The Kansas City Chiefs have started the 2013 NFL season 2-0, and optimism is riding high for most Chiefs fans. The last time the Chiefs started the season with two wins, Kansas City went 10-6 and earned a playoff berth. I suspect most fans would eagerly take that result, when juxtaposed with last year's 2-14 debacle.
Kansas City's Week 3 opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, brings a different look to the table than the Chiefs have seen thus far. The Eagles and new head coach Chip Kelly favor an extreme uptempo approach that builds off of the read-option run game.
The Chiefs may have a small "insider" advantage in this game, as they are playing new head coach Andy Reid's former team, and he will have insight on most of his former players' weaknesses and deficiencies.
Defending the Eagles' Zone-Read Looks
The Eagles' uptempo attack starts with the read-option run game. Chip Kelly balances inside and outside zone reads, attempting to get leverage on the offensive line and create one-on-one scenarios across the board elsewhere. This creates a designed stress on the defense, as everyone must play disciplined, or someone on the offense is going to be wide open.
Defending the looks Philadelphia will throw at the Chiefs starts up front. The Eagles heavily favor inside and outside zone reads. Second-year defensive tackle and emerging star Dontari Poe will be called upon to supply sufficient pressure up front so that the inside zone read will go to the outside and ideally into the waiting arms of Tamba Hali or Justin Houston.
A lot rides on the defensive line's ability to generate a solid rush, allowing the linebackers to stay at home and read and react to the play. The Eagles like to use wider splits in their base offense and haven't faced a defensive line as strong as the Chiefs' this season; this should play to Kansas City's advantage.
Of note: Dontari Poe will not only have a significant size advantage playing opposite Eagles center Jason Kelce (295 lbs) but also perhaps inside information on him as a player. Kelce is the brother of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Keeping the Defense Fresh
By now, nearly everyone is familiar with the fast pace of Philadelphia's offense. The pace is designed to tire opposing defenses, which starves them of oxygen and reduces the brain's ability to function optimally. Reduced decision-making ability leads to sloppy mistakes, which the Eagles are more than happy to take advantage of.
Kansas City will need to commit to the run game when on offense. Establishing the run will allow the Chiefs to sustain drives, giving the defense ample time to recover and shortening the overall length of the game so players are less tired in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs offense is designed to take short, consistent bites out of the field through the air. It will need to execute efficiently, especially on third down (third downs have been a struggle for the Chiefs so far this season), to keep the Eagles defense on the field and its own off of it.
The Chiefs have struggled mightily in third-down situations this season, converting only nine third downs in 28 attempts for a mere 32 percent conversion percentage. Kansas City will have to improve on putting itself into manageable third-down situations and then converting those situations to sustain drives.
The Chiefs had several drives stall at midfield, just outside of field-goal distance, against the Cowboys, despite starting with excellent field position.
The Field-Position Game
The Chiefs have won their first two games of the season playing extremely well on defense and giving opponents the worst average starting field position in the league. Punter Dustin Colquitt has been spectacular in pinning opponents deep in their own territory. Pushing opponents that far back into their own territory eliminates portions of an offense's playbook and simplifies things for the defense.
If Kansas City can keep the Eagles one-dimensional, it will help alleviate the pressure on the offense to score points.
Overall, I think the Chiefs are in a good position to win this game. Despite it being a short week and on the road, Kansas City has the superior defensive and special teams units and simply isn't giving up points (allowing eight per game) or rushing yardage (allowing 55 per game) thus far this season.
The Eagles are struggling with second-half defensive collapses, allowing 20 points in the second half of each of their first two games, and are penalized at an alarming rate (8.5 per game).