A pair of familiar faces square off in Kansas City on Sunday as the Chiefs host the Eagles
The Kansas City Chiefs will play host to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon inside Arrowhead Stadium. The big storyline heading into this matchup is one of mentor vs. pupil. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson served as an assistant under Chiefs head coach Andy Reid for six years, most recently in 2015, when Pederson served as offensive coordinator for the Chiefs. While this isn’t the first time that Reid has faced off against an ex-employee — he's compiled a record of 8-3 against former assistants — it is the first time that Reid has coached against a former player. Pederson played quarterback for Reid in stops at both Green Bay and Philadelphia, giving credence to the idea that no one knows the nuances of Andy Reid better than Pederson and vice versa.
The other big storyline is the Chiefs' colossal Thursday night upset of the defending Super Bowl champions. While the experts were busy pondering the Patriots' potential to go undefeated this season, Andy Reid was masterminding a plan to ensure that didn’t happen. Reid managed to do the unthinkable and make good on that plan. Now 1-0, a well-rested Kansas City team will try to make it two in a row as it settles in for its home opener against the 1-0 Eagles.
The Eagles may not be riding the same wave of momentum that the Chiefs are on. But snapping a five-game losing streak against the Redskins in Week 1 should feel pretty good for a team that many picked to finish last in the NFC East this season. Doug Pederson now faces a challenge that is not that dissimilar to the one that his mentor faced in Week 1: to go into a hostile environment on the road and come away with an upset win.
Philadelphia at Kansas City
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Kansas City -6
Three Things to Watch
1. The Hill and Hunt show?
Fifth-round pick Tyreek Hill proved to be the steal of the NFL draft last season. The controversial do-it-all playmaker quickly became one of the most electric players in the league, compiling 1,836 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns in a stellar rookie campaign. Hill’s sophomore campaign isn’t off to a bad start, either. He hauled in seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown in week 1 against the Patriots. His big-play potential should have everyone’s attention again on Sunday against the Eagles. Hill will look to extend his NFL record of five consecutive games with at least one play of 60 yards or more.
Early indications are that the Chiefs have struck gold once again via the 2017 draft with third-round pick Kareem Hunt out of Toledo. After fumbling away his first career NFL carry, the dynamic running back proceeded to torch the New England defense in Week 1, racking up 246 total yards and three scores in his debut. Things will get a little tougher on the ground in Week 2 against a daunting Eagles defensive front that gave up just 64 rushing yards against the Redskins. That being said, Hunt’s versatility as a pass catcher out of the backfield should boost his chances for a successful outing on Sunday.
2. Philadelphia passing game vs. the Kansas City pass defense
Despite a solid performance by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in Week 1, he was rarely able to connect with his newest weapons. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith combined for just four catches and 68 yards. That could change in Week 2 against a Chiefs secondary that is down two of its best players — All-Pro safety Eric Berry and cornerback Steven Nelson. While the Kansas City secondary was fairly solid against the Patriots in Week 1 without Nelson, it took a big hit with the loss of Berry. That should bode well for Philadelphia tight end Zach Ertz, who led the Eagles in receiving last week with 93 yards.
The Chiefs still have All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to lock down one side of the field. However, Peters almost never shadows one particular receiver. That should provide ample opportunity for Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor in matchups against the Chiefs’ other starting cornerbacks. Terrance Mitchell and Phillip Gaines can be vulnerable against top-flight receivers, and the Eagles potentially have three of them. If the Eagles offensive line can manage an outstanding Chiefs pass rush led by Justin Houston and Dee Ford, the Philadelphia passing attack stands a good chance of finding success on Sunday.
3. Two in a row for Alex Smith?
In 142 career games, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has never had back-to-back 300-yard passing games. That opportunity will be on the table following his 368-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Patriots, an effort that earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. A matchup against a lackluster Philadelphia secondary that just lost top cornerback Ronald Darby to an ankle injury should help Smith’s cause on Sunday. However, a particularly nasty Eagles front seven could make it challenging for Smith to hit that mark.
Philadelphia significantly bolstered its defensive line with offseason acquisitions Chris Long and Tim Jernigan. Add in first-round draft pick Derek Barnett to go along with the always formidable Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle, and the Eagles defensive front is now as solid as any in the league. That was evident in Week 1 as this group relentlessly harassed Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins all day, tallying four sacks and eight quarterback hits in the process. So, while the matchup against a suspect Eagles secondary is favorable, Alex Smith may not have much time to take full advantage of it. Look for the Chiefs to revert to a more conservative short passing game this week as a result.
It’s impossible to discount the monster performance put on by the Kansas City offense in Week 1, especially when you consider who it came against. But it’s also difficult and rare for any team to repeat such a dominating effort. While explosive playmakers Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce will go a long way in helping that effort, it will come as a surprise if the Chiefs are able to dominate the Eagles defense in the same fashion in which they abused the Patriots defense.
The Eagles' offense had a couple of impressive moments of its own in Week 1. But untapped potential remains in the form of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Carson Wentz might be able to tap into that potential on Sunday against a Chiefs secondary that now has some question marks. Regardless, Philadelphia will need a much better effort from its ground game this week if they have any shot at winning. Lead back LeGarrette Blount ran for just 46 yards in Week 1. The Eagles averaged only 2.4 rushing yards per carry as a team. That won’t be enough on the road against the Chiefs.
Much is being made of the Andy Reid-Doug Pederson connection. It makes for a compelling subplot, but I’m not sure it gives either coach any real advantage in this matchup. If there is an edge, it probably goes to Reid, whose track record against former assistants speaks for itself. The biggest advantage for Reid’s Chiefs, however, comes in the form of the home crowd inside Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City should also garner an edge from the extra rest and preparation time provided by a 10-day layoff. That should be enough to firmly tip the scales in the Chiefs' favor.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Eagles 21
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.