The Kansas City Chiefs will look to improve to 3-0 in taking on the Philadelphia Eagles on a short week at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday evening, but the task won't be easy.
Andy Reid will be returning to Philadelphia to face the team he coached for 14 seasons, while the Eagles are in the midst of a revamped offense thanks to the arrival of the innovative Chip Kelly.
To presume that offensive fireworks will be on display is bold, though, because new Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has keyed a largely conservative passing game thus far.
Meanwhile, Reid's knowledge of the Eagles' personnel may not be directly useful schematically, but the Chiefs defense is playing some great football to start the 2013 NFL season and could stymie the Eagles' uptempo attack.
It would be quite a redemption story if Reid could pull this one out on the road. Let's look at some of the key matchups involved in this one, followed by a prediction for the game's winner.
Dwayne Bowe vs. Eagles secondary
As mentioned before, Smith hasn't exactly been airing it out on numerous occasions to begin the year in averaging just 5.66 yards per attempt.
Take last week's game against the Cowboys for example—Bowe led the team with 56 yards receiving, while running back Jamaal Charles was second, with 48 yards but on eight receptions.
It's up to Bowe to be the true No. 1 target and begin playing at the All-Pro level he's been capable of in the past. The Eagles secondary is vulnerable to say the least, with entirely new personnel occupying the defensive backfield, save for strong safety Nate Allen.
Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com outlined the lack of viable depth the Eagles have at cornerback, which should allow Bowe to have a relatively big game, regardless of whether or not Bradley Fletcher can play.
The fact that the Chiefs are 2-0 is great, but throwing for 185 yards per contest isn't going to get it done for the rest of the year. Opening Charles up in the running game is a must, and that starts with Bowe—the only truly dependable wideout in Kansas City's current corps.
LeSean McCoy vs. Chiefs' front seven
The running back battle should be interesting. If the first two weeks are any indication, Eagles star LeSean McCoy would be the clear bet to win over Charles.
However, it's not that simple. In addition to matching a league-high with nine sacks through two weeks, the Chiefs' front seven is stuffing the opposing rushing attack, yielding an average of just 54 yards per game.
That came against the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew and a Dallas Cowboys team attempting to become more reliant on the run under new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.
The swiftness with which the Eagles offense operates should make things interesting. Perhaps tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson can help McCoy get to the edges, but it will likely take runs like this one in the Monday night opener in Washington to get the job done:
Whether that's feasible or not remains to be seen. In any case, it's up to McCoy to use his fantastic open-field moves to keep the Philadelphia offense operating efficiently and at a pace Kelly prefers.
These two teams were picking at and near the top of the most recent draft. Suddenly, it looks as though both could seriously contend for postseason spots in their respective conferences.
It will ultimately come down to who can establish the run. Charles and McCoy will be the catalysts, but it will also be interesting to see how the athletic signal-callers play into the action.
Smith ran for a team-high 57 yards in Week 2, while Vick is always dangerous as a ball-carrier but could encounter trouble escaping with the pass-rushing ability of the Chiefs' front.
Justin Houston has three sacks, and second-year nose tackle Dontari Poe has officially settled in, racking up 3.5 sacks already. His push from the inside will give the Eagles' running game problems and force Vick out onto the perimeter.
Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson gives Vick an explosive commodity, but he will be checked by stellar Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers.
This should be close and not as high-scoring as some may predict, with the Chiefs barely pulling it out due to superior defense and, as a result, one critical mistake by Vick.
Score: Chiefs 24, Eagles 20