There’s no denying it’s a big deal for Andy Reid to be returning to Philadelphia with the Kansas City Chiefs to take on the Eagles. Reid and players on both sides have downplayed the reunion, but emotions will definitely be running high Thursday night.
Once you look beyond those emotions, you see a Chiefs team looking to go 3-0 for just the eighth time in franchise history. A quick look at the first seven — trips to the playoffs six times — points to the huge advantage Kansas City would hold out of the gate.
In order to stay undefeated, Reid will need to see his defensive coordinator find a way to slow down one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. If that’s too tall of a task, the pressure shifts to Alex Smith to turn in his first big performance as the Chiefs quarterback.
Through the first two weeks, the Kansas City offense has been able to play it safe and have averaged just 185 yards in the air. The Eagles defense is about as bad as their offense is good, giving up over 360 passing yards a game.
It there ever was a time for the Chiefs passing game to open up and use the whole field, it’s Thursday night against the Eagles.
If Reid is going to move his record in Kansas City to 3-0, here are the three players you should keep an eye on.
Offense: Alex Smith
So far this season the Chiefs quarterback has done exactly what was needed. He hasn’t turned the ball over and has put up enough points to win, but without the big play. His performance over the first two weeks has earned him our Game Ball each week.
Now Smith will need to show he has another gear. This Philadelphia defense is fresh off a 419 yard torching by Philip Rivers and the Chargers air attack, meanwhile Smith has put up 396 yards total over the season’s first two weeks.
During his conservative — but effective — first two games, we’ve talked about how he’ll eventually need to show he can put up big numbers when needed.
Defense: Dontari Poe
The No. 11 pick in 2012 has been a revelation this season, so much so that he’s being mentioned as a candidate for MVP (of the league, not team). The big man already nine tackles and 3.5 sacks while being a one-man wrecking crew in the middle of the Chiefs defense.
He’ll be key Thursday night as the Chiefs defense faces an Eagles offense that, for all the talk about throwing the ball around, is even more effective on the ground. Philadelphia’s rushing attack is averaging over 180 yards per game on the ground, good for second best in the NFL.
Stopping that run game starts with Poe and the overall frenetic pace of the offense will test the impressive conditioning of the big man.
Special Teams: Quintin Demps
The Chiefs return teams haven’t yet put up that big play we were expecting when special teams coach Dave Toub was hired this offseason. The biggest reason the kickoff return unit has come up short is simply due to a lack of opportunities.
After not being able to return a kick against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1, Demps finally got one chance last week with the Dallas Cowboys in town. The safety took that kick 25 yards, a number that would be a Top 10 average in the league right now.
He should get a chance to turn in game changing return in Philadelphia. The Eagles opponents have returned three and four kicks, respectively, over the first two weeks of the year. None of those returns went for more than 28 yards, but it at least points to an opportunity for Demps.