It is the game everyone circled on their calendars once they realized how good Patrick Mahomes is and Jared Goff is not a one-year wonder. The NFL wraps up Week 11 in Los Angeles, where the Kansas Chiefs and Rams look to maintain their statuses atop their respective conferences in a high-profile and expected high-scoring showdown that has moved back to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, but the field was in such horrible condition after concerts and soccer matches that the league deemed the field unplayable Tuesday.
Line movements, injury updates and news: Noon CST
The league has taken out all the stops to make sure it has the best of everything for this game. In addition to moving it from Azteca, the NFL also made the unprecedented move of putting together what is essentially an All-Star officiating crew for a regular-season game.
Clete Blakeman is the referee, and he will have just two of his normal crew with him in umpire Ramon George and down judge Dana McKenzie. The other five officials have been pulled from two crews. Two officials are part of Jerome Boger’s crew, and Boger was originally slated to be the referee before the league made the switch. Side judge Brad Freeman is from Clay Martin’s crew, and replay official Jim Lapetina is part of Brad Allen’s crew.
The line has had little movement since the reset from Mexico City to Los Angeles, opening with the Rams favored by one point and quickly moving its way to 2.5 points. It remained there at the time of the league’s announcement, and after it was confirmed the game would be in Los Angeles, it moved another point in the Rams’ favor to 3.5 points.
It held steady at 3.5 points all the way until Sunday morning, when it got pushed down to three. It regained the half-point in the overnight hours, but there was another push to move it back to three points, where it currently holds as of this update.
The over/under saw some rapid fluctuation after its record opening at 64 points and was driven down as low as 62 right around the time the game was moved back to Los Angeles. From there it quickly regained momentum and climbed to 63.5 points on Tuesday. It has oscillated back and forth between 63 and 63.5 points, teasing bettors to take the under for those who did not jump on the over at 62.5. It was at 63.5 points all of Sunday before an overnight run ticked it down to 63, only to see it return to 63.5 as of this update.
The game has generated an especially high interest for both bettors and oddsmakers, with the intrigue and allure of the highest single-game over/under — opening at 64 — established dating back to at least 1984 in play for this game.
Chiefs vs Rams total 63.5 pts currently largest #NFL total in our database (1984). Totals of 58+ produced 6-0 Over/Under record:
OAK@KC 2004 60 O/U (61)
KC@NE 2018 59.5 O/U (83)
WAS@DEN 2013 58.5 O/U (66)
NO@ATL 2016 58.5 O/U (70)
MIN@IND 2004 58 O/U (59)
NE@IND 2014 58 O/U (62) pic.twitter.com/xqeNl0L9NU
— Covers (@Covers) November 12, 2018
That huge number is justified when looking at these two offenses. Kansas City is averaging 35.3 points even after being held to a season low last Sunday in its 26-14 victory over Arizona. The Chiefs have won four straight since their 43-40 loss at New England in Week 6 and lead the Patriots by two games in the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Rams are no slouches offensively, scoring 33.5 points per game and bounced back from their lone loss of the season with a 36-31 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday to complete a sweep of their closest pursuers in the NFC West. The Rams, though, need to keep winning as the only team to beat them — the New Orleans Saints — is breathing down their neck and enter Week 11 one-half game behind them for the top spot in the conference.
A Quick Review of the Season to Date
Kansas City Chiefs Review
While there were high expectations facing Mahomes in his first full season under center in Kansas City following the departure of Alex Smith, no one expected the 23-year-old to show such a command and mastery of Andy Reid’s offense.
Mahomes has dazzled with his howitzer of an arm and an ability to improvise, with Reid’s play-calling showcasing the offensive talents of his quarterback, running back Kareem Hunt, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.
Arizona, however, did a good job keeping the ball out of Mahomes’ hands in the second half resulted in the Cardinals at least making the game competitive into the fourth quarter and Kansas City finishing with a season-low 330 yards. The Chiefs needed their defense to step up and make a big play, and they responded with two fourth quarter interceptions — one by Justin Houston and one by Steven Nelson.
🔑 Justin Houston INT pic.twitter.com/5TK67RI06L
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) November 11, 2018
For all the talk of Mahomes and the offense, the Chiefs have quietly raised their game defensively during this winning streak. Kansas City has allowed 23 or fewer points in all four wins, getting five interceptions and recording 14 sacks. The Chiefs have allowed just five pass plays of 25 or more yards in the last four games after giving up 19 in its first six.
Los Angeles Rams Review
Aside from losing in what is arguably the NFL’s loudest dome in New Orleans, the Rams have taken on all comers and disposed of them with a relentless offense paced by Goff and led by running back Todd Gurley.
