You couldn’t pick two brighter futures than the ones the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs have.
Both are equipped with young cornerstones at QB, a bevy of talented pass-catchers, studs on the defensive line, and MVP material at the running back positions. And there’s also the offensive masterminds and QB whisperers they have for coaches.
Yes, the future is very bright. But the future is very much right now for both teams, as they each sit at 9-1, the best records in the entire NFL.
They’ll have serious competition when it comes playoff time in their respective conferences. The Rams will somehow have to find a way to shake the Saints. The Chiefs will have the tall task of humbling the Patriots and possibly the Steelers again.
But for now, they’re the envy of most of the league and about to square off in the Game of the Week.
The Rams come in as 3.5-point home favorites, according to Bovada. That line could shift toward the Chiefs a bit before kickoff on Monday Night Football. Kansas City (+145) and LA will have an over/under set at 63.5.
Here’s how they stack up, starting with the best offense in the league versus a couple of All-Pros on the opposing defense.
Chiefs Offense vs Rams Defense
He may not be the face of the league yet, but Patrick Mahomes is well on his way. He’s also the highest-rated passer in the entire league, so that helps.
According to DVOA from Football Outsiders, which combines statistics and efficiency, Mahomes is the league’s best quarterback. He’s also 2nd in QB Rating, 1st in passing yards, and tops in passing touchdowns.
He’s taken the league by storm, leading the No. 1 offense in terms of DVOA and No. 2 squad in scoring (Only the Saints rank higher).
Mahomes’ command of the offense in only his second year with coach Andy Reid is extraordinary. He has some thanks to give to the amazing weapons around him.
There may only be one or two offensive playmakers that create big gains like WR Tyreek Hill. His DVOA ranks second among receivers and only behind Michael Thomas of the Saints. He’s second in the league in receiving touchdowns and is top-five in yards.
And Hill will garner a little less attention now that Sammy Watkins is back and healthy. The veteran wideout is still a top-10 performer in terms of catch rate and DVOA despite missing a significant amount of time.
If it couldn’t get any better for this offense, they also have an All-Pro talent at tight end with Travis Kelce. Adjusted for his competition, he ranks 3rd among tight ends. He’s not only a runner-up for yards at his position, but also for touchdowns.
All in all, this is a receiving unit that is 2nd in catches of 20 yards or more and at the top in receptions of 40 yards or more. If you want to talk explosive offenses, this is the very definition of it.
And that’s without mentioning the fact the Chiefs rank very high in terms of turnover ratio and lack of giveaways. The only luxury they give opponents is having the 2nd-most penalty yards on offense.
Also yet to be discussed is the player that could end up having the biggest impact on this game.
That would be Kareem Hunt, a great all-purpose back who places in the top-five in rushing and touchdowns on the ground. He’s going up against the 29th-ranked defense in terms of DVOA. And the Rams are also dead-last when it comes to rush yards-per-attempt.
With a stat like that last one, it’s hard to know where the most difficult challenge lies for LA’s defense.
They’re able to keep offenses off the board (12th in scoring) fairly well. But they don’t have a particularly well-equipped red zone defense. The Chiefs, being as good as they are in this area of the field, could really do some damage.
But the Rams do have some hope knowing their coverage team is better than many of the ones the Chiefs have faced. They also have a superior talent on the line with Aaron Donald, who is really hitting his stride again with 12.5 sacks already.
But can Marcus Peters recover from one of his worst games two weeks ago, having to play Mahomes just after Drew Brees and Russell Wilson? That’s a big question going into Monday.
Overall though, this defense is still in need of some work. 25th in yards-per-play is covered up by the fact the offense owns the 5th-best time of possession. They’re capable at times but equally unsteady. And it’s hard to see them allowing as few of plays to this offense as they have to the rest of their opponents.
Rams Offense vs Chiefs Defense
It seems like the Rams and Chiefs have inadvertently been playing a game of “Anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better” between their offenses this season.
The Rams are one spot behind KC in terms of efficiency. They nudge them by fractions for most yards-per-play. They’re just below them in scoring. And the back-and-forth between who’s better from position-to-position is incredible too.
Jared Goff was almost as much of a revelation last year as Mahomes is this year. He’d been thrown into the fire his rookie year in a poorly managed offense and couldn’t keep up. Then new coach Sean McVay came in and changed all of that.
Now he’s a top-five quarterback in terms of QBR, DVOA, yards passing (2nd only to Mahomes), and TD passes.
