The 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles visit the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night and much of the discussion is around the ‘Super Bowl rematch’ after their epic encounter last season. But could it be a Super Bowl preview too?
Last year, they were the clear two best teams in the league. They were the only clubs to reach 14 wins, and both took care of business from the No 1 seed in their respective conferences.
It led to a 38-35 Chiefs win in a thrilling back-and-forth game that fully lived up to the hype.
Now they meet again, and just like last time, they both sit at the top of their conference and are on track to meet in Vegas in February.
How are they built this year compared to last?
Kansas City Chiefs
Story so far
Kansas City Chiefs 2023/24 Schedule
|1||vs Detroit||L 21-20|
|2||@ Jacksonville||W 17-9|
|3||vs Chicago||W 41-10|
|4||@ New York Jets||W 23-20|
|5||@ Minnesota||W 27-20|
|6||vs Denver||W 19-8|
|7||vs Los Angeles Chargers||W 31-17|
|8||@ Denver||L 24-9|
|9||vs Miami (in Frankfurt)||W 21-14|
Say what you want to say about Patrick Mahomes’ below-par box-score statistics and Travis Kelce’s Taylor Swift ‘distraction’, but the Chiefs are still 7-2 and taking care of business. After their shock opening night defeat at the hands of Detroit (which doesn’t seem so much of a shock anymore considering the Lions’ 7-2 record), they rattled off six straight wins before a surprise divisional loss at Denver.
Their win over Miami in Frankfurt again proved that Mahomes simply doesn’t do losing streaks – only three times in his entire 103-game career as a starter have his teams lost two games in a row, the last coming in September 2021.
Overall, it’s clear Kansas City are still the team to beat in the AFC.
Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Rankings
|Total yards per game||368.7||8|
|Passing yards per game||264.9||5|
|Rushing yards per game||103.8||19|
|Points per game||23.1||13|
|Third down percentage||45.5||4|
Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs are sitting at eighth in yards per game? And 13th in points per game? Thirteenth?! Something is up. This is an attack that finished first overall in both categories last year, top four in both the year before, and top six in both the years prior. It is their bread and butter.
So what’s going on? It’s hard to fully nail it down, but it appears a lack of talent on the outside is finally catching up with them. Tight end Kelce is, of course, the top target and remains incredibly productive – as always. However, last season, JuJu Smith-Schuster contributed 78 catches and 933 yards, Marquez Valdes-Scantling added 42 and 687, and even Jerick McKinnon hit over 50 catches and 500 receiving yards from the backfield.
This year, the outside production simply hasn’t been good enough. Do defenders fear any other player outside of Kelce? Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney have offered little to nothing of note. Rookie Rashee Rice appears to be earning Mahomes’ trust, but he hasn’t gone over five catches or 75 yards in any one game so far.
If the Chiefs are to return to their lethal best, they need one or more of those names to step up.
Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Rankings
|Total yards per game||299.2||4|
|Passing yards per game||176.0||5|
|Rushing yards per game||112.2||17|
|Points per game||15.9||2|
|Third down percentage||36.5||11|
It took just one week and that one loss to the Lions for the Chiefs to pay up and bring stud defensive tackle Chris Jones back to the team on a one-year contract after his holdout, and he proceeded to come up with sacks in five straight games.
Kansas City have gone from a middle-of-the-road unit last year to elite this year. While Jones and defensive ends George Karlaftis (6 sacks) and Mike Danna (5.5 sacks), have been getting to opposing quarterbacks, the linebackers are productive and the secondary has shined.
Second-year corner Trent McDuffie is having a fantastic campaign – with 51 tackles, four passes defended and a league-leading four forced fumbles, and don’t be surprised to see him getting up close and personal with AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith on Monday night as the Chiefs attempt to continue their streak of not allowing any team to score over 21 points so far this year.
Story so far
Philadelphia Eagles 2023/24 Schedule
|1||@ New England||W 25-20|
|2||vs Minnesota||W 34-28|
|3||@ Tampa Bay||W 25-11|
|4||vs Washington||W 34-31 OT|
|5||@ Los Angeles Rams||W 23-14|
|6||@ New York Jets||L 20-14|
|7||vs Miami||W 31-17|
|8||@ Washington||W 38-31|
|9||vs Dallas||W 28-23|
“Find a way to win” has been the story in Philadelphia so far, with head coach Nick Sirianni continuing the outstanding start to his career (31-12 regular season record) and quarterback Jalen Hurts getting the job done however possible. He has now won 22 of his last 24 regular season starts.
The Eagles have gone through spells of looking completely dominant (at Tampa Bay, at Los Angeles and against Miami) and times where things just don’t seem to be clicking (their loss against the Jets and for large parts of their divisional games against Washington and Dallas), but they’ve managed to pull through, and an 8-1 start is still a rare feat.
Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Rankings
|Total yards per game||376.8||5|
|Passing yards per game||247.1||10|
|Rushing yards per game||129.7||8|
|Points per game||28.0||3|
|Third down percentage||50.0||1|
In contrast to the Chiefs, the Eagles are loaded with weapons around Hurts. Wide receiver AJ Brown already has 67 catches (eighth), 1,005 yards (second), six touchdowns (fifth), with 46 first downs (second) and 18 20+-yard plays (second). He is a superstar.
Second option DeVonta Smith has 42 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns and would be No 1 on plenty of teams around the league. Running back D’Andre Swift, acquired in a trade from the Lions this offseason, has had some big outings, but has impressed most as a tough, between-the-tackles runner. With four more rushing yards (currently on 614), he’ll top his season-high in Detroit – after just 10 games in Philly.
Hurts, like last season, is in the MVP conversation. He has 2,347 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air, and 316 yards and seven more touchdowns on the ground. But he has lost his third favourite target, tight end Dallas Goedert, who fractured his forearm against Dallas and could miss the rest of the regular season.
Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Rankings
|Total yards per game||323.3||14|
|Passing yards per game||257.0||28|
|Rushing yards per game||66.3||1|
|Points per game||21.7||18|
|Third down percentage||42.6||25|
The Eagles stop the run better than anyone else, and that’s been the key to their defensive success. They stop teams from establishing the ground game, and they force them to become one-dimensional. Of course, based on their record, this has worked.
However, their secondary has struggled, and could become somewhat of an issue over the next few weeks when they face Mahomes, Josh Allen, Brock Purdy, Dak Prescott and Geno Smith in succession. Having the sixth-worst passing defense is not going to fly in January either.
They had the league’s best passing defense last season, and they will need star corners Darius Slay and James Bradberry to find their form in order to get anywhere close. They also want more from veteran safety Kevin Byard in the second half of the season, after he was acquired from Tennesee before the trade deadline.
What to expect
The Eagles and Chiefs have the NFL’s best records over the past two years. Sirianni and Reid are coaching at an extremely high level, while Hurts and Mahomes are playing like MVPs.
However, defense could be the key on Monday night. While the Eagles are bitter about not being able to stop Mahomes, the Chiefs won’t want the Eagles to come anywhere close to the 35 points they scored in February – the most Kansas City have given up since October 2021. Which team will be able to slow the other down?
Expect another thriller that goes down to the wire.
Watch the Philadelphia Eagles at the Kansas City Chiefs live on Sky Sports NFL on Monday night/Tuesday morning at 1am.