Gurley topped 100 yards for the fifth time this season in the win against the Seahawks, finishing with 120 as he moved within 12 yards of his second straight 1,000-yard season and third in his four in the NFL since being drafted 10th in 2015. He had four runs of 10 or more yards, raising his NFL-leading total to 28, and has not been tackled for a loss in Seattle’s last two games.
— Eric Dickerson (@EricDickerson) November 12, 2018
Rams coach Sean McVay, though, will have to make adjustments to his passing offense after losing wide receiver Cooper Kupp to a season-ending torn ACL. The second-year wideout is tied with Gurley for third on the team with 40 receptions and third with 566 receiving yards, but what the Rams also lose is a key cog of efficiency.
Goff has a completion percentage of 76.9 percent on his passes thrown in Kupp’s direction this year, which ranks second in the league in combinations behind only Drew Brees to Michael Thomas on the New Orleans Saints. Los Angeles still has plenty of firepower at the wide receiver position in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, but there is now a tremendous amount of pressure on Josh Reynolds — who has seven catches for 98 yards and two TDs — to at least make himself a visible presence to keep the gears running for this offense.
“Josh Reynolds has definitely demonstrated he’s more than capable,” McVay said in his Monday news conference. “He is a starting-caliber player and that’s what we’ll do moving forward.”
Kansas City Chiefs Offense vs. Los Angeles Rams Defense
Running the Ball: Who Has the Edge?
Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense
There are two things that stand out about Hunt’s rushing numbers when scratching below the surface. One is nearly three-quarters of his carries come with the Chiefs operating out of the shotgun, and the other is he does a significant amount of damage to his left, averaging 7.3 yards per carry on 24 attempts.
Operating out of the shotgun makes it easier for Hunt to run in any direction off the snap — it’s a split-second to survey the line and find the crease to try and get to the second level. Hunt also has a combination of speed, strength and elusiveness — he can either make the first tackler miss or he can run through them.
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/SDPyPzXTpg
— NFL (@NFL) October 2, 2018
Another interesting feature of Reid’s offense is he will turn to Hunt more in the second half to run the ball compared to the first, when he is more aggressive in play-calling and uses him as both runner and receiver. Hunt is such a threat because there is no real way to prevent him from getting his touches and defenses do not know where they originate from snap to snap.
chiefs start out in a bunch formation. motion watkins away from the bunch. fake the jet sweep to watkins. mahomes reads the EMLOS & has the option to give kelce the shovel pass or give it to hunt on the stretch.
good luck being right on this. pic.twitter.com/AKGV4k3BSl
— KP (@KP_Show) October 29, 2018
Hunt, though, is almost the exclusive source of Kansas City’s running game. Mahomes can scramble, and every now and then, Reid will call a jet sweep for either Hill or Watkins, and the receivers have totaled 133 yards on 18 carries.
What makes Kansas City’s run offense through Hunt so effective is the RPO turns the running back into a “human joystick.” Reid has plays that can be mirrored to be run in both directions, and it does not matter which shoulder Hunt lines up on next to Mahomes out of the shotgun.
Los Angeles Rams Rushing Defense
Hill provides a very real threat to the Rams not only because of his skill but also because they have been dreadful against the run. It is one of the reasons why Los Angeles has not blown out many teams in its 9-1 start.
The read-option is dead, huh?
With Russell Wilson running well again, the Rams had no answer for it on Sunday and Rashaad Penny benefited this time by winning a one-on-one with linebacker Corey Littleton. pic.twitter.com/XmOSqcyLE1
— Corbin Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) November 14, 2018
It should be noted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had 92 rushing yards in this game in addition to second-stringer and rookie Rashaad Penny’s 108. It was part of an effort that saw Los Angeles gashed for a season-worst 273 rushing yards on 8.03 yards per carry.
But that call above is something the Rams defense will see constantly against the Chiefs. The bigger issue for Los Angeles is Kansas City has shown the ability to use an RPO in this fashion while utilizing all skill players. Hunt will get a good share of his carries in this fashion, and while Mahomes is not the running threat Wilson is, there are undoubtedly true run option plays Kansas City will use with Mahomes and Hunt in Reid’s playbook.
Can always count on the @Chiefs for wrinkles, both run and pass- here is Pat Mahomes running the read with a pitch option, plus a lead blocker…college football or the NFL? Either way, it’s an 8 hard gain and it’s nice!#ChiefsKingdom @ArrowheadPride #chiefs @MattBowen41 pic.twitter.com/NrlGACs3U9
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) September 10, 2018
Notable Rushing Statistics
Kansas City Chiefs Offense
Kansas City Chiefs — 1,176 net rushing yards (7th)
117.6 rushing yards per game (13th)
247 rushes (13th)
24.7 rushes per game (19th)
4.76 yards per rush (8th)
10 rushing TDs (T-8th)
Kareem Hunt — 167 carries/754 yards/4.51 yards per carry/7 TDs
Patrick Mahomes — 36/158/4.39/2
Spencer Ware — 22/124/5.64/1
Tyreek Hill — 13/81/6.23/0
Los Angeles Rams Defense
Los Angeles Rams — 1,221 net rushing yards allowed — 27th
122.1 rushing yards allowed per game — 24th
235 carries (18th)
23.5 carries per game (25th)
5.20 yards per carry (32nd)
8 rushing TDs allowed (T-17th)
Who Has the Edge?
