On Thanksgiving weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs continue their assault on Southern California as they take on the Los Angeles Rams at Arrowhead Stadium’s GEHA Field.
These two teams couldn’t be headed in more opposite directions. The Rams have lost four straight and six of their last seven. The bosses have won four in a row – and yes, six of the last seven. The Rams will be without their quarterback And his backup, forcing them to play their top-string boy who runs better than he throws. Meanwhile, the Chiefs will start MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes.
While this should be a game biased in favor of the home team, the defending Super Bowl champions shouldn’t be overlooked.
Here are some Chiefs ahead of the week 12 matchup.
Offensive Linemen Orlando Brown and Trey Smith: Much of this week’s talk has been – fittingly – about Isiah Pacheco. Rhyme aside, Kansas City’s running game is as much (or more) dependent on front boys than rock carrying boys. Last Sunday, Brown, Smith and company were able to do what they do best: hit people in the running game. The Chiefs seemed to run more power plays that suited both their style and the skills of their running backs. As a team, they rushed for 163 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. This kind of balance makes the Kansas City offense much more efficient and also hard to beat. The Rams present another opportunity for these guys to establish themselves on the field, which will hopefully result in a comfortable lead.
Defensive end George Karlaftis: It must be frustrating to be this young player. On the one hand, he’s playing a lot of snaps on a defensive front that’s already surpassed last year’s layoff totals; he is closing games with a lot of pressure in important situations. But despite playing in a position where sacks make the boys pay and recognize, Karlaftis has only half a sack in ten games. As Ron Kopp Jr. pointed out during this week Arrowhead Pride Out of Structure podcast, Karlaftis was asked to do much of the “dirty work” that allows others to hurry the passerby. When he gets through, often against multiple blockers, Karlaftis is taking pressure at a good pace. When she fails to pass, she knocks down the steps. (Lead the team with five). Karlaftis should stumble into a sack or two — and against the Rams and their backup quarterback, that’s likely to start this week.
Skyy Moore Wide Receiver: One of winners since last Sunday’s game, the rookie has been out at just the right time. Already missing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman — and with Kadarius Toney leaving early with an injury — quarterback Patrick Mahomes was short on proven pass-catchers. It was the perfect opportunity for Moore to remind everyone that he has the ability to be a traditional wide receiver for this team. Most notable among his five-catch performance was Mahomes targeting Moore on the final drive to get into Chargers territory and set up the game-winning touchdown. Watch this week to see if Skyy can still get it Moore objectives: whether the position group becomes healthier or not.
Other trends in the right direction: cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie, linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay, Jr., defensive ends Mike Danna and Carlos Dunlap, running back Isiah Pacheco, defensive tackle Chris Jones, tight end Jody Fortson and placekicker Harrison Butker.
Running Back Ronald Jones: Given that he’s been on the inactive list for every one of his first ten games, you might wonder how much more he could drop. After (surprisingly) running the team off the field — and then not getting a chance — Jones recently tweeted about wanting a release. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, the Chiefs have filed waiver requests for running backs released by other teams. Their interest in bolstering the position from the outside should tell us everything we need to know about where they think Jones fits in, so if the team manages to add another, Jones might just get his wish. Now that Clyde Edwards-Helaire is on injured reserve, however, Jones should be active for Sunday’s game against the Rams. Here’s the rub: what Jones does improve that’s what Pahceco does better. I don’t expect many carries for Jones on Sunday; it can only be active as insurance.
Kadarius Toney Wide Receiver: It was just starting to get everyone excited about its potential when the problem that might have caused it to ship out of New York popped up in Kansas City. Toney left the Chargers game early with a hamstring injury, leaving his status for this Sunday’s game in question. The talent is undeniable, but availability could already be an issue for Toney. It’s not his fault that he’s injured, but let’s hope this isn’t a pattern that limits his impact on the Chiefs.
Fullback Michael Burton: In a team going in the right direction, it’s hard to find players who are… bearish. But when an offense is as efficient as this, sometimes the guys get left out. Burton plays a position that many don’t even consider useful in the modern game. But when he had chances with the Chiefs, it was a valuable short-run return. Those chances, however, have diminished; he hasn’t seen the ball since he was stuffed for a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Rams have been pretty solid against the run, so Burton may still be wondering when his next carry will arrive.
Other trends in the wrong direction: wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, cornerback Joshua Williams and linebacker Darius Harris.
Value pick (sleeper): Right tackle Lucas Niang
It seems like forever since Niang was on the court, but he’s finally ready to make his comeback. Coach Andy Reid indicated that he would be part of the “deep two”, putting Niang squarely in position to compete for his former starting job. While it may not happen this week, there appears to be little momentum for Niang to unseat Andrew Wylie down the stretch. Continuity is key to offensive lines, so teams don’t like to make a change like this. But if Wylie fights against the Rams—and Niang looks good in practice—his opportunity may finally come.