Most game of the week choices can be easy ones, and this week was no different. Current Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid makes his first trip back to Philadelphia to coach against the team he coached last season and the thirteen previous seasons, the Philadelphia Eagles. Reid’s long tenure in Philly came to an end last year when the organization believed a change needed to be made, and Reid wasn’t part of that change. Instead, Chip Kelly was brought in after a successful run as head coach of the Oregon Ducks. More specifically, Kelly’s high-speed running offense was brought in to provide the Eagles with a change.
As much as people rave about the Eagles’ new running attack (and rightfully so), the Chiefs’ running game ranks in the top 10 of the NFL after the first two weeks, something a lot of people probably don’t realize. After giving up only 50 yards on the ground to the New York Giants the previous week, the Dallas Cowboys allowed more than double that last Sunday against the Chiefs. And it isn’t just Jamaal Charles producing on the ground as Alex Smith, the Chiefs’ quarterback and former QB of the San Francisco 49ers, has run for nearly 100 yards in the first two games of the season.
The Chiefs’ passing game is still coming along, but it’s a growing process. Remember, it’s been a while since the Chiefs have had a reliable quarterback. Because of that, the emphasis has been on the running game for years, resulting in a receiving core that is full of potential, but not much else so far. Dwayne Bowe is the best receiver the Chiefs currently have, but Charles, the team’s top running back, has the most catches and targets in the first two games.
On the flip side, the Eagles’ offense has had no problem transitioning to Kelly’s faster, more run-based approach. This is true primarily because the athletes the Eagles have on offense are more capable of working with this kind of offense than pretty much any other team in the league. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson are fast, agile, and like to run. Those are the exact characteristics of players that work best with this kind of offense. You can’t have a traditional quarterback and a traditional running back or running backs run this kind of offense and expect it to work.
Coming to the Eagles was a perfect fit for Kelly and his offense. The Eagles are second in the league in rushing yards through two games and have scored 30 points or more in both games.
The only downside to the Eagles’ new offense is that it may be too fast for its own good. This isn’t college football and time of possession can be critical in pro football games. The Eagles have found this out so far this season as not being able to hold onto the ball for longer periods of time is what helped the Washington Redskins nearly come back from 26 points down against the Eagles in week one and helped the San Diego Chargers to a last-second win over the Eagles last week; the Eagles tied the game by going down the field in the fast fashion their new offense is known for, but it gave Philip Rivers and the Chargers enough time to get down the field and into range for the game-winning field-goal.
And that brings me to another big issue facing the Eagles…
The problem with the Eagles and having Kelly as a coach has already become clear at the pro level, even though it was plain as day for years at the college level: he doesn’t care about defense. It’s not that he couldn’t recruit talented defensive players or that his team’s defense weren’t capable of having good games, it’s just that he doesn’t care about it. It’s something that has inflicted many college coaches and Kelly may have been the guy who started it because of how successful his offense was; if your offense can score 30 or 40 or 50 points a game, why bother with defense, right?
At the pro level, you have to make stops on defense. The Eagles have forced turnovers this season and that’s a big part of playing good defense, but they have failed at all other levels. They’ve given up around 450 yards on average through the first two games and seemed powerless on defense in the second half of both games. Tonight they get a somewhat lesser offense, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that if they let Smith run wild the way they allowed Rivers and RG III in the second half to get into their groove, it’s gonna be another long night for the Eagles’ defense.
The Chiefs’ defense will be in for a rude awakening in the first half tonight at least. Because the Chiefs’ first two opponents, the Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, don’t compare to the Eagles on offense. The Eagles are much, much faster and have a very different play selection than either of those teams. That alone will be jarring for the Chiefs’ defense during the first couple of Eagles offensive possessions. If the Chiefs’ D is able to adapt quick or at least stop the run better than the Eagles’ first two opponents, they will win this game.
Also, the Chiefs have an ace up their sleeve: their coach’s return to the stadium he called home for a decade and a half. It may not mean a lot to Reid, and that’s more of a good thing, but it could provide Reid’s new team with that little mental boost that is sometimes needed to win big games. The Chiefs have already matched their win total from last season, and the team is functioning exponentially better on all sides of the ball than they have in years. Instant success is enough to get the roster behind a new coach and in this particular game, one that has significance surrounding their coach, the team will play for the coach more than for a themselves or for a win if they are behind the coach.
My Prediction: Kansas City 31, Philadelphia (-3.5) 28
Straight Up: 2-0
Against the Spread: 2-0