The Rams struggles against the run are curious when one considers they have one of the best pass-rushers in the league in Donald, a still formidable Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle, and recently bolstered their defensive line with the acquisition of Dante Fowler Jr.
Yet all that matters little when the front four cannot get penetration at the line of scrimmage and knock the offensive line back. The Rams have yielded four or more yards per carry on 53.2 percent of opponents’ runs — only the Chiefs are worse (53.8). They have recorded just 18 tackles for losses on running plays, ranking 25th. They have allowed 39 runs of 10 or more yards — tied for fourth-worst.
Kansas City’s run offense is well-designed to exploit the weaknesses the Rams have shown in run defense through Hill and even through Mahomes given the potential effectiveness of the RPO. What will be interesting to see is if the Chiefs run at Donald given Hunt’s effectiveness running to his left or away from him.
Advantage: Kansas City Chiefs
Aerial Assault: Who Has the Upper Hand?
Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense
This throw from Mahomes is silly. Again looks away to start off, keeps the safety from closing too soon, then releases well before Hill has turned around. throw starts before the cut. Awesome stuff. pic.twitter.com/BFj1U9jP62
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 14, 2018
Watching the poor edge defender here is hilarious. he has no idea how to defend a no-look pass, and why would he? Literally no one else does it. pic.twitter.com/BUzLleDabp
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 6, 2018
Sammy has some skills. He's able to get clean releases and quickly separate, and has superior YAC skills to what I expected. I'd like to see him with more short/intermediate routes as a primary target. pic.twitter.com/oZZdlmkdDf
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 29, 2018
— I Got A. Thielen (@AKissFromARosen) October 2, 2018
Who doesn’t like a running back dump-trucking a safety after catching a pass? Mahomes never lacks for options because each of his four primary pass-catchers have game-breaking potential who make the whole greater than the sum of their parts.
Let’s start with Hill, his primary receiver who has elite speed to separate from cornerbacks. He is 109 yards shy of his second straight 1,000-yard season and has had at least 51 yards in every game. Hill delivers on third down — 10 of his 12 receptions have moved the chains — and Mahomes’ arm strength makes Hill a threat on medium to deep options, as the two have hooked up 12 times on 20 throws of 21-40 yards.
Kelce opens up the middle of the field in every direction similar to Hunt in the backfield. The tight end can run seam routes up the middle but also is quick and versatile enough to line up in the slot or even wide to further stretch defenses. If Reid is calling a pass play downfield on first down, Kelce is usually the first option as the tight end has 27 receptions for 340 yards in such instances.
Watkins is the receiver whom the Chiefs can rely on for production when defenses try to take away Hill or Kelce. Despite being the taller wide receiver between him and Hill at 6-foot-1, Watkins is the receiver Reid tries to use in bubble screens and short passes — 31 of his receptions have either been behind the line of scrimmage or on passes thrown shorter 1-10 yards.
Hunt serves as Mahomes’ option for standard screen passes and the occasional wheel route. He is also the check-down receiver on those rare occasions when the play breaks down, but Hunt is also a threat to take it to the house every time he catches a pass when his linemen are able to get ahead of him on those screen passes.
Just another game @kareemhunt took over.
— NFL (@NFL) November 5, 2018
And at the center of all this is Mahomes, who has already set a Chiefs single-season franchise record with 31 touchdown passes. The year on the bench studying the offense and learning with both Reid and Smith has paid huge dividends that are being reaped now. His decision-making has been spot-on in all but a few occasions, and his ability to extend plays is another key factor in Kansas City’s pass offense being absolutely lethal.
Mahomes has eyes in the back (side?) of his head and a ridiculously cool head under pressure. The vast majority of quarterbacks take a sack here. Instead, Mahomes sees it, buys an extra second to get rid of the ball and Kareem Hunt does Kareem Hunt things. pic.twitter.com/Lja7W1vhy0
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 23, 2018
Another factor in this success is the trust Reid has in Mahomes. A good portion of the big chunk plays the Chiefs have recorded in the passing game — the Chiefs have 49 passing plays of 20 or more yards — come off RPO calls, something the coach and quarterback are able to do because both listen to the other.
“First off, he always asks me what I am seeing out there and what is going on out there,” Mahomes told Arrowhead Pride. “Then he asks what I am thinking and shows me what he is thinking, and we get on the same page. That goes with Coach Reid, Kafka, Bieniemy — and Chad Henne — all those guys are giving me what they are thinking. At the same time, we are all trying to get on the same page to go out there and run a tight unit.”
