This Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles for the second time in the Andy Reid era. The Chiefs are now 1-2 this season, having their first losing record since 2015 and coming off losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers in consecutive weeks. The Eagles are also 1-2, with a win against the Atlanta Falcons followed by losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
The Eagles will be led by quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is coming under some scrutiny from his last two games. He threw for 190 yards against the 49ers in a 17-11 loss and tossed two interceptions in a 20-point loss against the Cowboys. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they're missing three of their starting offensive linemen - left tackle Jordan Mailata, left guard Isaac Seumalo and right guard Brandon Brooks. While they still have right tackle Lane Johnson and center Jason Kelce, the loss of the other three players could hamper their ability to produce much on the Chiefs' defense.
Fact to Know: Javon Hargrave is one of the league's best pass-rushers.
Javon Hargrave has been a great player for some time now, but this year has been a bit of a breakout one for him. In his first year with the Eagles following a great five-year tenure in Pittsburgh, Hargrave currently has 11 pressures and three sacks over 74 pass-rushing snaps. This has resulted in a 92.1 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF), the highest in the NFL besides Aaron Donald.
Hargrave primarily plays as the right defensive tackle and nose tackle, according to PFF's snaps by position, so he will mainly face off with left guard Joe Thuney and center Creed Humphrey. The other defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox, will face off more against right guard Trey Smith. Thankfully, Cox has had a decline over the last year-plus, so this won't be as scary of a matchup for Smith as it would've been in years past.
Matchup to Watch: Chris Jones vs Lane Johnson
Chris Jones has been pretty good to start the season on the edge, though it may feel that he has made less of an impact as he did inside. While that may be true, he has still recorded eight pressures and two sacks with a 77.5 PFF grade in his first three games, ranking as the best Chiefs defender by a wide margin. The main position he has been playing as the left-side edge defender, meaning he will primarily face a three-time Pro Bowl right tackle in Johnson on Sunday.
Johnson has continued to do his thing for the Eagles, not allowing a sack or QB hit in the first three games of 2021. The last time he played the Chiefs was in 2017 (the left-sided edge defender then was Justin Houston) so it will be interesting to see how he looks against the incredibly strong and talented Jones.
Key to the Game: Bring the passing rate back up.
In the first three years of the Mahomes era, from 2018 to 2020, the Chiefs had a 64.6% early-down passing rate with a 20-80% win probability — the highest in the league by six percentage points. In Week 1 of this season, they had a 65.7% early-down passing rate in that scenario, and in Week 2, they had a 62.2% rate. However, in Week 3, though somewhat justifiable because of the Chargers' inability to defend the run, they passed on just 54.5% of these early-down plays. This was the 18th-highest of the week. Even with that poor run defending ability from the Chargers and with the Chiefs having multiple early-down turnovers on passing plays, the Chiefs' early-down EPA per play still favored the passing side of things. Passing is just much more effective and efficient than running nearly across the board.
While the Eagles aren't among the best run defending teams in the NFL, they aren't nearly as bad as the Chargers in that department. The Chiefs need to consistently and effectively pass the football throughout the game, in all situations. Patrick Mahomes should be allowed to shoulder the load because he, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill have earned that trust. On the other hand, there is a lot of weariness with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and how trustworthy he is, now fumbling in back-to-back games. If those two fumbles don't happen, it's likely that the Chiefs are 3-0 right now. Throw the ball, win the game.
Prediction: Chiefs 34, Eagles 20
The Eagles are easily the weakest team the Chiefs have played to this point, with the previous three games all coming against potential AFC playoff squads. I think the Chiefs' defense will look the best it has yet, partially thanks to the injuries and lesser quarterback play that the Eagles possess and thanks to a breakout game for a couple of key defenders. Mahomes puts up 300 yards and three touchdowns and the Chiefs cruise to a 2-2 record on the year.