace to the rushing attack. Could this be the game where CEH is unleashed by Coach Reid? If so, the Saints have to step up to the plate and avoid getting slashed on the ground for huge chunks on every play like they did last week.
– 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.