Los Angeles Rams Passing Defense
While there are many moving parts to Kansas City’s pass offense, there are still points where one person defensively can throw a complete spanner into the works.
And that person is Donald.
Aaron Donald turning corners like a ferrari is unfair: pic.twitter.com/FUh3eIPjGs
— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) November 13, 2018
He has already set a single-season franchise record for sacks by a defensive tackle with 12, which is already a career high for Donald with six games to play. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has let his defensive tackle set up in multiple spots and positions, making it a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen to key on him.
With teams keying on Donald, Suh is often able to take advantage of 1-on-1 matchups to help his teammate and blow up plays in the middle.
Ndamukong Suh is 313 lbs.
Aaron Donald is 280 lbs.
Russell Wilson is 215 lbs.
This isn't a fair fight.pic.twitter.com/i0HWGQp1np
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) November 11, 2018
What makes this matchup a challenge for the pair is with Mahomes primarily operating out of the shotgun is there is more time for the quarterback to survey the field as opposed to setting up in the pocket and then making his progressions. And with Kansas City’s ability to float Hunt into space for screen passes, there are going to be times when the offensive linemen will not engage with the pair as they prepare to block on the run.
Behind them, the Rams ask much of linebacker Corey Littleton in pass coverage — he leads the team with 82 tackles and nine passes broken up. But that has not stopped teams from going over the middle against him, with opposing QBs completing 30 of 43 passes for 309 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kansas City is so diverse offensively Littleton will not be able to be a rover and watch Hunt lest Kelce run wild between the hashmarks on mid-range passes.
In the secondary, Peters will undoubtedly be highly motivated playing against his former team, but his effectiveness has waned since Aqib Talib was put on injured reserve after three games with an ankle injury. Talib has come to his teammate’s defense this week, telling the team’s official website:
“M.P. is good. What do they say? It’s a marathon not a sprint? He is good, he’s perfectly fine. That’s just part of playing DB… I don’t even know one DB who is perfect all the time — that’s ‘Prime,’” Talib said, referring to Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders. “That’s part of playing DB, you’re going to go through those stretches, but that’s why we got short memories and why we play the toughest positions on the field.”
What is surprising is for all the havoc Donald and Suh wreak in pass rushing, it does not result in takeaways, nor necessarily success. What has been telling over the last three games is the Rams have not gotten an interception against three of the better quarterbacks in the league — Aaron Rodgers, Brees and Wilson. The Rams have given up 8.78 yards per attempt in those games, a 65.2 percent completion rate and a staggering passer rating of 122.0.
Notable Passing Statistics
Kansas City Chiefs Offense
Kansas City Chiefs — 3,055 net passing yards (2nd)
305.5 passing yards per game (4th)
231 completions (11th)
345 attempts (13th)
67.0 completion percentage (10th)
3,150 gross passing yards (2nd)
9.13 yards per attempt (2nd)
13.64 yards per completion (3rd)
31 passing touchdowns (1st)
7 interceptions (T-15th)
17 sacks (T-6th)
117.4 passer rating (2nd)
Patrick Mahomes — 231 completions/345 attempts/3,150 yards/7 INTs/31 TDs/117.4 passer rating
Travis Kelce — 57 receptions/787 yards/13.8 yards per catch/6 TDs
Tyreek Hill — 55/891/16.2/9
Sammy Watkins — 39/515/13.2/3
Kareem Hunt — 23/337/14.7/6
Chris Conley — 15/149/9.9/2
Spencer Ware — 14/165/11.8/0
Demarcus Robinson — 10/81/8.1/1
Los Angeles Rams Defense
Los Angeles Rams — 2,331 net passing yards allowed (19th)
233.1 net passing yards allowed per game (11th)
328 attempts (19th)
213 completions (16th)
64.9 opponents’ completion percentage (18th)
2,539 gross passing yards allowed (20th)
7.74 yards per attempt (23rd)
11.92 yards per completion (24th)
19 passing TDs allowed (T-22nd)
7 interceptions (T-17th)
26 sacks (T-9th)
98.9 opponents’ passer rating (25th)
Who Has the Edge?
The Chiefs have a clear advantage despite the presence of Donald and Suh because of the diverse weapons in their passing attack. The pass options of the RPO are going to help Kelce find separation from Littleton in the middle of the field, and this could also be a game where the Rams need a big effort from cornerback Sam Shields, who has given up 14 completions on 23 passes thrown his way for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Advantage: Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams Offense vs. Kansas City Chiefs Defense
Who Has the Edge in the Ground Game?
Los Angeles Rams Rushing Offense
The Rams have plenty of offensive firepower to combat the Chiefs, with their primary option running back Todd Gurley.
