It won’t play out on the international stage as planned, but the NFL still has to be pretty happy with having the showdown between the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs and 9-1 Los Angeles Rams slated for a national television audience on Monday night.
The game will be played in Los Angeles after the field at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City was deemed unsafe and unplayable. While that’s a little bit of a black eye for the NFL, it would have been much worse if these two high-flying offenses were grounded by poor footing.
The head coaches — Kansas City’s Andy Reid and Los Angeles’ Sean McVey — have been at the forefront of the offensive explosion in the NFL. Teams around the league are copying them and scrambling to keep up, but few have weapons to work with like the Chiefs and Rams. So expect plenty of points and nothing left on the table as both teams head into their bye week after this possible Super Bowl preview.
Kansas City at Los Angeles
Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 19 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Rams -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Mahomes chasing history
In his first season as a starter, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is rewarding the Chiefs for trading up to nab him in the 2017 NFL Draft. With 31 touchdowns in 10 games, he is on pace for 50 (OK, 49.6), a milestone reached before by only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Manning’s record of 55 is not out of reach given that Mahomes has already thrown four or more touchdowns in one game five times this season. But don’t expect Mahomes to get greedy, as he may have learned a lesson last week. After throwing for a season-low 249 yards against the Cardinals, Mahomes admitted he was possibly looking for big plays too often, resulting in a season-high five sacks. If Mahomes goes back to taking what is given and just getting the ball into the hands of playmakers such as Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, more touchdowns will likely follow.
2. The Rams run through Gurley
While Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff has been excellent as well, running back Todd Gurley is the key to a Rams offense that ranks third in scoring (one spot ahead of the Chiefs) and second in total offense (one spot ahead of the Chiefs). Gurley leads the NFL in Rushing (988 yards), total yards from scrimmage (1,390), rushing scores (13) and total touchdowns (17). Last season he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,093) and total touchdowns (19), and he is on pace to blow past those numbers. He may be licking his chops this week as well, because the Kansas City defense has struggled. The Chiefs rank 22nd in the NFL in rushing defense, but that number would be worse if teams didn’t have to throw so much to keep up. Only two teams have allowed more yards per carry than the Chiefs (5.1), so expect Gurley to find plenty of room to run.
3. Familiar faces
Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins and Rams cornerback Marcus Peters will be facing the teams they played for last season, and Peters at least has had this date circled. Traded for two draft picks in the offseason, the outspoken corner hasn’t been afraid to trash talk about landing a couple turnovers against his former team. Watkins missed last week’s game with a foot injury but is expected to play and could find himself heads-up against Peters much of the time. Whoever gets the better of that matchup could tip this game in his team’s favor.
While the Rams' defense hasn’t quite lived up to expectations this season, it still ranks in the NFL’s top half in points and yards allowed. Kansas City, on the other hand, has mostly needed to out-score opponents. Given that the Rams are just a slightly more complete team — and the fact that it’s unlikely the Chiefs can slow down Gurley — we’re sticking with the home team.