"Sunday Night Football" will bring together two old AFC West Rivals as Seattle plays host to Kansas City. These two teams have plenty at stake as they are both looking to solidify playoff positioning. The Seahawks can punch their postseason ticket with a victory and a little bit of help in a couple of other games while Kansas City could win the AFC West with a victory and loss by the Chargers on Saturday at home against Baltimore. But a loss by the Chiefs combined with a win by Los Angeles would flip the division standings.
A lack of discipline was a big problem for Seattle (8-6) in the 26-23 overtime loss at San Francisco last Sunday. The Seahawks set a franchise record with 14 penalties for 148 yards, several of them being quite costly. Special teams was another problem as Sebastian Janikowski missed an extra point after the opening touchdown of the game. Janikowski also made an inexcusable business decision by not even bothering to try to tackle Richie James Jr. on the ensuing kickoff which resulted in a 97-yard touchdown for the 49ers. The offense was balanced as Chris Carson ran for 119 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. However, it was not good enough as the Seahawks were not able to pull away from San Francisco all afternoon long.
Kansas City (11-3) will be looking to get off the mat and recover from a losing a 29-28 heartbreaker to the Chargers last Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs had a 28-14 lead with about four minutes left but simply couldn’t put the game away. Patrick Mahomes completed 24 of 34 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns but Los Angeles did a good job of limiting the big plays. The running game was an issue as Kansas City managed just 60 rushing yards against a physical defense. Philip Rivers was able to shred the Chiefs' secondary on the game-winning drive, including a key fourth-down completion to Travis Benjamin. Kansas City surrendered 407 yards and 30 first downs, which is not a recipe for success in the playoffs.
Kansas City at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec 23 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: Chiefs -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Russell Wilson vs. Patrick Mahomes
Wilson has a knack for rising to the occasion when the spotlight is on him, especially at CenturyLink Field, but this is a little bit of a different beast on Sunday night. Mahomes has thrown for 4,543 yards and 45 touchdown passes on the season. It is going to be extremely important for Wilson to make big plays with his legs to keep Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (14 sacks) from having too much of an impact. In addition, Wilson is going to need to capitalize on opportunities in the passing game as the Seahawks will need to be able to score at least 30 points in order to win. Mahomes has done a nice job on producing at a high level on the road as he's looking for his fifth straight road game with at least three touchdown passes. The environment at CenturyLink Field is a different beast in prime time, so look for head coach Andy Reid to give Mahomes some easy throws early on to set up bigger plays in the second half. One thing that could change the game plan is if Seattle safety Bradley McDougald is unable to play because of a knee injury. His status is very much in doubt, which would be a big loss for the Seahawks as they try to slow down Kansas City's explosive passing attack.
2. Controlling the clock
Seattle is averaging a league-leading 168.6 rushing yards per game and the best way to neutralize a high-powered offense is to keep them off the field. Kansas City has struggled all year long when it comes to stopping the run, especially on the road. Teams are averaging 4.95 yards per carry and have 10 rushing touchdowns against the Chiefs when they are away from Arrowhead Stadium. Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to find a way to get 40-plus carries to limit Kansas City’s overall possessions. Expect Chris Carson to get at least 20 touches and have a great opportunity to go over 100 yards. The Chiefs will need to get more out of the running game then they have lately to keep the crowd noise in check as well as Seattle's pass rush. Frank Clark and Jarran Reed have been a force to be reckoned with all year long, combining for 20.5 sacks along the way.
3. Tyler Lockett vs. Kansas City secondary
Lockett has been the most explosive offensive playmaker for the Seahawks, and he will need to be heavily involved in the game plan on Sunday night against a suspect Chiefs secondary. Kendall Fuller has a pretty good chance to play on Sunday despite having surgery on his hand after last week's game. Eric Berry should get more reps this week after being limited to just a half of action as Kansas City is keeping him in a snap count in his return from an Achilles injury. Look for Seattle to move Lockett around the formations in an effort to get him open for a big play against the league's worst pass defense (282.5 ypg).
With the health issues facing the Seahawks on the defensive side of the ball with Bradley McDougald and K.J. Wright, this game sets up well for Kansas City to come in and get win number 12. It won’t be easy for the Chiefs as Seattle will be amped up and ready to atone for last week’s debacle in Santa Clara. However, look for Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City to make just enough plays on offense at the right time to narrowly cover the spread on Sunday night.
Prediction: Chiefs 31, Seahawks 28
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.