Sunday’s game in New Orleans could be a preview of Super Bowl LV, and KC should treat it that way if they want to win.
The Chiefs have their toughest test this season–both on offense and defense–coming in the form of a revitalized, healthy Drew Brees and a consistent Saints defense that is ranked top five in almost every major defensive category.
This week the Chiefs travel to New Orleans where they are 4-2 since the first game between them way back in 1972. Overall, the Chiefs are 6-5 against the Saints and have some memorable moments against New Orleans–like Jamaal Charles’ 91-yard run to spark the comeback win in 2012.
New Orleans announced late in the week that Drew Brees will be spearheading the dangerous offense for the first time since November 15th. He has Taysom Hill to thank for the 3-1 record that the Saints achieved in his absence–mirroring Teddy Bridgewater’s 5-0 record last season–which shows that this offense could be dangerous no matter who is under center.
With the change back to Brees, the Chiefs’ defense and Spagnuolo are caught on their heels, and although Tyrann Mathieu has four interceptions in the last three games and the defensive line finally found their absent pass rush, they still have a serious bout in front of them. Brees and his consistency are a serious threat–even without his favorite target Michael Thomas–but the Chiefs defense is prepared for both QBs.
“I think right now the focus is Taysom Hill…We all know the kind of quarterback (Brees) is…” Mathieu said Thursday after Brees was designated to return to practice. “Whereas I think Taysom, he adds that other factor into it. Obviously, he can tuck the ball and run it.”
While Spagnuolo prepares for two QBs the Saints defense is preparing for Mahomes, which isn’t an easy task, but their defense up to this point has been nothing short of spectacular other than an occasional flop in particular games (go watch last week’s game against Philadelphia).
New Orleans’ extremely stout defense is ranked 2nd in rushing yards allowed (1,159) AND overall yards allowed (3,879) so far this season, meaning their pass defense should be somewhat worse right? Wrong. They’re allowing the 4th-least amount of passing yards (2,720) and 3rd-least amount of completions (262) in the league (via Lineups). Oh, and did I mention they’re the 4th-best scoring defense in the league?
Mahomes has a lot to prove this weekend in Louisiana after last week’s escapade into multi-turnover behavior, and while Mahomes’ stat-line may be impressive when throwing three interceptions (384 yds/gm & 3 TDs) he will most likely want to avoid turning the ball over against the Saints who are ranked 2nd in the league in time of possession (30:53/gm).
Another person with something to prove is Travis Kelce, who is on pace to shatter the single-season receiving yards record by a TE (he only needs 127 yards to tie the record) as well as become the first TE to lead the league in receiving yards (he currently leads all other WRs by at least 70 yards). Both of these stats are insanely hard to replicate and it isn’t crazy to think we may be seeing one of the best seasons a TE has ever, or will ever have in the NFL.
The Chiefs offense has struggled as of late in the endzone though, which would typically cause concern in a fan, but that is something that Reid and Mahomes are likely going to continually tweak until perfection. The only problem is that this Saints team is ranked 4th in points allowed (265) and 3rd in red zone attempts (2.8 attempts/gm).
Meanwhile, the Chiefs defense has been making statements in different areas of the game almost routinely in every matchup this past month. On top of Mathieu’s 4 INTs in the past three games, the Chiefs pass rush has been rising as of late, culminating with Chris Jones and company sacking Tua four times last week (once for a safety).
L’Jarius Sneed continues to be a constant force in the secondary, not allowing a single 20+ yard pass against him all season (via PFF), and undrafted free agent Tershawn Wharton continues to be a stud off the line, giving Chiefs fans hope that the defense will come out of this game equally as dazzling as the offense normally does.
With the recent news that OL Mike Remmers is doubtful to play, LT Eric Fisher is questionable, and RT Mitchell Schwartz still healing a back injury, it seems that Mahomes is going to have to trust his OL’s depth like Eric Bieniemy has said he does, as well as Reid and Bieniemy’s play-calling.
In doing so, the Chiefs are going to seemingly also be relying on their offensive line depth to help inch them closer to clinching the #1 seed in the AFC after clinching the AFC West last week.
In order for the Chiefs to clinch the playoff bye and #1 seed, they would have to beat New Orleans and luck out with Pittsburgh losing in Cincinnati on Monday night and the Bills losing to the Broncos in Mile High Stadium today (Saturday).
While the Chiefs are looking to clinch up the entire conference, the Saints are still looking to clinch the NFC South division over the Buccaneers, which they can do with a win over KC, a Falcons win over Tampa Bay or a tie between both NO & KC and TB & ATL.
Meanwhile, the Packers hold the top spot in the NFC after the Saints debacle against Jalen Hurts last week. In order to take that spot (and the lone bye) back, the Saints would have to win against KC and hope for Green Bay to begin losing out with a loss to Carolina later tonight.
No matter what happens between the NFC teams, the Chiefs’ main goal should be victory and the #1 seed because, if the Chiefs win out, the road to the Super Bowl would once again have to run through Kansas City for the third straight year. Not only that, it would mean that the Chiefs wouldn’t have to travel again until their potential departure to Tampa Bay to prepare for Super Bowl LV.
All-in-all this game is highly predicted to be a preview of the next Super Bowl–unless Aaron Rodgers has anything to say about it–and the Chiefs are going to have their hands full, either way, it’ll be entertaining and a true testament to the Chiefs offense, defense and special teams overall.