— Gabriel Schray PXP (@schrayguy) November 11, 2018
Gurley has scored a touchdown in all 10 games for the Rams either running or receiving this season and has a rushing touchdown in seven of those games. Like Hunt, Gurley has found a great deal of success running to the left, and that reaches a whole new level when he is able to turn the corner and use his top-level speed.
Gurley has averaged 7.2 yards on 58 carries to the left sideline, and 17 of those runs have gone for more than 10 yards. That is a stark contrast to trying sweeps to the right, in which Gurley has averaged 3.9 yards on 51 carries, and eight of those rushes have resulted in negative yards.
The intense focus on Gurley defensively has allowed McVay to get creative in his schemes beyond jet sweeps to his receivers, evidenced here with an inside handoff to wide receiver Robert Woods off misdirection.
🔊 Audio Breakdown
Beautiful play design by McVay.
Tackle lead to the WR off of toss action. pic.twitter.com/zO7SGZ8OyB
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) November 12, 2018
Gurley’s success going to the left has much to do with tackle Andrew Whitworth, who is one of the more agile offensive tackles in the league with his burst off the line. In addition to Gurley’s touchdown run above, his ability to block in space downfield is a key reason the Rams are averaging 144.8 yards on the ground.
Los Angeles Rams running an “intercept” toss out of Bunch formation. Though he eventually gets called for a hold downfield, look at LT Andrew Whitworth’s initial block on Isaac Rochell. pic.twitter.com/Giw93eCoFi
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) September 25, 2018
The Rams have been held under 100 yards just twice this year — by Arizona in a 34-0 rout, and in the loss to New Orleans in which the Saints were ahead most of the game. That turned Los Angeles into a passing team and resulted in a season-low 19 rushing attempts.
In his limited touches behind Gurley, Malcolm Brown has made the most of them with 5.11 yards per carry and 189 yards. He also has the ability to make things happen when he gets outside, with 105 of those yards coming on sweeps.
Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense
The Chiefs run defense does not put up stellar run numbers — they are 30th in the league allowing 5.07 yards per carry. During the winning streak, however, that has tightened to a degree. Aside from the win over Denver in which they allowed 189 rushing yards, the Chiefs yielded 102 or less and held those three opponents to 4.02 yards per carry in each game or less.
Kansas City’s success in this area for this game likely hinge on linebacker Dorian O’Donnell, the team’s third-round draft choice this year. O’Donnell has seen more playing time during this winning streak, recording all 15 of his tackles in those games, and making key plays in part due to his closing speed.
Again, this isn't flashy from O'Daniel. Just recognizing where the play is going, getting there quickly, and finishing strong. But it's still really encouraging to see that kind of closing speed on the field. pic.twitter.com/pKe0KQr74Q
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 22, 2018
Notable Rushing Statistics
Los Angeles Rams Offense
Los Angeles Rams — 1,448 net rushing yards (1st)
144.8 rushing yards per game (2nd)
295 rushing attempts (1st)
29.5 rushing attempts per game (4th)
4.91 yards per rush (6th)
14 rushing TDs (2nd)
Todd Gurley — 198 carries/998 yards/4.99 yards per carry/13 TDs
Malcolm Brown — 37/189/5.11/0
Robert Woods — 13/111/8.54/0
Jared Goff — 31/82/2.65/0
Kansas City Chiefs Defense
Kansas City Chiefs — 1,217 net rushing yards allowed
121.7 rushing yards allowed per game (23rd)
240 carries (17th)
24.0 carries per game (23rd)
5.07 yards per carry (30th)
12 rushing TDs allowed (T-29th)
Who Has the Edge?
Gurley’s speed and power give the Rams an undeniable edge in this matchup. While the Chiefs are playing better defensively, some of that can be attributed to the lack of quality. Given how Denver was able to run roughshod on the Chiefs defense is a concern in this game given Gurley has not really had an off-game yet and is coming off one of his better ones after totaling 120 rushing yards versus Seattle.
Advantage: Los Angeles Rams
Who Has the Upper Hand in the Passing Attack?
Los Angeles Rams Passing Offense
It is difficult to overstate the loss of Kupp to this offense because not only is he a solid pass-catcher with speed, he was also a willing run blocker in the slot who helped Gurley get some of those big chunk plays.
Welcome back, @CooperKupp!
