The Lions look to remain unbeaten against reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs
When Kansas City comes to the Motor City to take on Detroit it'll be a slightly unexpected matchup of undefeated teams. No one is that surprised that the Chiefs, led by reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes are 3-0. But the Lions have yet to lose a game as well, as the only blemish on their record so far is a 27-27 tie in Week 1 out in Arizona.
Kansas City has been dominant in the early going, outscoring Jacksonville, Oakland, and Baltimore 101-64. Detroit hasn't scored near as many points (67) and has a point differential of just plus-six, but the Lions turned up the defensive intensity when they needed to secure a pair of three-point wins over the Chargers and Eagles, respectively, over the last two weeks.
Detroit may have a more difficult time limiting Mahomes and the Chiefs' well-oiled offensive machine. So can the Lions produce enough points to keep up?
Kansas City at Detroit
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Chiefs -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Offense, offense, offense
Expect plenty of it when this game kicks off. The Lions are averaging just a little under 24 points per game thanks to multiple contributors. Quarterback Matthew Stafford ranks 10th in passing yards (831), 12th in yards per completion (7.8), fourth in passing touchdowns (6), and his 97.5 passer rating puts him ahead of both Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo. Stafford has a nice supporting cast to thank for those numbers. That cast includes wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr. (15 receptions, 200 yards, TD), Kenny Golladay (14, 176, 2), and Danny Amendola (11, 141, 1), along with rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson (8, 139, 1).
The Lions' rushing attack isn't quite there yet but they've put up some respectable production. Second-year running back Kerryon Johnson leads the team with 126 yards and a touchdown on 48 carries. Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic have pitched in off the bench (combined for 13 carries and 87 yards), and the Lions recently added former New York Giant Paul Perkins (546 career rushing yards, 208 career receiving yards) to the roster after releasing veteran C.J. Anderson (43 yds. on 16 carries before his release). The Lions' offensive line has also done a nice job as Stafford has only been sacked three times this season.
Detroit has done well but the Chiefs are once again among the league's best units, putting up 33.7 points per game (third in NFL) thus far. Patrick Mahomes has picked up where he left off as the reigning MVP leads in passing yards (1,195), yards per attempt (10.5), and touchdown passes. He's on pace to surpass last season's numbers when he threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 TDs. You could argue he's playing better than he did last season and already is on his way winning back-to-back MVPs.
Even without Tyreek Hill (shoulder) the Chiefs have plenty of downfield options. All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce (284 yds., 16.7 ypr, TD) is still around giving opposing defensive coordinators nightmares while guys like Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman (combined 36 rec., 684 yds., 8 TDs) have stepped up in Hill's absence.
Not to be forgotten, Kansas City added veteran LeSean McCoy to the backfield prior to the season and while he's dealt with an ankle injury, he's also chipped in 196 total yards and two TDs in the early going. McCoy, Damien Williams (dealing with a knee injury), and Darrel Williams help give some balance to a Chiefs offense that's averaging 487 yards per game (second in the league).
2. Which defense will bend first?
This is where the game will be decided. Both teams are pretty much neck-and-neck when it comes to average yards per game allowed (394.7 for the Lions, 395.7 for the Chiefs), but the Lions are slightly better in terms of points allowed per game (20.3 vs. 21.3). The Chiefs have are a little better in the turnover department (+3 vs. +1), but Detroit has collected a few more sacks (9 vs. 7) in the early going. Neither defense is dominant but they make plays when needed.
The Lions have held their last two opponents to just seven fourth-quarter points, while the Chiefs have recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss in their first three games. Detroit needs to find a way to pressure Mahomes, which is easier said than done and opens up the possibility of giving up some big plays. Kansas City would love to make the Lions one-dimensional on offense, especially if that means forcing Stafford to try and keep pace with Mahomes in a QB duel.
3. By the numbers
While the Lions had an impressive win at home over the Chargers two weeks ago, they're actually just 6-7 against the AFC since 2016. The Chiefs are 7-5 against the NFC during that same stretch. This is only the second game at Ford Field for the Lions this year, but Kansas City is already 2-0 on the road this season. Andy Reid has guided his team to an 11-7 record away from Arrowhead Stadium since 2017, and the Chiefs have won their last five road games. The Lions are just 4-5 at home in a stretch that goes back to last season.
While I do expect a fair amount of points to be scored, the Chiefs are much more effective on offense and their recent momentum in road games is too hard to ignore. The Chiefs give the Lions their first loss of the season but it won't be easy.
Prediction: Chiefs 31, Lions 28
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.