1:00 PM EST, FOX – Line: Chiefs -7, Over/Under: 55
Undefeated teams clash today in the Motor City, as the explosive Kansas City Chiefs take their juggernaut on the road to Ford Field, where the surprising Detroit Lions look to maintain their perfect start. After three games, the Chiefs (3-0, 1st in AFC West) have picked up where they left off last season, in which they raced out to 9-1 start, narrowly falling short of trip to what would have been the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1969, when they claimed their lone Lombardi Trophy. Andy Reid’s charges have hit the ground running in the early stages of 2019, made all the more impressive by the fact that they’ve been doing so with a rebuilt a Defense and without a few significant contributors to their prolific Offense. All-Pro Receiver, Tyreek Hill (2 REC, 16 YDS, 8.0 Y/R, 0 TD), has missed the last two games with a partially dislocated shoulder, while Starting Tailback, Damian Williams (22 CAR, 34 YDS, 1.5 Y/C, 1 TD), missed last weekend’s action with an ailing knee. Furthermore, the Offensive Line has begun to take some heavy losses with Left Tackle, Eric Fisher, is out for multiple weeks with a sports hernia, with fellow Linemen, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Cameron Irving exiting the previous game, a spirited, 33-28 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, with various injuries. Even without that assortment of players, Kansas City has had little trouble tormenting opposing Defenses, averaging 33.7 Points (3rd Overall) on 493.0 total Yards (2nd Overall), including 398.3 Yards via the Pass (1st Overall) on a whopping 9.97 Net Yards per Attempt (1st Overall), and another 94.7 Yards (22nd Overall) on 3.8 Yards per Carry (23rd Overall), while converting 54.5% of their Third Downs (3rd Overall). The center of it all has been Quarterback, Patrick Mahomes (71.9%, 1,195 YDS, 10.06 NY/A, 10 TD, 0 INT, 91.0 QBR), the reigning MVP who has been on quite the tear since the season began, posting some insane statistics that eclipse his virtuoso performance throughout 2018. Though it’s just three games, his Completion Percentage (71.9%), Yards per Game (398.3), Yards per Attempt (10.5), Yards per Completion (12.2), Touchdown Percentage (8.8%), Net Yards per Attempt (10.06), Passer Rating (134.9), and QBR (91.0) each represent career-highs, and keep in mind that he led the league in some of these categories last season. With Ten Touchdowns in three games, he’s on pace to surpass the total of fifty that he produced last season. We know it’s early, but if it isn’t apparent by now, this kid is truly special, and he’s ONLY 24-Years Old. His brilliance was on stage in the Home Opener against the Ravens last weekend, in which Mahomes completed 27-of-37 Passes for 374 Yards and Three Touchdowns, leading the Offense to a whopping 503 Total Yards on Twenty-Seven First Downs, including 140 Rushing Yards, going 5-of-9 on Third Down. Tailbacks, Darrel Williams (9 CAR, 62 YDS, 6.9 Y/C, 0 TD) and LeSean McCoy (29 CAR, 158 YDS, 5.4 Y/C, 1 TD) rushed for Sixty-Two and Fifty-Four Yards respectively, while All-Pro Tight End, Travis Kelce (17 REC, 284 YDS, 16.7 Y/R, 1 TD), hauled in Seven Receptions for Eighty-Nine Yards, with Touchdown Receptions from Demarcus Robinson (10 REC, 215 YDS, 21.5 Y/R, 3 TD) and Rookie, Mecole Hardman (6 REC, 158 YDS, 26.3 Y/R, 2 TD). The Defense though, showed that it still has a long go way towards becoming a finished product under new Defensive Coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, who Reid convinced to come to in and clean up last year’s disastrous unit. Considerable changes to both scheme and personnel guarantee that this is going to be a rather long process, though there are some encouraging signs to be found; Frank Clark (7 TKL, 2 TFL, 1 QBH, 1.0 SK, 1 INT, 1 PD) has been an excellent addition at Defensive End, while Pro-Bowler, Chris Jones (8 TKL, 1 TFL, 4 QBH, 1.0 SK, 1 PD), seems to be a better fit on the interior of the Defensive Line in Spagnuolo’s four-man Front. Furthermore, Darren Lee (8 TKL), provides much-improved speed and coverage abilities at Linebacker, while versatile Defensive Back, Tyrann Mathieu (9 TKL, 3 PD) has already featured at multiple positions in the rebuilt Secondary.