All-22: Breaking down Kupp's 41-yard touchdown. pic.twitter.com/jJA5W28yVF
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) November 7, 2018
Ted Nguyen’s Film Room: The rise of the big slot receiver
Michael Thomas, Smith-Schuster, & Cooper Kupp:
– matchup problems in the slot
– excellent run blockers
– allow their play-callers to get creative
In Week 10, all 3 were key factors in wins pic.twitter.com/uOhbXx08GG
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) November 14, 2018
The Rams, though, through both McVay’s ingenuity and personnel, have enough to not only deal with Kupp’s loss, but also still thrive offensively. There are many options McVay has at his disposal, including:
Moving No. 1 wide receiver Robert Woods all over the field, including the slot. Woods will end up having one of the quietest 1,000-yard seasons in recent memory as he enters this game 168 yards short of that mark in what is already a career season. When Kupp missed two games previously this season, McVay did not noticeably increase his workload — Woods was targeted seven times in each game and caught five of them in each game.
What is a more likely option is the Rams increasing their usage of their tight ends in the passing game. Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee have combined for 25 receptions for 296 yards, but 10 of those receptions have come in the last two games.
The Rams' 75-yard drive at the end of the third quarter was the perfect illustration of Sean McVay remaining a step ahead of the Seattle defense.@FB_FilmAnalysis examines every play of the drive that resulted in Tyler Higbee's 10-yard TD catch.https://t.co/XbzUoae6ZI pic.twitter.com/VBCeeIKOnA
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticLA) November 15, 2018
One of the more creative options McVay devised when Kupp was out last time was using Gurley in the slot as opposed to simply having him catch passes out of the backfield. In a bunch formation, he has the potential to shake his defender on shallow crossing routes and use his speed to make big plays because once he goes from lateral to vertical, there are few defenders who can catch him.
In the Rams' win over the Packers, Todd Gurley helped offset the absence of injured slot receiver Cooper Kupp.@FB_FilmAnalysis explains how in his analysis of Week 8's most interesting plays.https://t.co/qpiIVHYQNz pic.twitter.com/UfCWli0Ovm
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticLA) October 30, 2018
And while everyone talks about the pressure being put on Josh Reynolds to step up in Kupp’s absence, many seem to be forgetting the big-play potential of Brandin Cooks, who can also fill that slot spot and do things in both the running and passing games.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 12, 2018
While Goff does not have the arm cannon Mahomes possesses, he still puts plenty of zip on the ball and is fully capable of making every throw on the route tree. One area where Goff is further along than Mahomes (who is coming on rapidly in this area) is his consistent ability to make throws that require touch and placement over defenders and in front of others.
Jared Goff tore up the Vikings defense and set career highs in passing yards (465) and 5TD’s as the Rams move to 4-0….🔥#NFL #JaredGoff #Rams #Skol #LARams @Vikings @RamsNFL @NFL pic.twitter.com/OhODzrINey
— A2D Radio (@a2dradio_com) September 28, 2018
Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense
While he has not gotten the attention of Donald and Suh as they bulldoze through opposing offensive lines, Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones is doing a similar job disrupting teams. He has recorded a sack in six consecutive games and has a career-high seven after notching a pair in the win over Arizona.
Chris Jones employs the manliest method of collecting a sack: using a QB's own lineman against him.
Also, this demonstrates why having multiple pass rushers is important. When both edges fail, pressure still arrives. pic.twitter.com/Hkh9JXsyCN
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 12, 2018
Kansas City’s pass rush is at full strength for this game after Justin Houston made it through last weekend unscathed. Houston missed the last four weeks with a hamstring injury, and having him line up behind Jones puts all sorts of pressure on a right-handed quarterback’s blind side.
On the other end of the line, left outside linebacker Dee Ford has nine sacks, including five in the last four games. He is one off his career high set in 2016 and led a pass rush that recorded an NFL season-high 29 pressures versus Arizona.
“The guys were getting off the ball,” Reid told the Chiefs’ official website. “Even when Justin [Houston] came out, you saw [Breeland Speaks] get a big hit on the quarterback. It didn’t matter necessarily who was out there, the guys had the snap count down and they were rolling.”
Though the Chiefs are getting home, there are still some issues in the secondary — which has been without injured starting safety Eric Berry all year. Ron Parker has had his moments, but given McVay’s innovative ways, the Chiefs can ill-afford breakdowns in coverage like this.
