Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are looking to defend their crown in 2020
In simple terms, Kansas City at New Orleans this Sunday could be viewed as the NFL’s No 1 offense versus the No 2 defense.
It could also be seen as the best team in the AFC versus the second-best team in the NFC (the Chiefs are a No 1 seed while the Saints fell to No 2 last week). Both teams were Super Bowl contenders last season – the Saints suffering a shock overtime loss to Minnesota and Kansas City going on to win it all – and both are in the mix again this year.
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But of course, when it comes to a head-to-head matchup, there’s more to it. Where do the Chiefs excel the most? What makes New Orleans a tough defense to score on? We take a closer look at this weekend’s headline matchup…
Offense: Unstoppable Chiefs’ attack vs the return of Brees
Comparison of Chiefs and Saints on offense
|429.2 (1st)||Total yards per game||369.8 (14th)|
|317.5 (1st)||Passing YPG||232.5 (21st)|
|111.7 (16th)||Rushing YPG||137.3 (7th)|
|31.0 (2nd)||Points per game||28.3 (7th)|
|48.7 (4th)||Third down conversion %||46.4 (5th)|
Although the Chiefs are being pipped by Green Bay for the highest-scoring offense by .05 points per game, they are the only team in the league averaging over 400 yards per game. If you needed to pick one attack in the league for one drive, one quarter, one game with everything on the line, is there any other choice than KC? I don’t think so.
Between QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill, and TE Travis Kelce, the Chiefs boast arguably the best player at each of those positions. Kelce, astonishingly, leads the entire league in receiving yards and if it stays that way, he will be the first tight end to do that in NFL history. Hill’s 16 total touchdowns lead the NFL, while Mahomes, naturally has 500 more passing yards (4,208) than his nearest contender.
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Look no further than last week’s outing against Miami where, from 10-0 down, they scored four straight touchdowns in six minutes of possession time to completely turn the game around in a flash.
The way to beat the Chiefs over the last few seasons has not been to slow them down, but simply to pile on the points. New Orleans are one of the few teams who may be able to do that.
Watch Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill for a 44-yard touchdown last week
Head coach Sean Payton has led top-10 and top-five offenses in every season most people can care to remember, and what he is doing this season is once again impressive.
After winning nine straight games, the Saints dropped their first since Week Three with a 24-21 surprise loss to the Eagles last Sunday. Should they be concerned after losing hold of the No 1 NFC seed? No, because Drew Brees is back.
Drew Brees is back after missing the last four games through injury
The stats will show they aren’t as impressive as last season – their seventh-best passing offense last season (265.3 yards per game) is down at 21st this year (232.5) and although their rushing has improved, it has come at the expense of the passing attack. However, there are factors to account for.
Michael Thomas was injured to start the season, and by the time he came back, Brees was forced to miss time after suffering 11 fractured ribs and a punctured lung. Taysom Hill has been strong in his stead but is nowhere near Brees’ level as a passer. With their Hall of Fame QB back to utilise Thomas, Alvin Kamara and the rest of the team’s weapons, they have a great chance to put up points in this one.
Defense: Consistent Kansas City vs New Orleans’ strength
Comparison of Chiefs and Saints on defense
|358.8 (17th)||Total yards per game allowed||298.4 (2nd)|
|230.5 (14th)||Passing YPG allowed||209.2 (4th)|
|128.4 (26th)||Rushing YPG allowed||89.2 (2nd)|
|21.6 (8th)||Points allowed||20.4 (4th)|
|24 (21st)||Sacks||36 (8th)|
What’s the right expression for the Chiefs’ defense? “Just keep us in the game” comes to mind. When your offense scores in a flash, averages 31 points per game and can never be counted out, the only thing you need to do make sure the opponents don’t get out of sight – and so far, that’s exactly what the Kansas City defense has done.
They are in the middle of the pack in terms of yardage, but being in the top 10 in points against is telling – it suggests most of their opponents’ yardage doesn’t end in scoring, or comes in garbage time.
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Where the Chiefs do excel is turnovers, and giving their offense better field position. They are tied for seventh in total turnovers, and third in interceptions. If that all continues, they are in fantastic shape. But the Saints do have a chance to exploit them with an excellent rushing attack led by Kamara. Plus, they take care of the ball very well.
New Orleans, meanwhile, have looked dominant in the second half of the season. Before their Week Six bye, they allowed at least 23 points in all five games. Since then, they haven’t allowed over 24 points in any game, and have averaged just 14.4 against in that span.
Trey Hendrickson is having a breakout year for New Orleans
Extremely sturdy against both the run and pass, this is a very well-rounded group that’s hard to break down. Trey Hendrickson is having a massive breakout season with 10.5 sacks, Cameron Jordan is his usual disruptive self, and Demario Davis is also bringing the heat while racking up a team-leading 91 tackles.
However, the last time they faced an elite-level quarterback in Aaron Rodgers (in Week Three), they gave up 369 yards and 37 points. This will be a true test for this D.
All the other factors
Sean Payton and Andy Reid in 2007. They have been two of the best offensive minds in the NFL for decades
What else matters when these two face off?
Both Andy Reid and Sean Payton have a Super Bowl win, a ton of success in the regular and post-season, and are outstanding offense minds. It’s not easy to choose between the two.
On special teams, both sides rank in the top 10 for kickoff returns, but Kansas City’s explosive returners could set them apart. Mecole Hardman has blazing speed, and took a punt back just last week. Byron Pringle sprinted 102 yards all the way on a kickoff earlier in the season. The Chiefs are always dangerous.
Mecole Hardman ran in for an epic 67-yard punt return touchdown against Miami
In terms of playoff seeding, the Saints need this one more. KC are alone at the top of the AFC with a one-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Steelers face two playoff contenders (Colts and Browns) in their final two games, the Chiefs should be comfortable against both the Falcons and Chargers.
The Saints, meanwhile, have both the Rams and Seahawks at 9-5 hot on their heels, and whichever team wins the West could pip them to the No 2 seed. Now is not an ideal time to be dropping games.
Whatever happens on Sunday, no one would be surprised if we see this matchup again in February.
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