The 1-0 Kansas City Chiefs will have their ‘17-‘18 home opener at Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday, hosting the 1-0 Philadelphia Eagles. Kansas City is riding high after defeating the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Foxborough in prime time, while Philadelphia comes to Kansas City having already handily beaten their division-rival Redskins a week prior.
Second year Eagles QB Carson Wentz will have his hands full in the loudest stadium in the league, looking to build off of a successful rookie campaign. When I look at this matchup, the most critical thing I’ll be watching is how Wentz handles the situational third downs in front of wild fans in a fully rocking Arrowhead.
1)- First and foremost…how does Kansas City steady the secondary after the brutal loss of Eric Berry? Eric Murray will be the first man up and it will be interesting to see how the second year pro fares. Murray was one of the highest graded in Pro Football Focus’ special teams coverage in 2016, a good sign for Murray, as special teams’ success has oft been indicative of previous younger Chiefs on the rise. Having Daniel Sorenson and Ron Parker’s versatility will help mask the loss as well.
2)- Kareem Hunt’s monster debut an anomaly or sign of things to come? I’d venture to say both. I think he will be consistently good, but it would be near impossible to replicate 247 total yards, 8.7 YPC, and 8 broken tackles (!!!) every week. Week one gave the 22-year-old a great foundation to build on for his NFL career, but he faces a much more capable front seven this week against Philadelphia.
3)- Will Alex Smith continue to look further down the field than the line of scrimmage? In just a week period of time Chiefs fans were blessed with a 4 touchdown performance from their QB, as well as a very candid interview with Graham Bensinger in which he said he has a lot more “f@#k – it” in him than before. Will Smith continue to look for the deep ball on occasion and open up another dimension of the offense? Or will he lumber back to his usual sub seven yards per attempt and do little to fight off the inevitable fans clamoring for the young gun in Patrick Mahomes.
4)- How will the offensive line perform just 9 days after putting up a dominant showing IN New England? The Eagles front seven is scary, with talented depth players to keep them fresh as well. It will be a good measuring stick to see how KC’s o-line matches up for four quarters against an elite group. If they keep Alex Smith clean at Arrowhead and get ahead early to negate the pass rush they will have easy sledding. If not, and Alex starts to get happy feet, it could be a close game late.
5)- WILL THE PENALTIES BE CUT DOWN? The Chiefs had nine full days to prepare after a game that saw Kansas City get flagged 19 times, with 15 being accepted. This must change quickly if Kansas City wants to be a real playoff threat. Good teams do not beat themselves, but good news is that the season is young (As well as the amazing fact that KC somehow won while being penalized so often).
6)- Who is the x-factor this week? C.J. Spiller or Travis Kelce would be my guess this week. It would not surprise me to see Reid & Co. reward Spiller for his loyalty throughout their roster moves the first week of the season. He was cut twice to make roster moves and to make his veteran contract not guaranteed. You don’t want to overload Kareem Hunt early in the season too much as NFL seasons are a lot longer and more grueling than in college, and Kansas City will need Hunt down the stretch. With New England being one of the few defenses that have had success in shutting down Kelce via bracket coverage, KC will look to get Kelce the rock early and often. Andy Reid will know how to attack his former team, and his former protégé – Doug Pederson.