Ron Parker is just too feast or famine (and more often the latter) for me at this point in terms of coverage. Maybe he'd be better off if he were asked to play a robber role consistently, but as a deep safety he's just missing stuff. pic.twitter.com/UYJttK348q
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 30, 2018
Notable Passing Statistics
Los Angeles Rams Offense
Los Angeles Rams — 3,032 passing yards (3rd)
303.2 passing yards per game (5th)
334 attempts (15th)
228 completions (13th)
68.3 completion percentage (7th)
3,146 gross passing yards (3rd)
9.42 yards per attempt (1st)
13.80 yards per completion (1st)
22 passing touchdowns (4th)
6 interceptions (T-11th)
19 sacks (T-10th)
112.7 passer rating (4th)
Jared Goff — 227 completions/332 attempts/3,134 yards/6 INTs/22 TDs/113.0 passer rating
Robert Woods — 55 receptions/832 yards/15.1 yards per carry/3 TDs
Brandin Cooks — 51/857/16.8/3
Cooper Kupp — 40/566/14.2/6
Todd Gurley — 40/402/10.1/4
Gerald Everett — 15/161/10.7/1
Tyler Higbee — 11/135/12.3/2
Josh Reynolds –7/98/14.0/2
Kansas City Chiefs Defense
Kansas City Chiefs — 2,890 net passing yards allowed (32nd)
289.0 net passing yards allowed per game (28th)
419 attempts (32nd)
265 completions (32nd)
63.2 opponents’ completion percentage (10th)
3,107 gross passing yards (32nd)
7.42 yards per attempt (15th)
11.72 yards per completion (20th)
16 passing touchdowns allowed (T-15th)
11 interceptions (T-4th)
31 sacks (T-1st)
87.5 opponents’ passer rating (5th)
Who Has the Edge?
Losing Kupp hurts, no doubt, but the Rams have the personnel and the schemes to minimize his absence. Kansas City does not have a standout cornerback — all three of their primary cover guys have allowed at least 300 yards receiving — and Kendall Fuller’s 37 completions and 535 yards allowed rank in the top five in the NFL in each category.
Putting Gurley in the slot will put additional pressure on O’Daniel and Anthony Hitchens, against whom teams have completed 33 of 38 passes when he is in coverage. Kansas City’s pass rush needs to get home as often as possible, with the Jones-Whitworth matchup on Goff’s left possibly the key to the whole game.
Advantage: Los Angeles Rams
Special Teams, Coaching, & Intangibles
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have a solid kicking and punting tandem in Harrison Butker and Dustin Colquitt. Butker has converted 41 of 43 extra points and missed only one of his 17 field goals, and that came on his only attempt from beyond 50 yards.
Kansas City has also done a good job putting Butker in a position for success, as the average distance on his made field goals is 34.9 yards. His touchback rates on kickoffs has fallen from 78.2 percent in 2017 to 68.6 percent this season despite averaging slightly more on them (64.4-64.2).
Colquitt has put half of his 28 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, but he is also adept at helping his coverage unit. Of the 12 punts that have been returned, opponents have totaled just 32 yards.
In the return game, Hill is always a threat to take one to the house — he opened the season with a 91-yard punt return versus the Chargers — but he also has accumulated 128 of his 175 yards on two runbacks. Tremon Smith has averaged 30.0 yards on his kickoff returns.
Los Angeles Rams
If there is one area where the Rams have a clear advantage in this game despite Colquitt’s quality, it is at punter with Johnny Hekker. Already seemingly on a Hall of Fame career arc, Hekker has put 12 of his 25 punts inside the 20 with only one touchback and is capable of doing things like this (audio NSFW):
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) September 10, 2017
Hekker is arguably the most athletic punter in the game and football savvy. McVay is not afraid to call a fake punt and let him throw for a first down, and he is 10 for 17 for 149 yards and a touchdown in his career.
The Rams also have a quality kicker in Greg Zuerlein, who appears fully recovered from the groin injury that cost him five games this season. Zuerlein is 14 for 16 on field goals and showed he was at full strength drilling a 56-yarder at New Orleans in Week 9. Much like Kansas City, the Rams do an excellent job getting him in high-percentage situations as his average make is from 34.8 yards.
JoJo Natson Jr. is a quietly effective punt returner, averaging 14.4 yards on 16 runbacks and getting double-digit returns on 10 of them. Blake Countess has been serviceable on kickoffs, averaging 24.6 yards on 17 returns.
Who Has the Edge?
There are few non-offense and non-defensive players who can swing a game in the NFL, yet Hekker is one of them because of his ability to pin opponents deep. Against Green Bay, Hekker put a pair of punts inside the Packers’ 5-yard line, and the second one directly contributed to a Rams safety.
In a game where every possession is expected to end in a score, it is when these offenses get stopped that bring the special teams dimension into it. The Rams also have an edge at kicker now that Zuerlein is fully healthy and can probably line up from 60 yards if absolutely needed. That Butker has only attempted one field goal (and missed it) beyond 50 yards may be a sign Reid will be willing to go for it on fourth down if they are inside the plus-40.
Advantage: Los Angeles Rams
Kansas City Chiefs
Reid has always been one of the most creative offensive minds in the game, and he will meet his match in this game with McVay.
What will be interesting to watch with Reid is how he uses his personnel and pre-snap reads. Kansas City will run plenty of RPO in this game, which puts the final decision on the play in Mahomes’ hands, but Reid has put his young quarterback in winnable situations on nearly every play.
Again, this may come down to how aggressive Reid is inside the plus-40 on fourth down. A tell will be where the range in which he trusts Butker in between the Rams’ 30 to 40-yard line.
