NFC West Reporter
One team already clinched a postseason berth and is playing for a first-round bye in the playoffs, while the other is looking to make the playoffs in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks are in different positions, but this is a meaningful game for both sides.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs sealed a seventh straight AFC West title with a road win over the Houston Texans last week. The 11-3 Chiefs are currently the second seed in the AFC and still have work to do to get past the Buffalo Bills (11-3), who have a tie for the top seed.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have lost four of their last five games, and at 7-7 have a shot at making the postseason. The last time these two teams met was in Week 16 of the 2018 season, a 38-31 victory in Seattle. However, the Seahawks haven’t beaten Kansas City since 1999 and are 0-4 in their last four games in Kansas City.
The weather will also be a factor, with the temperature expected to be in the teens at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We’re playing a fantastic football team with a ton of proven success, star players, star power, all of that, and a fantastic coach,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said this week. “They also just won their division, so they want to.
“It’s a great opportunity for us. This is a chance to see arguably the best in the AFC, so we’re going to take our chance and see if we can play a good game of football and do the things we need to do”.
Here are four burning questions as these former AFC West rivals square off on Saturday:
Nick says his bosses are probably “not as good as I thought.”
The Chiefs clinched the AFC West with their dramatic final win over the Houston Texans, while the Seahawks have lost three of their last four games. However, Nick Wright is worried about betting on his Chiefs when they haven’t covered in the last month.
Can the Seahawks stop the run?
The Seahawks have given up an average of 201.6 rushing yards over their last five games. Seattle showed some improvement by stopping the run in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers last week before Jordan Mason had a 55-yard run to seal the victory late in the game.
Seattle’s struggles against the run have been due to a combination of things, including injuries to defensive tackles up front, missed assignments to protect the run gaps and just an overall bad matchup as a defense.
It might not be as glaring a problem against the Chiefs, who are averaging 120 yards per contest, No. 16 in the NFL. However, the Chiefs rushed for 189 yards in an overtime win over the Houston Texans last week.
Can the Seahawks slow Kansas City’s potent offense?
Mahomes leads the league in passing yards (4,496) and passing touchdowns (35). And Kansas City leads the NFL in scoring, averaging 30 points per contest.
Seattle has two Pro Bowlers in the secondary in rookie Tariq Woolen and safety Quandre Diggs. But the Seahawks are allowing 6.82 yards per passing play, No. 21 in the NFL.
The key for Seattle will be how much pressure their defensive front can generate against the Chiefs. Uchenna Nwosu leads the Seahawks with nine sacks. However, Seattle has just three sacks in the last two games.
Receiver of the will Michael Hardman back this week?
Placed on injured reserve in November with an abdominal injury, Hardman has missed the past six games. Designated to return last week, Hardman has been working to regain weight and expected to play this weekend against Seattle. However, Kansas City head coach Andy Reid said he needs to see more of Hardman and talk to the team’s medical staff before making a decision to activate the speedy receiver, putting I doubt his availability for Saturday.
Before his injury, Hardman totaled 25 catches for 297 yards and six total touchdowns in eight games, including five starts. The Chiefs have done a good job of distributing the ball to multiple players in Hardman’s absence. If healthy, Hardman adds another dimension to Kansas City’s offense with his explosive ability to play as a runner, receiver and returner.
Will the Chiefs take better care of the football?
An Achilles heel for the Chiefs has been their ability to take care of the football. Despite having one of the NFL’s best records, Kansas City has a turnover differential of less than 6. The Chiefs’ 21 turnovers are tied for fourth-worst in the NFL.
Seattle has 21 carries this season, so maybe the Seahawks can steal a couple of possessions from the Chiefs to make the game closer on the road.
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Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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