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November 15, 2023

Eagles at Chiefs: Five matchups to watch

Can the Eagles win in the trenches Monday night?

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111123TravisKelce Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles should give added attention to Chiefs TE Travis Kelce. #Analysis.

The 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles are coming off of their bye week and will face Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, maybe Taylor Swift, and the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of Super Bowl LVII. Here are our five matchups to watch.

1) The Eagles' linebackers and safeties and maybe their corners (?) vs. Chiefs HOF TE Travis Kelce

Opposing offenses have targeted tight ends 55 times against the Eagles' defense this season. They have completed 43 of those targets (78.2%) for 438 yards (8.0 YPA) and 5 TDs. Only two teams have allowed more TDs to opposing TEs than the Eagles.

Here are some of the games that tight ends have had against the Eagles this season: 

• Week 1, Hunter Henry, Patriots: 6 targets, 5 catches, 56 yards, 1 TD.
• Week 2, T.J. Hockenson, Vikings: 8 targets, 7 catches, 66 yards, 2 TDs.
• Week 8, Logan Thomas, Commanders: 8 targets, 6 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD.
• Week 9, Jake Ferguson, Cowboys: 10 targets, 7 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD.

Ferguson is ranked 17th in receiving among tight ends this season. Otherwise, the only other TE that the Eagles have faced who has more receiving yards is Hockenson. In other words, the Eagles haven't exactly faced a murderer's row of tight ends this season, and yet several have torched them.

In Travis Kelce the Eagles will face arguably the best receiving tight end ever. The 2022 season was Kelce's seventh consecutive one gaining over 1,000 yards through the air, as he caught 110 passes for 1,338 yards and 12 TDs. In 2023, he is second among tight ends with 597 receiving yards, despite missing the Chiefs' Week 1 opener against the Lions with a knee injury, and playing through that injury thereafter.

Kelce's skills as a receiver are obvious, but it's his intelligence and his rapport with Patrick Mahomes that helps make him the elite player that he is, as both players have a feel for where Kelce will be on the field, even if the route calls for him to be elsewhere.

In Week 9, the Eagles faced a Cowboys offense that featured a star receiver in CeeDee Lamb, and not much else. This is perhaps remedial analysis, but it stood to reason that Sean Desai and the Eagles' defensive staff should have sought to take Lamb away, however, Lamb didn't get much added attention and was often left one-on-one with overmatched players like undrafted rookie Eli Ricks. If the Eagles do not seek to take Kelce away, then (spoiler) he will obliterate them in the middle of the field. Maybe that means bracket coverage, maybe it means covering him with Darius Slay or James Bradberry on obvious passing downs. But the Eagles must challenge Kelce and dare the Chiefs' other skill players to beat them instead.

Also, there's the Taylor Swift factor 😂. When Swift attends Chiefs games, Kelce is averaging 8.5 catches for 108 yards and 0.5 TDs per game.

 Travis Kelce, with SwiftRec Yards YPC TD 
Bears 69 9.9 
At Jets 60 10.0 
Broncos 124 13.8 
Chargers 12 179 14.9 

When Swift does not attend Chiefs games, Kelce averages 5.8 receptions for 41.3 yards and 0.5 TDs.

 Travis Kelce, without SwiftRec Yards YPC TD 
At Jaguars426 6.5 
At Vikings  1067 6.7 
 At Broncos 658 9.7 
Dolphins  314 4.7 

Swift has concerts on three consecutive nights — November 17, 18, and 19 — at the Estádio Olímpico Nilton Santos, located in the neighborhood of Engenho de Dentro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is certainly possible that Swift could travel from Rio to Kansas City in time for the game on Monday night (the 20th), but that sounds like a nightmare to me. We'll see.

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2) The Chiefs' rushing attack vs. the Eagles' run defense

Andy Reid loves to throw it, and for good reason when his quarterback is the best player in the NFL. In the Super Bowl, however, the Chiefs' run game was surprisingly efficient, as they had 26 carries for 158 yards (6.1 YPC) and a TD. Of course, some of that was Patrick Mahomes making plays with his legs on dropbacks.  

