The Chiefs head into Monday night's game with the Giants at a surprising 3-4. Here's what you need to know:
When the Chiefs have the ball…
1. The Chiefs are coming off a game against Tennessee last Sunday where they lost, 27-3. Prior to that outing, the Chiefs had only scored fewer than 20 points in three games Patrick Mahomes started, including last year's Super Bowl. Despite being outscored by 24 points vs. the titans, the Chiefs were only outgained by 35 yards and had just two fewer first downs.
The Chiefs had only four drives in the first half and ran 16 plays. They held the ball for just under seven minutes of the first half. The Chiefs' first drive was short-circuited by false start and sack, while their second was a three-and-out. Their other two drives of the half were ended by two Mahomes turnovers, an interception off a deflection and a fumble on a scramble.
Turnovers have been the bane of the Chiefs' efforts on offense all year long. They have an NFL-worst minus-10 turnover ratio (tied with Jacksonville) and no one has more than their 17 total giveaways. Mahomes has nine interceptions and four fumbles this season. He has run into some bad luck with five coming off deflected passes, but he has also made some bad decisions trying to make something out of nothing as he is being dragged to the ground by defenders.
2. Aside from the turnovers, the Chiefs' offense is not broken. Here are some of their offensive numbers:
- 419 yards per game – 3rd in the NFL
- 6.19 yards per play – 5th in the NFL
- 57% 3rd down conversion rate: 1st in the NFL
- 6.08 yards per first down play – 8th in the NFL
- .08 EPA (expected points added) per play: 5th in NFL
- 60.6% successful play rate: 1st in the NFL (using PFF's numbers their success rate is 44% - still best in the NFL)
- 14.7% Offensive DVOA: 5th in the NFL
The Chiefs are not making the same number of big plays that they have in the past.
Their 24 completions of 20+ yards is only tied for 13th in the league. They manage explosive pass plays (15+ yards) on only 11.6% of their pass plays, which ranks 28th in the NFL. Their 42 explosive pass plays is tied for 12th and the have managed five 40+ yard pass plays, which is tied for fifth. KC remains a pass-first team, ranking in the bottom quartile of rush attempts on 1st-and-10 and in the first halves of games.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are still Mahomes' preferred targets down the field. Hill is fifth in the NFL with 641 receiving yards and tied for second with 52 receptions. His 12.3 yards per reception is the lowest of his career. Travis Kelce is tied for the fifth-most catches in the NFL with 45 and his 533 yards is 12th in the NFL. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman is the team's third option in the passing game, with 30 catches for 289 yards. He is only 5'10 and weighs less than 200 pounds but he ran a 4.33 40 yard dash at the combine and has top-notch speed. The Chiefs have faced soft two deep safety shell coverages for most of the season in an effort to prevent their big plays.
3. The Chiefs' pass protection has been up-and-down this year. According to Pro Football Focus, they allow pressure on 31.9% of their dropbacks, which is tied for 14th in the NFL. Their 4.78 sack per pass attempt rate is 10th-best in the league.
The Chiefs almost completely re-formed their offensive line in the offseason. They drafted center Creed Humphrey in the second round, signed Joe Thuney in free agency and moved him to guard, traded for left tackle Orlando Brown, welcomed back right Lucas Niang who opted out of his rookie season due to COVID-19, and drafted Trey Smith who dropped to the sixth round due to health concerns.
Veteran Mike Remmers has replaced Niang the last two weeks and has allowed a sack, quarterback hit six pressures in two games. Orlando Brown has allowed three sacks and 23 total pressures. Smith has allowed four sacks and 18 pressures.
The Chiefs' ground attack is average, gaining about 118 rushing yards per game. Their 4.95 rush yards per play ranks fifth in the NFL. Starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire is out with a knee injury, and Darrel Williams has been used in his absence, averaging just under 3.5 yards per carry.
Keys for the Giants' defense…
- Disrupt Patrick Mahomes in the pocket early in the game to disrupt his rhythm and force mistakes
- Play coverage and plaster to the whistle to prevent off-schedule plays
- Force the Chiefs into a methodical offensive approach by keeping them in front of the defense
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs ahead of their Week 8 matchup on Monday Night Football.
When the Giants have the ball…
4. The Chiefs' defense ranks in the bottom six in every total yardage and yards per play ranking in terms of overall, pass and rush yardage. Only four teams have allowed more than the Chiefs' 29 points per game.
The Chiefs are last in the league managing a sack on only 3.4% of opponent's pass attempts. Their 28.2% pressure rate is the third-lowest in the NFL. Those numbers aren't from a lack of effort. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has sent extra pressure on 33% of opponent's pass attempts, which is the eighth-highest rate in the NFL. According to PFF, no team brings 6 or more rushers more frequently than the Chiefs (41% of their blitzes).
Despite missing two games with a wrist injury, Chris Jones leads the Chiefs with 20 pressures, according to PFF. He has two sacks and four quarterback hits. For most of his career Jones was one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the league, but for the first four games this season he was used primarily as an edge rusher. After missing Week 5 and 6 with a wrist injury, he came back in Week 7 against the Titans and split his time virtually every spot along the defensive line.
5. With the Chiefs bringing so many blitzers, they play more "Cover 0" (man-to-man with no safety deep) more than any other defense in the NFL (14.5%). They play "Cpver 1" (man-to-man with one safety deep) 24% of the time as their most common coverage.
Tyrann Mathieu is the Chiefs' best playmaker in the secondary with two interceptions, four passes defended, and a tackle for loss. He plays all over the field but spends most of his time closer to the line of scrimmage in the box or in the slot. Safety Juan Thornhill has taken more and more snaps from Daniel Sorensen as the other starting safety the past two weeks. He is strong in coverage. L'Jarius Sneed starts on the outside but moves inside in sub-packages. Sneed has allowed 27 catches on 36 targets for 379 yards and three touchdowns this season, according to PFF. Charvarius Ward returned from a fractured hand last week to play across from Sneed. Mike Hughes and Rashad Fenton will also play cornerback off the bench. Hughes has allowed four touchdowns and 282 yards this year in 64 fewer snaps than Sneed.
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens missed last week's game with an elbow injury. Rookie second-round Nick Bolton, 2020 second-round pick Willie Gay Jr. and Ben Niemann will take most of the snaps at linebacker. Bolton is known as a physical, instinctive downhill linebacker who Is strong against the run.
The Chiefs' defense has struggled on third down (48.7% conversions - 30th in the NFL), first down (6.96 yards per play – second-highest in the NFL), in the red zone (73% touchdown rate – tied for fourth-worst in the NFL) and in allowing big plays. Only four teams have allowed more 20+ yard plays than the Chiefs' 33.
Keys for the Giants' offense…
- Be prepared for Steve Spagnuolo's blitz package
- Get early separation to give Jones a place to put the ball versus the blitz
- Take advantage of the Chiefs' aggressive posture with big plays
View photos of the Kansas City Chiefs likely starters ahead of the Week 8 matchup against the Giants on Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium.