The Kansas City Chiefs are going to the playoffs again, while the Chicago Bears once again are not.
The last time the Bears made back-to-back appearances in the playoffs was 2005-06.
However, while the Bears are playing for pride and next year’s jobs, the Chiefs are still hopeful of getting a first-round bye, currently a game behind the Patriots for the No. 2 seed and two games behind the top-seeded Ravens.
With a likely win at home against the Chargers on the final day of the season if they need it, this is the game the Chiefs have to be careful with and make sure they show up.
Of course, this also is the first meeting of the Jedi Master Andy Reid and his prized pupil, Matt Nagy, and all eyes, preview, in-game and post-game chatter will focus on the performances of the second pick in the 2017 draft, Mitch Trubisky, and the NFL’s reigning MVP, Patrick Mahomes, who was selected eight picks later.
Throw in the Sunday prime-time evening slot and there still is plenty to look forward to here.
Chiefs offense vs. Bears defense: You all know everything you need to about Mahomes, All Pro TE Travis Kelce and Pro Bowl WR Tyreek Hill.
If they don’t scare the crap out of any defense, they should.
Overall, the Chiefs come in ranked 5th in total offense, just 25th running the ball but 3rd throwing it, 5th on third down and 4th in the league in points scored at 28.1 points a game, and they are 4th in fewest sacks allowed, 2nd in fewest picks and they basically don’t give the ball away.
The Bears defense is top 10 or five in almost every category, 3rd in fewest points allowed at 18.1, but they don’t take the ball away or rush the passer very well.
After the big three, the players the Bears defense will have to be aware of include LeSean McCoy, who leads the Chiefs in rushing with a paltry 465 yards but can still hit you with a big play with a 4.6-yard average and four rushing TDs, plus one more score among his 28 receptions.
Veteran Sammy Watkins (49-637-3 receiving) and rookie Mecole Hardman (25-508-6) help round out a WR group that probably has more collective speed than any other club in the league.
Offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy is the heir to Matt Nagy in K.C., and he and Andy Reid will orchestrate Nagy’s offense on steroids.
The numbers suggest this group gets an edge over any defense in the league, but the Bears do have one of the groups well suited to playing with them – if they can get pressure on Mahomes, an area in which they’ve struggled in recent weeks.
Bears offense vs. Chiefs defense:
The Bears had one of their most productive days of the season on offense in terms of yardage last Sunday in Green Bay — other than, of course, putting enough points on the board — and there’s no doubt that defense has been the Achilles’ heel of these Chiefs.
K.C. is just 18th in total defense and 26th vs. the run but 11th vs. the pass, 9th on 3rd down and a very respectable 10th in points allowed, and they will pester the passer, ranking 12th in sack percentage and 9th in interception rate.
The Bears’ numbers on the season have been awful, but this has been a much improved offense in recent weeks.
Unfortunately, where the Bears still struggle the most is running the ball, and that’s where you’d like to gash the Chiefs, who are just 30th in average gain per run allowed, on top of the poor overall run “D” ranking.
The Chiefs defense doesn’t feature a lot of playmakers, but Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark and Chris Jones – if healthy – are the guys you have to have a plan for, and new waiver pickup Terrell Suggs could also make his K.C. debut.
Jones, in particular, is one of the game’s best interior pass rushers, as the continuing trial-by-fire education of Rashaad Coward goes on at right guard against most of the NFL’s best defensive tackles.
Special Teams: This is another matchup of one of the game’s best versus a prize pupil as former Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub now runs the Chiefs teams, and his former assistant Chris Tabor handles the Bears’.
Like most placekickers this season, Kansas City’s Harrison Butker has been fallible, but he’s still having a much better season than Eddy Pineiro.
Patrick O’Donnell rates the slightest of edges over Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, but they’re awfully close.
As always, the Bears’ outstanding kickoff and punt return groups have a clear edge, but the Chiefs are one of the best coverage teams in the league – well ahead of the Bears.
Coaches: Andy Reid has done everything an NFL coach can do but win the big one, and though he called Nagy his best-prepared assistant to be a head coach, prior to the Bears hiring him, the reigning Coach of the Year has had an up-and-down sophomore campaign, making this choice obvious.