This offense is also ranked 1st in rushing, according to DVOA. And that’s all thanks to MVP candidate and current rushing leader, Todd Gurley. You name the stat, he’s probably leading it when it comes to rushers. Efficiency, yards, touchdowns, success rate, fumbles-to-carry ratio, and so on.
Goff’s wideouts are spectacular as well. Cooper Kupp’s ACL tear is a pretty big blow, seeing as he was the main target in the red zone. But Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods have more than enough talent to make up for the loss.
They’re both top-10 in DVOA and yards. Cooks has a top-10 catch rate as well. Woods, despite a tendency to be thrown long-distance passes, is somehow only 1% behind Cooks in terms of catch rate. He’s also a big reason why the Rams lead the league in receptions over 20 yards or more.
All in all, this is an offense that rarely makes mistakes and is still one of the most wide-open units in the league. They’re top-10 in fewest penalties, have the fewest giveaways, and have the 2nd-fewest runs tackled for a loss. The rate of sacks, when adjusted for quality of opponent, is very low too.
They’re simply an offense with very few holes that can burn you or pick away at you all the way down the field.
The only hope is that with Kupp out, an average red zone attack will continue to produce enough. With the way the Chiefs are stopping teams these days in the red zone, the Rams should be just fine.
Kansas City ranks 27th in red zone defense. They counter it by being good in 3rd-down situations that aren’t inside the 20. But the Rams are bound to get there more than a few times against the 25th-ranked defense (DVOA).
That’s including a defensive unit that’s DVOA is dead-last in the league against the run. Dead-last against the best running back in the league? There aren’t many signs worse than that.
They also let up the 3rd-most plays to opposing teams, something the methodical drives of Rams can more than capitalize on. The time-of-possession between the two teams clearly dips in LA’s favor as well.
That doesn’t mean the Chiefs don’t have some solid pieces. Their pass-rush is way better now with Justin Houston back. The former sack king is now wreaking havoc with both Dee Ford (nine sacks) and Chris Jones (seven sacks). That’s quite the pass-rushing group.
And the secondary is better than expected after the loss of safety and leader Eric Berry to injury. 12th against the pass (DVOA) and 14th in yards-per-pass attempt is leaps and bounds from where they started this year.
3 Keys for Kansas City
They need to win this battle and not let the Rams control possession. It’s not like Mahomes needs a lot of time to score. But he’s also not used to waiting around for this long between passes either.
He was the 2nd-most efficient passer last year when not pressured. He’s almost as good this year. He was also 22nd out of starting QBs when he was pressured. Quite the difference there.
This Rams line is a strong one. But the pocket is not something the Chiefs can’t infiltrate.
Sure, Mahomes is the man and he’ll throw quite a few passes. But up against a team last in rush yards-allowed per-play, Hunt can have a field day here.
3 Keys for Los Angeles
If the Rams can limit his chances with their efficient offense and methodical drives that take up so much time, they will hold him at bay. That’s where Gurley comes in against the league’s worst run-D.
So LA has to take advantage of their opportunities in this area. They’re only 16th in the league inside the 20 and just lost Goff’s top target in the area. This is where they need the line to be better in short-yardage plays near the goal line.
Getting a reliable source to go with Gurley, Cooks, and Woods is of great importance. With that many weapons, there’s no way the Chiefs can cover all those pieces well. Their secondary has gotten better and their linebacking unit the same. But they’re not that good.
So who’s it going to be? Josh Reynolds using his long frame for red zone one-on-ones? Tyler Higbee providing relief over the middle for Goff? There needs to be one more guy.
Who Wins and Why
Kansas City has covered in eight of its last 10 and its previous five road games. The Rams are on a 1-5-1 stretch against the spread.
The Chiefs will probably have a better chance of finishing drives off. The Rams will likely chew up way more time, so those opportunities will be more precious for the Chiefs.
But I watched Drew Brees and the Saints put up 45 on this defense and torch their secondary with less receiving talent. They didn’t need much time at all.
The crowd in LA, even on a Monday night, isn’t going to be any major hindrance to the Chiefs. They did just fine at Foxborough, so no worries here.
Gurley will probably take whatever he wants. This Rams offense will score a lot of points. But the Chiefs continue to play better-than-expected on the road and are one of only a couple teams that can go punch-for-punch with the Rams.
I’m choosing the Chiefs by a hair. I think the spread is good but would not risk the straight up pick since it is too close to call.
But the greatest of all the picks would be the “Over”. Because this game is going to be about who can get at least a stop or two on defense. And that’s about all anyone will get.