Despite the wildly differing amounts of success that various NFL teams enjoy—say, the Chiefs versus the Jets—there really isn’t a very wide talent gap between the most and least winning teams in the league. This level of parity can be attributed to many factors, including the salary cap, the talent pool available, and the way that the NFL Draft order favors teams who don’t win many games in the previous season. Similarly, there are multiple reasons that some teams seem to keep winning and others just can’t stop losing. The more commonly cited reasons are scheme, talent (or lack thereof) at key positions, and better coaching.
These reasons all point to an ability that winning teams have and losing teams struggle to acquire. It is as much a product of coaching as it is of talent; of brilliant scheme as of brute force. It’s the ability to find pressure points and to press them to the breaking point. Today we’re going to look at how the Kansas City Chiefs can pressure the Philadelphia Eagles.
Fresh off a stunningly convincing victory in New England in the 2017 NFL Kickoff game, the Chiefs are heading home to take on the Eagles in their home opener. It’s obvious that they exploited the Patriots’ weak points (weak offensive line, poor defensive back depth, and poor wide receiver depth) excellently. Now we can see which pressure points the Chiefs might focus on against the Eagles.
Philadelphia’s star cornerback, Ronald Darby, left the field in the Eagles’ Week One matchup, having suffered a brutal ankle injury. He will be out for at least a month. That leaves a more-than-competent Jalen Mills to fill in, but behind Mills, the Eagles’ depth drops off. Will rookie Rasul Douglas and veteran Patrick Robinson be able to deal with the Chiefs’ core of speedy wide receivers? It’s likely that Chiefs head coach Andy Reid intends to find out early on Sunday.
The Eagles have a supposed one-two punch in veteran backs LeGarrette Blount and Darren Sproles. However, their showing against the Redskins last week was below pedestrian. While the Chiefs may yield a lot of yards in the middle of the field it will be a stretch for the Eagles’ rushing game to make a huge impact if Kansas City is performing well on defense. If the Chiefs don’t sleep on the Eagles’ running backs and hand them a cakewalk, this is an easy pressure point for Kansas City to exploit.
Philadelphia has a promising young quarterback in Carson Wentz, whose rookie campaign last year showed a lot of talent. But Wentz hasn’t quite put it all together yet, and he has some flaws that the Chiefs will be quick to take advantage of. His biggest weakness is a lack of accuracy under pressure. Wentz’s completion percentage fell to 46% on the 15 dropbacks he was pressured on in week 1. The Chiefs biggest strength is a dynamic pass rush from their defensive front seven. If Wentz’s throws aren’t on point this Sunday, the opportunistic Chiefs secondary will be in a position to make him pay.
Of course, the Chiefs have a few pressure points of their own. With star safety Eric Berry out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury, offensive and defensive lines that can’t stop drawing penalty flags, and low depth at the running back position, the Chiefs can be beaten. This Sunday’s outcome will be determined by which team can push harder.