Los Angeles Rams
Like Reid, McVay is a master of innovation and has a quarterback he can trust to make intelligent pre-snap reads. He’s also not too proud to steal something he likes and readily admits it.
One other area McVay is masterful is in creating different play trees out of the same formation, whether it be a standard 11 or a bunch route or any combination in between. The ability to hide what the offense is going to do until the defense audibles out of its vanilla base is something that makes the Rams successful, and McVay is a huge part of it.
Who Has the Edge?
This is practically a wash, with the notable X-factor likely to be Reid’s level of aggressiveness in play-calling. He may decide to use Hunt in the running game more in the first half to potentially shorten the game by a few snaps. Both coaches also have defensive coordinators who have good pass rushes that try to hide shaky secondaries. It would not be surprising to see one decision either way determine the outcome of this contest, but if there was one coach who would be “too clever by a half” in this game, it will likely be McVay.
Kansas City Chiefs
By the game not being played in Mexico City and moved to Los Angeles, the Chiefs could go about their usual pre-week routine, which is always helpful to the road team. Additionally, Mahomes has already proved this type of moment is not too big for him. He appears to have learned from the mistakes of being too amped up like he was early in the Sunday Night Football loss to New England, and this will be as good a proving ground as any to show it.
Los Angeles Rams
There is a lot going on around the Rams due to the fires that are blazing around the Los Angeles area. Some team employees have been evacuated from their homes, and to their credit, the players have stepped up as much as they can with regards to community relations while practicing in Colorado this week.
The move to allot thousands of free tickets to first responders and community members affected by the fires for this game will help create a legitimate home-field advantage that would have been otherwise missing at Azteca.
Who Has the Edge?
It is difficult to tell what affects, if any, the changing of the logistics from playing the game in Mexico City to Los Angeles will have on either team. The big winners are both offenses since the Azteca Field pitch was beyond nightmarish and would have affected footing.
The Rams have a community behind them in the face of difficult times around the city, and that is a rallying cry used time and again across sport. How successful it will be in this specific case is uncertain, but it may provide a slight edge at the outset for Los Angeles.
Final Outlook – Time to place those bets!
With a record-setting over/under, everything matters. The fact the over has hit in the six highest games on record is something to consider, just like Kupp’s absence could prevent this game from making it 7 for 7.
What stands out is the inability of both teams’ defensive back sevens from making significant impacts in terms of success. The Rams have gotten home to sack the quarterback during their stretch of games against elite signal-callers, but at the same time, if you can’t get off the field, what good does it do?
It is hard not to view Kansas City’s recent defensive improvements without skepticism because of who they played. And in the one game against a team with a quality ground game, the Chiefs were punished by the Broncos. The Chiefs have allowed only one 100-yard rusher, and that was in their loss to the Patriots. Gurley is all but certain to get his as he climbs over 1,000 yards for the season.
The big-play potential on both sides of the ball offensively make the over too difficiult to resist, especially given how easily the Chiefs and the Patriots cleared 59.5 points when they played each other, and how easily the Rams and the Saints cleared 57 two weeks ago.
For the spread and the game, getting Watkins back would be a huge boost for the Chiefs after he sat out last week’s game with a foot injury. Demarcus Robinson and Chris Conley were serviceable in the sense they replaced Watkins’ target number, but there is no substitute for the real thing. Watkins matters to Kansas City’s offense just like Kupp matters for Los Angeles.
This game will likely come down to the final possession, and if the line remains at 3.5 points or higher, the Chiefs are definitely the pick since it has all the feel of a last-second field goal that wins this contest.
Kansas City Chiefs 41, Los Angeles Rams 38
Updated: please continue below for details and new prediction.
Updated on Nov 15 at 6:55pm EST
The only potential impactful injury note is Watkins being listed as questionable for the Chiefs, but that seemed more procedural as Reid told reporters Sunday, “He tested it out (on Thursday). He was testing it out and we just kind of felt like we needed to back off and just let it rest here a little bit. We will see. Every day has gotten a little bit better, so that’s a plus.”
Even without Watkins, the Chiefs have more than enough firepower and offensive versatility to do significant damage. Both offenses are nightmare matchups for the defenses, who may be stuck playing base for most snaps only because both quarterbacks can audible into any sort of play if they see something to exploit.
In games like this, history has been kind to the over, and there is little reason to believe that trend gets bucked here. The other part is that if the Chiefs get ahead early, that will force the Rams into passing the ball more, which could lead to potentially more snaps and more points with the clock stopped on incompletions.
The expectation is this will be a close game, which makes taking the Chiefs and getting the 3.5 points the better play since a last-second field goal to win this game in either direction is certainly in play. This space, though, does expect Kansas City to win outright.
Kansas City Chiefs 44, Los Angeles Rams 38
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