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Eye On The Chiefs: Breaking down the matchup

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Giants.com's Michael Eisen breaks down the opposing offense, defense, and special teams:

A look at the playmakers of the Giants' upcoming opponent

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –
The Giants will be seeking their first home victory of the season Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs become the final NFL team to face them in MetLife Stadium. Both teams are looking to reverse their recent fortunes. The Giants have lost three consecutive games to fall to 1-8, while Kansas City has dropped three of four but still leads the AFC West with a 6-3 record.


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The Chiefs will face the Giants here for the first time since Dec. 17, 2005, a 27-17 victory for the home team in Giants Stadium. The teams last met on Sept. 29, 2013, when the Chiefs pulled away for a 31-7 victory in Arrowhead Stadium. The Giants lead the alltime series, 10-3, including 6-0 in games played in New York/New Jersey.

What is the Chiefs' biggest strength?

The consistently outstanding performances of quarterback Alex Smith, who is playing the best football of his 13-year career. His NFL-leading 113.9 passer rating is more than five points better than No. 2 Tom Brady. Only one of Smith's 293 passes this season has been intercepted, and that was in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs' most recent game, a loss in Dallas on Nov. 5. Smith is second in the league with a 69.6 completion percentage and an 8.3-yard average per pass attempt, and he's thrown 18 touchdown passes. He can also extend plays with his legs, and is the Chiefs' second-leading rusher with 173 yards.

Which player is key to the Chiefs' offense?

Make it players, plural. Kansas City has playmakers at all the skill positions, and Smith gets all of them involved. Start with rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who is second in the NFL in both yards from scrimmage (1,131) and rushing yardage (800). Tight end Travis Kelce leads the team with 51 catches and five receiving touchdowns. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill has 40 catches. Hill has a 74-yard touchdown catch, and Hunt has a 78-yarder. Trying to stop all three players – plus Albert Wilson, De'Anthony Thomas and others – is a difficult task for even the league's best defenses. Throw in Smith's ability to make plays with his arm and feet, and the Chiefs are a threat to score on almost every snap.

What is the strength of the Chiefs' offense?

When they're at their best, it's the running game. During their 5-0 start, the Chiefs averaged 156 rushing yards a game. They've since lost three of four games while averaging 67 yards on the ground. That has coincided with their run/pass ratio changing from about 50/50 to 40/60. Kansas City thrives when its offense is balanced. If the Giants can limit the Chiefs' run game, Kansas City will likely be less effective.

Which player is key to the Chiefs' defense?

Outside linebacker Justin Houston, a Pro Bowler each of the last four seasons. He has 20 multi-sack games in his career, including seven in which he had at least 3.0 sacks, and his 22.0 sacks in 2014 tied for the second-highest total in history, just a half-sack behind Michael Strahan's record. In addition to harassing quarterbacks, Houston is effective when he drops into coverage. He presents a myriad of problems for an opposing offense.

What is the strength of the Chiefs' defense?

Frankly, they've been trying to find one. Kansas City is ranked 30th in total defense, allowing 390.3 yards a game, 29th against the run (131.1 yards per game) and 28th vs. the pass (259.2). The Chiefs have allowed an NFL-high 24 first downs a game and at least 27 points in seven of their last eight road games. Defensive tackle Bennie Logan is Kansas City's strongest run defender. The return of Tamba Hali, who missed the first eight games with a knee injury, has enabled Houston and Dee Ford some snaps off, enabling them to stay fresher during the game.  Cornerback Marcus Peters has been the only constant in the secondary, which misses standout safety Eric Berry, out for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon in the season opener. With questions elsewhere, teams are not throwing in Peters' direction. Safety Ron Parker has not missed s snap in his seven-year career.

Which player is key to the Chiefs' special teams?

Kanas City has numerous special teams difference-makers. Rookie kicker Harrison Butker was signed off Carolina's practice squad when Cairo Santos went on injured reserve. Butker has made 19 of 20 field goal attempts, and all 13 of his extra point tries. Hill has a 10.1-yard punt return average and scored on an 82-yard runback. Hunt is fourth in the NFL with a 26.2-yard kickoff return average. Punter Dustin Colquitt has dropped 18 kicks inside the 20-yard line. The Chiefs rank in the top half in the league in punt and kickoff return average and punt and kickoff coverage.

Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?

Hold onto the ball and keep Kansas City's prolific offense off the field. It's no secret the Chiefs win games through their offensive prowess. The Giants will help themselves if they run the ball well, shorten the game and keep Kansas City's playmakers off the field. They must reduce the number of touches Hill, Hunt and Kelce have. Smith doesn't give an opposing team opportunities because he seldom makes a mistake. The Giants must grind it out and create their own opportunities.

Statistics you should know:

*The Chiefs have an NFL-low four giveaways, and their plus-nine turnover differential is second in the league to Buffalo's plus-10.

*Kansas City coach Andy Reid is 16-2 following a regular-season bye. The Chiefs were off last week.

*The Chiefs have scored 110 of their 253 points from outside the red zone.

*The Chiefs lead the NFL with 92 fourth-quarter points.

*Tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz have not missed a snap in the 33 games they've played together.

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