The Chiefs play host the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12 action at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
But anyone hoping of a repeat from 2018’s thrilling 54-51 shootout, which the Rams (3-7) won, might need to look elsewhere.
This isn’t the marquee matchup filled with star power the NFL hoped it would be when the schedule came out during the offseason.
Less than a year after winning Super Bowl LVI, the Rams have turned over their roster and the crew that’s remained is ravaged by injuries. Most recently, the Rams lost All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp for the remainder of the 2022 season.
Yet the Chiefs (8-2) spent the past week saying they aren’t taking the Rams lightly.
“They’ve had a change to the team, and then injuries,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Those things happen and that’s not something they planned on happening, right?
“But that’s kind of what I see with where they’re at, but at the same time 99 (Aaron Donald), 54 (Leonard Floyd), (they’ve) been all over and these guys haven’t changed.”
As for the series history, the Chiefs own a 7-5 edge, which includes a 3-3 mark at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs are highly motivated to potentially improve to 9-2 because of the tight race for AFC seeding purposes on the line. Here are four key areas to monitor for the Chiefs:
Reid mentioned the 6-foot-1, 280-pound Donald for a reason.
While the NFL’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year has seen a dip in production this season, he remains a disruptive force in the trenches worthy of full attention.
“One thing I have to admit, I’m a huge fan,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “I’ve watched him. I had an opportunity to see him play when he was at the University of Pittsburgh and just watching the evolution of him.
“You’re talking about a special player who doesn’t take anything for granted.”
Donald, who recorded double-digit sacks from 2017 to 2021, is one of the NFL’s rare defensive tackles capable of taking over a game. He’s so good that Chiefs right guard Trey Smith admitted Wednesday that Donald’s name often comes up during the annual summer OL Masterminds Summit, which draws attendance from multiple offensive linemen from around the league.
“We talk about top elite guys and he’s going to be one of those guys,” Smith said. “Tremendous talent.”
The Chiefs don’t want Donald to wreak havoc, so that means Smith, center Creed Humphrey and left guard Joe Thuney must do their jobs at the highest level.
“Just have to be technically sound at the end of the day,” Smith said. “He’s a great competitor, a great player. And when you have a great player, you’ve got to be on your A-game. Ultimately, just got to work my technique and do what I do best.”
GO AFTER BACKUP QB
Rams coach Sean McVay on Wednesday ruled out quarterback Matthew Stafford (concussion, neck), according to the Los Angeles Times.
With Stafford down, the Rams will turn to Perkins or Wolford as their starter.
“They’re similar in some regard, that’s where we’re going to begin,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “We feel like we might see some option football, they may change things a little bit. … I’m hoping by the time we get to Friday we have a little bit of an idea of who we’re going to see personnel wise, and then adjust as we go.”
The Chiefs need to get after the quarterback and make him feel uncomfortable. They have done a solid job over the past three games. Led by defensive tackle Chris Jones, who has a team-high nine sacks, the Chiefs have totaled 13 sacks and 20 quarterback hits in that span.
LET IF FLY
The Rams’ pass defense ranks a respectable 17th in the league, allowing 216.7 yards per game, but it’s a beatable unit.
Yes, the Rams have three-time All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but he’s been on the bad end of big plays this season, including last week’s 53-yard touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. That same struggling Saints team, led by quarterback Andy Dalton, torched the Rams with three touchdowns through the air.
If Dalton can throw three touchdowns against the Rams, what will Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes do?
With Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs’ offense has recorded 400-plus yards in four straight games and leads the league in scoring (30 points per game). Mahomes also tops the NFL in yards passing (3,265) and touchdown passes (28).
Mahomes should fire away at the Rams with tight end Travis Kelce as his favorite target, and the Chiefs are on track to get back wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion) this week.
If there’s a knock on the Chiefs this season, it’s this team’s propensity to play strange games against opponents they should handily defeat.
It happened in Week 3’s inexplicable 20-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts and in Week 9’s close 20-17 win over the Tennessee Titans. The latter came against a backup quarterback.
In both of those games, the Chiefs were heavily favored. The same applies Sunday, when the Chiefs are favored by a for-the-NFL whopping two touchdowns.
The Chiefs must avoid a sluggish start on offense, mishaps on special teams and penalties in a game that shouldn’t be close.