When the Philadelphia Eagles visit Kansas City on Sunday, one thing that will not be an issue is familiarity. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid coached Philly for 14 seasons. Eagles coach Doug Pederson was Big Red’s first starting quarterback (albeit as a placeholder for Donovan McNabb) and then coached under him first in Philadelphia and then in Kansas City.
The Chiefs and Eagles have actually had a weird connection for years. Carl Peterson helped build the Philadelphia team that made it to Super Bowl XV and then went on to lead Kansas City’s front office for 20 years. Eventually, Peterson hired the coach of that NFC Championship team, Dick Vermeil, to coach the Chiefs. When Kansas City hired Reid after the Eagles fired him, there was a feeling of, “Of course they did.”
This week’s game takes the familial feel to an extreme since Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce can wave across the field to his brother, Eagles Pro Bowl center, Jason Kelce. One of them has already staked a claim to the rest of the Kelce clan.
So, does that familiarity give either side a competitive advantage? The answers to these five burning questions will ultimately tell the tale.
Can Doug Pederson Out-Maneuver His Mentor?
Much has been made about Pederson’s lack of coaching experience. He’s only been coaching in the NFL since 2009 when he was a quality control coach for Reid’s Eagles. Eventually, he became the quarterback’s coach for Philadelphia before following his boss to Kansas City to be the offensive coordinator.
While the coordinator title sounds nice, Pederson only called plays for the Chiefs for one season. His bigger selling point is probably the 13 seasons that he spent bouncing around the league as a backup quarterback. None of that has been enough to quell the fears of many Eagles fans who feel that their coach is over-matched.
Reid is 8-3 against his former assistant coaches who have moved on to become head coaches. While there are similarities between the Chiefs and Eagles offenses, there are also big differences. The Chiefs have a much better running game and rely on a lot of misdirection. The Eagles are more straightforward and have a quarterback in Carson Wentz who’s willing to take chances down the field.
While Pederson might have learned everything that he knows from Reid, Big Red always has tricks up his sleeve. It’s hard to imagine Reid not being able to outsmart his former assistant.
Who Poses The Biggest Problem For Philadelphia, Tyreek Hill Or Kareem Hunt?
Last week in the Chiefs shocking opening game blitzkrieg of the New England Patriots, Hunt started his pro career with 148 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Not bad for a 3rd round running back from Toledo.
Hill, one of the fastest players in the NFL, caught seven passes for 133 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. Alex Smith might have a reputation as a check down quarterback, but neither Hunt nor Hill need much room to make a big play.
The Eagles held Washington to just 304 total yards, including only 64 yards on the ground, but the Redskins have few playmakers anymore. Philadelphia also lost starting cornerback, Ronald Darby, for several weeks after he dislocated his ankle. That leaves journeyman Patrick Robinson and second-year corner Jalen Mills to account for Hill.
With a deep defensive line, featuring All-Pro Fletcher Cox in the middle, and underrated middle linebacker Jordan Hicks lurking just behind them, Hunt will need to get the ball in space to replicate his first week showing.
The Eagles don’t have anyone in the defensive backfield who can run with Hill. Philadelphia can’t allow Smith to find him running wild in the secondary or the game will be over quickly.
Can Lane Johnson Handle Justin Houston?
When Johnson, the Eagles starting right tackle, was a rookie in 2013, he had a horrible game against the Chiefs. Houston finished the game with 4.5 sacks and basically beat the snot out of Michael Vick.
Since then, Johnson has fulfilled his 1st round pedigree by becoming one of the better right tackles in the league. Meanwhile, Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014, only had four total last season.
Last week, though, the Eagles offensive line looked porous, even before left tackle Jason Peters left the game with a groin injury. Wentz still managed to make plays, but he was on the run most of the time. Houston, for his part, started the season strong by taking down Tom Brady twice.
Johnson is a far better player now than he was in 2013 and he’s going to need to play to his top level against the Chiefs. If Houston is getting to Wentz consistently, the Eagles are in trouble.
Which Kelce Brother Has A Better Game?
Travis Kelce was fairly quiet against the Patriots, catching five passes for 40 yards. As noted above, the Eagles offensive line as a whole had some trouble against Washington.
With Hicks and safety Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia is better equipped than most teams to cover the Chiefs tight end. As also noted, though, after that Patriots game, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is going to have to game plan extensively to stop Hunt and Hill.
The more attention the other Kansas City skill position players garner, presumably, the more the field opens up for Kelce.
Jason Kelce, who only weighs 295 lbs., relies on quickness and is one of the best interior linemen in the league at making second level blocks. It’s when he actually needs to hold up against bigger defensive tackles that he struggles.
Against the Chiefs, the Eagles center will be lining up against a familiar foe. Kansas City nose tackle Bennie Logan spent his first four seasons in Philadelphia, facing Kelce in practice the entire time.
Travis can have the more obvious impact on the game, but the Eagles need Jason to help create a reasonable pocket for Wentz to have a chance to win.
How Much Will The Chiefs Miss Eric Berry?
The Eagles weren’t the only ones who suffered a significant injury in the defensive backfield. Berry, the Chiefs multi-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl safety, ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Patriots.
Losing a player that caliber hurts any defense. Berry, who overcame a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to continue his football career, is one of the most inspirational players in the entire league.
Kansas City will use a combination of Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray to fill in the void at safety created by Berry’s absence. Ron Parker is a solid starter at the other safety spot, but not having Berry suddenly makes Eagles tight end Zach Ertz a match-up problem for the Chiefs.
Philadelphia might need that because Kansas City’s Marcus Peters should be able to neutralize Alshon Jeffery on the outside. If Wentz can move the chains with Ertz and slot receiver Nelson Agholor, the Eagles will at least have a puncher’s chance to steal a win on the road at the always raucous Arrowhead Stadium.