Meanwhile, of all the unbeatens in the league thus far, the most unlikely at this point may be the Lions (2-0-1, 2nd in NFC North), who continued their persistent habit of finding themselves in narrow affairs. As a result, it’s difficult to ascertain just how formidable this team really is. First, in the Season Opener at Arizona, Matt Patricia’s charges relinquished a 27-9 Fourth Quarter lead, partially due to a confounding Timeout courtesy of the second-year Head Coach which negated a Touchdown that would have put the affair on ice for the visiting side. As it turned out, the hosts rebounded quickly, forcing Overtime, in which neither combatant could progress past respective Field Goals, ending in a 27-27 Tie. The next week, at home against the Chargers, Detroit overcame a troubling day on the offensive side of the football, trailing 6-10 until midway through the final stanza, when their Quarterback, Matthew Stafford (62.6%, 831 YDS, 7.34 NY/A, 6 TD, 2 INT, 67.7 QBR), engineered an 8-Play, 69-Yard Drive, culminating in a 31-Yard scoring strike to Kenny Golladay (14 REC, 176 YDS, 12.6 Y/R, 2 TD). Leading by three points, the Defense allowed the visitors to move down the field to the host’s 19-Yard Line, running the game clock all the way down to 1:10 in the process. However, after a series of penalties moved them back to the 28-Yard Line, Chargers’ Quarterback, Philip Rivers, launched a pass to the deep left of the field, which was intercepted by Pro-Bow Cornerback, Darius Slay (7 TKL, 1 FR, 1 INT, 3 PD), effectively ending the affair 13-10. The roller-coaster continued last weekend, as Detroit opened their eventual 27-24 victory at Philadelphia with a bang, ripping off a 100-Yard Kickoff Return Touchdown from Jamal Agnew to begin the game. Trailing 7-10 heading into the Second Quarter, the Lions ran off thirteen unanswered points before Halftime, only for the Eagles to rally back on multiple occasions. Finally, after taking over following a Turnover on Downs, the visiting side positioned themselves to stretch the lead to six, but saw Matt Prater’s Field Goal Attempt blocked, giving the hosts renewed life. However, Philly would be unable to progress past midfield, as an Offensive Pass Interference Penalty put them in a 4th-&-15 from their own 45-Yard Line, which ended in an Incomplete Pass. With all that taken into account, it’s difficult to understand just how this team has managed to remain unbeaten thus far. After all, the Offense has been slow to get moving under new Offensive Coordinator, Darrell Bevell, with a still largely one-dimensional attack trying to find that inevitable balance with a Rushing Attack that has meandered once more, averaging just 98.7 Yards per Game (19th Overall) on 3.4 Yards per Carry (27th Overall). General Manager, Bob Quinn, and Patricia have invested heavily in this facet of the Offense, drafting Center, Frank Ragnow, and Tailback, Kerryon Johnson (48 CAR, 126 YDS, 2.6 Y/C, 1 TD), with their first two Draft Picks in 2018, two years after selecting Linemen with three of their first five picks in 2015. After averaging a stellar 5.4 Yards per Carry as a Rookie, Johnson has struggled mightily, picking up a dismal 2.6 Yards per Attempt thus far. The aforementioned Stafford is a bit further along though, which is an encouraging sign for the Coaching Staff, improving his Touchdown Percentage (5.6%), Yards per Attempt (7.8), Net Yards per Attempt (7.34), Yards per Completion (12.8), Yards per Game (277.0), Sack Percentage (2.7%), Passer Rating (97.5), and QBR (67.7) after a career-low 2018. Needless to say, this meeting with the Chiefs represents a considerable step upward in class of opponent, in which Stafford & Co. will need to keep pace with what has been the most explosive Offense in the league. Granted, as we detailed earlier, Kansas City is still trying to find themselves with a rebuilt Defense, which should afford this group an opportunity to make enough plays to stay in the game.