The Eagles have the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL and a lot of prideful players along their defensive line. They likely haven't forgotten (a) what the Chiefs did to them on the ground in the Super Bowl, and (b) this: 

Haason Reddick has already had two bigtime performances this season against Andrew Wylie, the Chiefs' RT during the Super Bowl who now plays for the Commanders. You can bet that Reddick and the Eagles' front will have added motivation on Monday night, which brings us to...

3) Where might the Eagles go feastin' 🍗

The Chiefs' offensive line:

Donovan Smith Joe Thuney Creed Humphrey Trey Smith Jawaan Taylor 

Thuney, Humphrey, and Trey Smith form one of the best interior offensive lines in the NFL. The Eagles also faced a good interior offensive line against Dallas Week 9. Eagles edge defenders were getting a lot of good rushes around the edge and forcing Dak Prescott to step up into the pocket, but the push that we have come to expect from the interior wasn't there, and those plays weren't resulting in as many sacks and/or QB hits as there could have been. 

Fletcher Cox (back), Milton Williams (shoulder), Jordan Davis (hamstring), and Jalen Carter (back) have all been on the Eagles' injury report in recent weeks and can use the added rest from the bye week. They need to step up and win their matchups against this quality Chiefs interior.

The Eagles should have advantages on the edges against Taylor and Donovan Smith, both of whom have been penalty machines this season. Taylor leads the NFL with 10 accepted penalties (11 total), while Smith has 7 total penalties. If you saw the Chiefs' Week 1 loss to the Lions, you saw Taylor lining up waaaaay off of the ball, and often leaving excessively early. 

But beyond the false start and illegal formation penalties that Taylor has drawn this season, he has also been guilty of four holds and a face mask penalty in the end zone that resulted in a safety. It's perhaps worth noting that the officiating crew will be led by Shawn Smith, whose crew has only called 16 offensive holding calls this season. Only two crews have called fewer.

Andy Reid loves mammoth offensive tackles, and both Taylor and Smith are 330-pound behemoths. They should be at a disadvantage against the speed of Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick. Honestly, the Chiefs should see what the Sodfather is doing this week.

#FeastinMeter: 4/10 turkey legs 🍗🍗🍗🍗

10 reasons the Eagles are set up for a Super Bowl run

4) The Eagles' rushing attack vs. the Chiefs' run defense

The Eagles' rushing attack got out to a fast start this season, but has cooled off considerably over the last month.

 OpponentRush Yards YPC TD 
Patriots 25 97 3.9 
Vikings 48 259 5.4 
Buccaneers 40 201 5.0 
Commanders 27 104 3.9 
Rams 39 159 4.1 
Jets 22 80 3.6 
Dolphins 34 99 2.9 
Commanders 22 59 2.7 
Cowboys 33 109 3.3 

• First 5 games: 36 rushes per game, 164 yards per game, 4.6 yards per carry.

• Last 4 games: 28 rushes per game, 87 yards per game, 3.1 yards per carry.

The Eagles' rushing attack has no doubt been negatively affected by injuries to Jalen Hurts and Cam Jurgens, but there is still a pretty big difference between 4.6 and 3.1 yards per carry. 

The Chiefs are allowing 112.2 rushing yards per game (17th in the NFL) and 4.5 rushing yards per attempt (27th in the NFL). They will also be without tackle machine Nick Bolton, who finished second in the NFL in 2022 with 180 tackles.

The Eagles' rushing offense is rusty. Now would be a good time for the Eagles' Swift, D'Andre, to shake it off*.

5) The Eagles' outside receivers vs. Jaylen Watson

With Dallas Goedert out, the Eagles are likely to play a lot of 11 personnel, which makes sense against this Chiefs defense. The Chiefs' starting corners are Trent McDuffie and L'Jarius Sneed. In nickel, McDuffie moves inside, and Jaylen Watson comes into the game and plays outside.

PFF has Watson down for 16 completions on 25 targets for 168 yards, 5 TDs allowed, and 0 INTs, for an opposing passer rating of 123.0. A quick sampling:

Watson is a fan favorite, mainly because he had interceptions in the playoffs against the Jaguars and Bengals, as well as a 99-yard pick-six during the regular season last year against the Chargers. But I would expect Nick Sirianni and the Eagles' staff to try to scheme up opportunities for A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith to take advantage of him.


Odds: Eagles are underdogs for the first time in a long time against Chiefs

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