Saints Eyeing Up the Enemy: Kansas City Chiefs
After consecutive road games from the week of Thanksgiving into December, the New Orleans Saints will finally return home to play a game in Week 15. Their homecoming present will be the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in an interconference showdown between two of the primary Super Bowl favorites in 2020. It will be the 12th meeting between New Orleans and Kansas City with the Chiefs holding a 6-5 edge in the series. They also have a 4-2 advantage over the Saints when the game is played in New Orleans, which is the site of this clash. That includes a 27-24 overtime win the last time these two played in New Orleans on 9/23/12, and a 27-21 win the last time these two played, on 10/23/16 in Kansas City.
A Kansas City team notorious for playoff failures came of age last season in overcoming double-digit deficits in all three of their postseason victories. The Chiefs had little player movement in the offseason, but have kept their roster intact and are once again prohibitive favorites in the AFC. Armed with All-Pro QB Patrick Mahomes and one of the league's best offenses, few teams can outscore the Chiefs. They have some questions on the defensive side, but that unit made some key plays in crucial postseason moments during their championship run. Let’s have a look at how the Saints match up against the defending champions in what could be a preview of Super Bowl LV.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
2019 Record: 12-4 (1st AFC West; Super Bowl LIV champion)
Head Coach: Andy Reid (8th year with the team; 77-35 record, 207-128-1 overall, 1 Super Bowl championship)
2019 Offensive Statistics
-28.2 points/game (5th in the NFL)
-Total Yards = 6th
-Passing Yards = 5th
-Rushing Yards = 23rd
2019 Defensive Statistics
-19.3 points/game (7th)
-Total Yards = 17th
-Passing Yards = 8th
-Rushing Yards = 26th
Offseason Losses: LeSean McCoy (RB), Stefen Wisniewski (G), Emmanuel Ogbah (DE), Reggie Ragland (LB), Darron Lee (LB), Kendall Fuller (CB), Morris Claiborne (CB)
Offseason Additions: Taco Charlton (DE), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB-Rookie), Willie Gay (LB-Rookie), Lucas Niang (OT-Rookie), L'Jarius Snead (S-Rookie)
Kansas City's offensive numbers were a bit down in 2019 compared to the year before, but that was mainly because of injuries to Mahomes and WR Tyreek Hill that caused them each to miss a few games. Mahomes has possibly the league's best tight end to throw to in five-time Pro Bowler Travis Kelce, who had 97 receptions last year and has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last five years.
Mahomes also has a deep corps of lightning fast receivers who are deadly in the open field and combined for 20 touchdown receptions with Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson. Mahomes has great mobility, but is also protected by an outstanding line that gave up only 23 sacks last season. Despite a spectacular Super Bowl performance from RB Damien Williams, the Chiefs rushing offense ranked near the bottom of the league. Kansas City used their 1st round pick (32nd overall) on RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire from LSU, who has nice receiving skills and terrific natural vision to upgrade the team's running attack.
A much-maligned Kansas City defense had ranked near the bottom of the NFL in all major categories the previous three years, but showed improvement last season. The Chiefs held opponents to less than 20 points eight times last season, including five of the final six games. They sacked opposing quarterbacks 45 times, led by a disruptive inside-outside combination of DT/DE Chris Jones and DE Frank Clark.
Athletic 2nd round pick LB Willie Gay should team with Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson to offset the losses of Ragland and Lee at the position, but a thin cornerback unit raises more defensive questions. Starters Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland were re-signed, but Breeland faces a possible league suspension for off-the-field issues, and the rest of the CB position is unproven. All-Pro S Tyrann Mathieu is outstanding in coverage however, and teams with second-year S Juan Thornhill to form an athletic playmaking duo at the position.
New Orleans QB Drew Brees has averaged 291 yards and has thrown six touchdowns and three interceptions in three games against Kansas City, but has just a 1-2 record against them. Saints WR Michael Thomas had 10 receptions for 130 yards during the 2016 meeting between the two teams, and he and fellow WR Emmanuel Sanders will look to test what I expect to be a thin Kansas City cornerback unit. New Orleans TE Jared Cook is one of the more athletic tight ends in the NFL, but will face off against Mathieu in a marquee matchup.
Offensive tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead have dominated some of the league's top pass rushers, but the interior of the Saints line has struggled against inside pressure at times and must contain Chris Jones. New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara, RB Latavius Murray, and all-purpose weapon Taysom Hill must not only establish the running game to keep pressure off Brees but must also test the Chiefs linebackers in coverage.
A New Orleans pass defense that has struggled against deep receiving corps must be able to minimize damage caused by Mahomes and the Kansas City passing attack. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore, CB Janoris Jenkins, and CB/S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson are outstanding in man coverage, but must win their matchups so New Orleans defensive coordinator Dennis Allen can design coverages to contain the other Chiefs weapons. New Orleans DE Cameron Jordan, DE Marcus Davenport, DT Sheldon Rankins, and DT David Onyemata lead a deep defensive line that must pressure Mahomes into rushed throws and possible mistakes. The Saints will also need to establish control up front to eliminate the Chiefs rushing attack and allow the defense to me more aggressive against the pass.
Both New Orleans and Kansas City have elite quarterbacks and several offensive weapons that could make this game into a shootout. Each team also has playmakers on the defensive side and elite kick returners in Deonte Harris for New Orleans and Hardman for Kansas City that could ultimately decide the outcome of the game. In what could be a Super Bowl LV preview between two of the NFL's best, there is certain to be fireworks in every phase of the game in this Week 15 clash.