When comparing the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, there is a ton of symmetry.
Both teams have layers of weapons surrounding emerging, but already prime time quarterbacks.
Both teams maximize their weapons with elite play calling head coaches.
Both teams, despite having standout talent at several positions, have struggled on defense at times this season.
So where will separation be created when both teams take the field on Monday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum?
Let’s take a look at the 2018 Chiefs to get a better idea.
Patrick Mahomes has made a name for himself quickly. He’s not only effective, but his arm strength and play making ability makes him one of the most electrifying players in the league. Mahomes, who is an early favorite to capture the MVP trophy, has been a killer despite playing behind a fairly average offensive line. His ability to move helps alleviate some offensive line breakdowns, but the Rams pass rush will need to get home against Mahomes because wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce will be extremely tough to cover.
The Rams have had struggles stopping tight ends at times this season, notably the Oakland Raiders’ Jared Cook and the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle. Currently Travis Kelce is second among tight ends in receptions and receiving yards, trailing only Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles in both categories. Clearly Kelce will present a huge problem for Wade Phillips to solve on Monday.
Outside, Tyreek Hill is a burner who is bound to make some big plays, and unfortunately big plays have been an issue for the Rams corners this season. Hill has actually had a pretty similar season to Brandin Cooks so far. Hill has 55 receptions, 4 more than Cooks, and just 34 more yards. Both are great at stretching a defense, with Cooks averaging 16.8 yards per catch, and Hill averaging 16.2 yards per catch. Sammy Watkins has 39 receptions, enough to match his entire catch total from last season with the Rams; but will likely be questionable with a foot injury on Monday night.
Running back Kareem Hunt has had a strong season so far, and is currently fourth in the league with 754 rushing yards. The Rams have had sketchy run defense at times this season, particularly against the Seattle Seahawks. However the interior of the Chiefs offensive isn’t nearly as stout as what the Rams have faced recently, so the law firm of Brockers, Donald, & Suh will have a chance to have some success. The Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher has also been somewhat lackluster, so the Rams have a chance to get to Mahomes, and make things a heck of a lot more manageable for themselves.
The Chiefs defense, like the Rams has taken a fair share of heat this season. The Chiefs have given up 24 points a game (ranked 16th ), a point more (per game) than the Rams defense. But the Chiefs have also given up a ton of yardage, 410.7 per game to be exact, which ranks them at 29th in the league.
However, they are playing better lately. Justin Houston has returned from a hamstring injury to create a pretty dangerous duo of pass rushers with the Chiefs other edge Dee Ford. Last week the Chiefs hit the Cardinals with 29 pressures and 13 QB hits, with 15 of those pressures coming from the edges. Ford has had a Pro Bowl-level season so far, and has cashed in with 9 sacks already, and has a PFF grade of 89.9. Defensive end Chris Jones is also on the rise and currently has 7 sacks to his name. So, like the Rams, the Chiefs also have a chance to disrupt Jared Goff as he looks to establish a rhythm.
Just as the Chiefs offensive line has had issues up the middle, the gut of their defense may be vulnerable as well. Their inside backers Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens haven’t always gotten the job done against the run, and will be challenged by the Rams strong interior line play and running back Todd Gurley. Derrick Nnadi and Xavier Williams have yet to match the departed Dontari Poe’s production at nose tackle.
The Chiefs switched to more of a press/man style of play from their corners this season, and have actually had some success replacing Marcus Peters. Cornerback Steven Nelson has played well, and former Redskins corner Kendell Fuller has also gotten the job done. The Chiefs still await the return safety Eric Berry who has been out since August with a heel injury.
Just like the Vikings and Saints games earlier this year, this matchup has plenty of intrigue.
Monday night can’t arrive soon enough.