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Xs and Os: Eagles-Chiefs Preview and Prediction

Xs and Os Eagles Chiefs

Background/Storylines: Eagles (1-1) and Chiefs (2-0)

The Philadelphia Eagles are a tale of two units. Offensively, they are nearly unstoppable, putting up 63 points and 954 total yards through the first two games. Led by the league’s leading rusher (LeSean McCoy – 237 yards) and the league’s leading receiver (DeSean Jackson – 297 yards), the Eagles’ balanced, quick-strike attack has shredded defenses thus far. Defensively, however, the team has been a disaster, allowing 60 points total and 450 yards of offense to the Chargers. While a scheme change has hurt, bad fundamentals (especially tackling and keeping contain – more on that later) have really hurt this team.

The Chiefs have never been as bad as people made them out to be. They’ve had a lot of talent, but have been missing two things: healthy starters (had four injured stars last year) and a solid quarterback. Now, they have both, plus a new head coach in Andy Reid whose given them direction. A rebuilt line has done wonders for the team, with QB Alex Smith rejuvenating an offense whose most dangerous weapons, Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles, are finally healthy. Defensively, the secondary led by All-Pro safety Eric Berry and cornerback Brandon Flowers has flourished under defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, who helped developed the vaunted Jets defense under Rex Ryan. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali has continued his All-Pro play, anchoring this front seven.

Fantasy Watch: LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Dwayne Bowe (KC)

LeSean McCoy has been the league’s most valuable offensive player through two weeks, with a league-leading 356 total yards from scrimmage. He leads the league in rushing, as mentioned earlier, with 237 yards, and his 119 receiving yards are good for third among RBs. The Chiefs have a force of nature in the middle of their defensive line, NT Dontari Poe, but  the Eagles’ zone-read should help to neutralize him. McCoy will be able to get some long runs against the Chiefs OLBs, Hali (not a great run stopper) and Justin Houston, so expect him to put up another RB1 performance against Kansas City.

Can the Eagles limit Bowe? (via NJ.com)

Projected stats for McCoy: 22 carries, 115 yards, touchdown

The Chiefs’ passing offense has come back with Smith under center, but star wideout Dwayne Bowe has not seen the benefits as of yet. Smith has done an excellent job of spreading the wealth, including to his tight ends and running backs, taking away some of Bowe’s value. But the Eagles are willing to let cornerback Cary Williams, who has come into his own early on this year, go 1-on-1 if it means taking away Smith’s other options. For that reason, I expect Bowe to get a big play or two and put up solid numbers this week—in addition to drawing a pass interference or two.

Projected stats for Bowe: 5 catches, 91 yards, touchdown

Key Matchup: Anthony Fasano vs Mychal Kendricks

Kendricks needs to step up (via PhillyMag)

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates shredded the Eagles last week, especially second-year ILB Mychal Kendricks, which allowed the Chargers to get the sideline routes that turned into three touchdowns and numerous third-down conversions. This week, with Bowe and Donnie Avery on the outside and Charles coming out of the backfield, the Eagles really need Kendricks to step up and play like he did in the preseason through Week 1.

If he can take away Fasano and the other Chiefs’ tight ends, including a brother of a current Eagle, Travis Kelce, the rest of the defense can focus on taking away the wideouts and the dump-offs. Otherwise, this could be another long night for the Birds’ defense.

X-Factor(s): Keeping Contain (PHI) and Taking Away the Deep Ball (KC)

Last time he played KC, D-Jax had 149 yards (via ESPN)

The Eagles’ defense has struggled to get off the field this season, and while part of that can be attributed to the scheme change, a lot of it has to do with a glaring lack of fundamentals. While tackling has been a problem, the biggest issue has been keeping contain on both runs and screen plays. Last week, there were at least two or three times when Ryan Mathews should have been bottled up in the backfield, but a safety (Nate Allen) or linebacker (Trent Cole) broke contain and allowed Mathews to bounce it back out for a big gain. If this unit wants to limit Charles, an agile and speedy runner, they will have to do a better job of sealing off the edges and allowing the middle linebackers and defensive tackles to make plays between the tackles.

With the Eagles’ offensive line, there is no doubt that LeSean McCoy will get his fair share of yardage on the ground. What the Chiefs defense needs to do is take away the long ball, thus taking away Chip Kelly’s favorite passing play and forcing Eagles’ receivers to make plays with their legs rather than relying on Vick’s arm. The Chargers didn’t figure that one out last week, allowing DeSean Jackson multiple big-play opportunities, and if the Chiefs want to avoid something similar, they’ll need sound game-planning and a big night from  star safety Eric Berry.

Prediction: Eagles 34, Chiefs 31

In Andy Reid’s return to the Lincoln Financial Field, expect the Chiefs to come out strong but eventually their defense will tire and the big plays will start to open up for DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. The Eagles offense will do just enough to overcome another poor defensive effort to improve to 2-1.

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Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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