Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
- The Kansas City Chiefs now find themselves in their sixth straight AFC Championship Game. Of the six times they’ve made it here, how would you rank this team in comparison to previous iterations? What about them is better? Worse?
The easy answer is to say that this current version is the worst of the Mahomes era, which is a perfectly acceptable answer. After all, the Chiefs struggles have been well documented. The dropped passes, the at times boring offense and the outbursts are just a few of the many issues that the Chiefs have had over the year.
But to avoid going in two-footed on this year’s team, I do want to highlight the experience that they have which has put them in the position they are in today. I don’t think the previous Chiefs teams would have been able to cope with so much adversity and let downs throughout the season.
It’s the winning culture and the ability to not panic they has been developed over the past few years which has enabled them to flick a switch in the playoffs. I hate saying it but this team is very Patriots like these days. The regular season is about winning a playoff berth. The playoffs is about winning a championship.
2. The Chiefs rushing offense seems inconsistent. At times this season, they steamrolled defenses for 100+ yards (9 games). But in 10 games this season, they went for fewer than 100 rushing yards. In games above 100 rush yards, they’re 7-2. In games under 100 rush yards, they’re 6-4. Does this Chiefs offense rely more on the rushing attack than before?
What they should rely on and what they do rely on are completely different. Your questions highlights the details for us. When the Chiefs run the ball, they win. When they don’t, they lose.
As the offense has struggled through the air, it made sense to get some serious work out of Isiah Pacheco — something which has paid dividends. But for whatever reason, Andy Reid has been desperate to force the passing attack even despite the struggles.
We saw this last week against Buffalo. The Chiefs offensive line and rushing attack was eating against the Bills for 3 quarters. After the Chiefs defense forced a 3-and-out, the offense had an opportunity to extend their lead and eat some valuable clock by running the ball.
Makes sense, right?
Not for Andy Reid.
What followed was 3 passing plays which led to a 3-and-out of their own and the inevitable nervy ending.
Sometimes Andy Reid wants the over-complicated windmill-360 dunk when the lay-up is there for the taking.
3. The Chiefs defense ranks No. 2 in PPG (17.3), total yards per game (289.8) and sacks (57). What makes them so effective?
Like the Ravens, there is just talent everywhere. Brett Veach and his staff have done an excellent job over the last couple of years in the draft. Pretty much to a man, every single defensive player picked is a contributor. Just look at the cornerbacks. There is a range of 1st round to 6th round talents in that room. All of them are making plays on a weekly basis.
The talent and football IQ that Spagnuolo has at his disposal has enabled him to be even more creative with his blitz packages and coverages. What also helps is a guy like Chris Jones who although statistically he isn’t having his best season, he is taking up enough attention that guys like Charles Omenihu and George Karlaftis (testing my spelling there) can win their one-on-one matchups.
But the biggest factor (in my opinion) has been the play of Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed. Call me a homer but I don’t think there is a cornerback duo that comes close to these currently. You just have to look at the list of receivers that they have shut down this year to realize how special these two are. Their ability to take away the #1 and #2 receiver threats has enabled the Chiefs to tee off on the quarterback.
My fear for Sunday is that the Ravens won’t care about that and will happily run the football 40-50 times. That’s when the Chiefs defense has looked vulnerable.
4. If you were the Ravens defensive coordinator, how would you plan to slow/stop the Chiefs’ offense? Where are their strengths? Weaknesses?
A few weeks ago, this would have been a much easier question to answer. But as I mentioned in a previous response, the Chiefs have flipped a switch recently — especially offensively.
I am still a big believer that if you want to stop the Chiefs, you must start with breaking the Kelce-Mahomes combination. Not only can they keep the chains moving, the energy created by these two getting hot has an infectious effect on the rest of the team. Sounds ridiculous I know, but there’s something to be said about leading by example.
Wanting to do it is one thing, being able to is another. There was a patch during the season in which Kelce did struggle. Because of the inability for anyone else to get open plus the Reid’s lack of commitment to the run game, teams doubled up and Kelce and tried to get as much contact on him as legally possible.
As it’s the playoffs, I think contact is a good place to start. The Ravens should try and get hands on the Chiefs receivers early and often. The Andy Reid offense is all about timing. If the Ravens can get disrupt that timing by even half a second, it will mess with Mahomes’ internal clock.
But that’s only half of the job.
Like Lamar, what makes Patrick Mahomes so special is what they do when plays do break down. Both of them have the ability to put on a their Superman cloak and make things happen. You could argue that they are at their best at these points.
If the Ravens find themselves in this situation, then they must finish the play. Coverage doesn’t end until the whistle is blown. Complacency is a killer against a guy like Mahomes.
A story that could prove to be the difference is the absence of Left Guard, Joe Thuney. Against Buffalo, the Chiefs ran for fun, especially to his side. The Ravens would be smart to target his understudy Nick Allegretti.
5. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Ravens -4. Do you agree with this? Why/Why not?
Yeah, I think the line is fine. I get that the Chiefs are defending champions and that Mahomes is in playoff mode, but we all still need to respect the body of work that the Ravens has produced this season.
I do believe that the Chiefs would have been the last team that the Ravens would have wanted to face in this particular game. Experience is valuable in these situations and the Chiefs have that in abundance. Plus, all of the pressure will be on Baltimore. They’re the team that are expected to win.
Despite the recent resurgence of the Chiefs, I think Baltimore will do enough defensively that keeps the Chiefs at arms length. The first quarter of this game will be a tremendous indication of how this game goes. Typically the Chiefs defense gets off to slow starts, so if the Ravens can get a stop or two themselves, a two score lead early will be too much for Kansas City to overcome.
Plus, if the Ravens do win and set up a repeat of the 2012-13 Super Bowl, then I can pat myself on the back knowing that for the second year in a row, my preseason prediction of the Super Bowl participants has come through.