In the midst of a heated battle for supremacy in the AFC West, there’s plenty on the line for coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs when they travel to CenturyLink Field for a Week 16 battle with the Seattle Seahawks.
The high-powered 11-3 Chiefs, who will enter play on Sunday with the NFL’s top-ranked offense piloted by budding superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, already have secured a playoff berth. But after losing to the Chargers on a two-point conversion last Thursday, they likely need to win both of their remaining games to lock up a division title and first-round bye.
Standing in their way, the Seahawks can only hope playing at home will aid their cause against a Chiefs squad that has averaged nearly 36 points per game and amassed 427.3 yards per game this season.
“We’re really excited about the challenge.” Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “Kansas City, they have some really good players, really good skill players and they’ve been lighting it up all year. A chance to play them to see where we stand at this point is exciting for us.”
Leading the charge, Mahomes has instantly emerged as one of the league’s best quarterbacks in his first season as a starter, ranking first in touchdown passes (45), passing yards (4,543), and average yards per attempt (9.6). At his disposal, explosive receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce rank in the top-10 in receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns, racking up over 2,500 receiving yards and 21 scores combined.
In contrast, the Chiefs defense hasn’t been near as dominant, sitting near the bottom of the league in most relevant categories. But despite giving up over 27 points per game and ranking 32nd defending the pass this year, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s group has been opportunistic producing 23 turnovers and 46.0 sacks, helping mitigate some of their struggles surrendering big yardage totals.
Improving matters, Kansas City will finally have All-Pro safety Eric Berry back in the starting lineup, providing a boost to a much-criticized secondary. After missing the first 13 games of the season with a heel injury, he returned to play in the first half of last week’s loss to the Chargers and finished with four tackles.
Here’s a closer look at Seattle’s upcoming opponent, including series history, additions/departures, key numbers, and Carroll’s evaluation of the Chiefs heading into Sunday's prime-time tilt:
--52nd regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series 33-18. Previously division rivals before Seattle moved to the NFC in 2002, Kansas City won 30 of the first 46 matchups between these two teams, including winning 14 out of 15 games between 1991 and 1998. The Seahawks have never won more than three in a row in the all-time series, while the Chiefs have won four or more consecutive games three separate times. Since the Seahawks moved to the NFC West, the Chiefs have been victorious in three of their four battles, including defeating them at Arrowhead Stadium 24-20 in 2014.
--Additions: Looking to bolster the receiving corps for Mahomes, the Chiefs signed former first round pick Sammy Watkins to a multi-year deal in free agency. He produced 519 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 10 games before suffering a foot injury and could return for the playoffs. Cornerback Kendall Fuller, who arrived in a trade with Washington, has been Kansas City’s most consistent defensive back with 70 tackles and two interceptions. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens has also been a solid free agent addition, as the former Dallas starter leads the team with 114 tackles.
--Departures: The Chiefs most significant offseason move came shortly after the start of free agency, as the team shipped quarterback Alex Smith to the Redskins for Fuller and a draft choice. Only a few days later, Kansas City dealt talented but mercurial cornerback Marcus Peters to the Rams for multiple draft picks. The team also released long-time pass rushing standout Tamba Hali, who finished his 12-year career with 89.5 sacks. Unexpectedly, the Chiefs promptly released running back Kareem Hunt last month when a video surfaced of him physically assaulting a woman in a hotel.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
114.8: Quarterback rating for Patrick Mahomes this season, second-best in the NFL.
36.2: Percent of drop backs where opponents generate pressure against Mahomes, third-most in the league.
1,510: Combined receiving yards for receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce out of the slot.
73.4: Percentage of red zone trips that result in touchdowns, second only behind the Steelers.
409.4: Total yards yielded per game defensively, 31st overall in the league.
282.5: Passing yards yielded per game, dead-last among 32 teams.
46: Total number of sacks by Chiefs, second-best in the league headlined by Chris Jones with 14.
28.5: Percentage of quarterback pressures generated without a blitz, fourth-highest in the league.
--Serving as Mahomes top weapon, Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill has morphed into one of the NFL’s best at his position during his third season. Capable of hitting a home run every time he touches the football, “Cheetah” sits atop the league leaderboards in receiving yardage (1,304), touchdowns (13), and yards per reception (16.7).
Best known for his speed, Carroll sees much more than a glorified track star donning pads and a helmet, citing him as a complete football player.
“He does everything. He runs routes really well, he’s really tough making the catch, he’s made circus catches with guys all over him, he’s taken the ball away from guys. In the running game, they’ve used him [and] he’s obviously a big deal in the return game too. He’s more complete of a player than you would expect a guy that would be that fast… He’s a ball player.”
The Seahawks young secondary will be tested not only by Hill’s blazing speed, but his precise route running and ability to snatch the football in heavy traffic. Coach Andy Reid loves to move him all over the formation as well, as he ranks second in the league in receiving yards from the slot. Cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, and Justin Coleman all have to be prepared to cover the do-it-all weapon on Sunday.
--Back in the 2017 NFL Draft, rumors circulated briefly that the Seahawks actually had interest in trading up and drafting Mahomes. While Carroll wasn’t asked about that possibility on Wednesday, he did mention that general manager John Schneider viewed him as one of the best prospects in his draft class.
After evaluating Mahomes at Texas Tech, Carroll said that Schneider “was in love with him” and felt he was a special talent who would go at the top of the draft.
While addressing how the Seahawks assess players from spread and Air Raid offenses at the collegiate level, Carroll added, “We were surprised that he [Mahomes] made it to the 10th pick by our evaluation.”
With Wilson still under contract for three more seasons at the time and only 28 years old, moving up to select Mahomes would’ve sent shockwaves throughout the NFL. Who knows if the Seahawks were seriously considering making such a bold trade, but in all likelihood, they were likely exhibiting gamesmanship to force another team’s hand on draft day.
--As the NFL has evolved, few coaches have been better than Andy Reid at adjusting his offense to cater to different personnel. After guiding a top-flight offense in Philadelphia for years, Carroll believes his creativity and willingness to think outside the box have allowed him to maintain consistent success for nearly two decades as a head coach.
“He’s one of a kind. He’s an extraordinarily creative guy. He’s been able to stay at the cutting edge of what’s going on and he does a really nice job of researching what’s happening at the college game and he’s picked and chosen things out of that. His control of the offense and willingness to try stuff – he’s been innovative and inventive – but he’s done a lot of really great things young coaches could really learn from.”
Since returning to the NFL in 2010, Carroll and Reid have coached against one another twice, with the Seahawks beating the Eagles in 2011 and the Chiefs winning a tight 24-20 contest at Arrowhead Stadium in 2014. Those past matchups won’t have any bearing on this weekend’s game, however, as Carroll noted Reid’s greatest strength is adapting his offense to the quarterback running the show.
“His offense was much different the last few years with Alex [Smith] and he’s just on it. It’s really impressive and it’s fun to go against him.”