Three Key Matchups: Cardinals vs. Chiefs

Brendon McCullin
Tyreek Hill
Kansas City Chiefs Wide Receiver and Return Specialist Tyreek Hill

Kansas City continued its march towards the top seed in the AFC playoffs with a 37-21 victory over the Browns. The ho-hum nature of the road win in Cleveland, where Patrick Mahomes added another three touchdown passes, shows just how strong of a season the Chiefs are having.

Now, Andy Reid‘s band of merry marauders returns to Arrowhead to face rookie Josh Rosen and Arizona (2-6).

What does Kansas City need to do to keep rolling along? Coming out ahead in these three key matchups would help.

Chiefs vs. Looking Ahead

One of the premier games on the NFL schedule happens a week after this game. That’s when Kansas City play the Los Angeles Rams (8-1) in a Monday Night showcase.

Everyone will be salivating at the prospect of the league’s two most explosive offenses trying to match each other score-for-score. Mahomes vs. Jared Goff. Kareem Hunt trying to prove he’s on Todd Gurley‘s level as a runner. Dangerous receivers all over the field no matter who has the ball. It’s the kind of game that even the most casual football fan can get excited by.

The only problem is that the Chiefs still have a game to play before we get to the fireworks. The Cardinals matchup is what the term “trap game” was invented for.

Arizona is in no ways a good team. Their fans have given up and are already gearing up for the NFL Draft. They shouldn’t come close to beating Kansas City.

That said, before their bye week, they came up with their second win of the season over San Francisco (literally, their only two victories are both against the 49ers). Rosen is as up-and-down as you would expect from a rookie signal caller. The UCLA product has started to grow into the starting role, leading a 12-play, 73-yard game winning drive the last time that he was on the field.

The Cardinals defense has been a disappointment, but they have enough playmakers to be dangerous when they start putting together stops. Similarly, fantasy owners across the country can speak testament to how infuriating running back David Johnson‘s season has been, but he still is a threat to go off at any time.

Most likely, Kansas City will dispatch Arizona fairly easily. If they don’t, it will be because they were paying attention to the wrong date on the calendar.

Patrick Peterson vs. Tyreek Hill

Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, no matter what the Cardinals records is. In his eighth season out of LSU, he’s picked off a pair of passes and can shutdown any receiver in the league when he’s locked in. He might not be happy, but that doesn’t seem to be affecting his play.

In fact, Arizona’s defensive backfield has mostly been strong all season. They’ve only allowed nine passing touchdowns this season and safety Tre Boston had three interceptions of his own before missing the last two games with injuries.

Sammy Watkins is listed as questionable for the game with a foot injury, which puts the focus squarely back on Hill. Not that the Cheetah shies away from the spotlight.

Boston seems on track to play, but now fellow safety Budda Baker is dealing with a foot injury. That means that free safety Antoine Bethea will have his hands full trying to contain Travis Kelce.

It’s not as noisy as when Hill faced off with Jalen Ramsey, but Peterson doesn’t need to talk to take away one side of the field. The Cardinals shot at an upset improves greatly if their corner is playing at his All-Pro level.

Kareem Hunt vs. Arizona’s front seven

While the Cardinals’ pass defense has been solid, the same is not true for their run defense. In fact, Arizona is next-to-last in the league, surrendering 143.1 yards a game on the ground. Even Kansas City’s own leaky run defense is better than that.

Hunt started the season slowly but has continued to gain momentum as the fall has progressed. Against Cleveland, he University of Toledo product showed the form that made him the NFL’s leading rusher last season. He ran for 91 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Even better from the Chiefs standpoint, Hunt is slowly but surely becoming a receiving threat out of the background again.

Even if the Cardinals’ defensive backfield holds its own against Mahomes and his downfield weapons, Hunt can make Arizona pay.

The Cardinals have plenty of talent across the front seven. Chandler Jones is a premier pass rusher, with 6.5 sacks this year. Linebackers Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick are former first-round picks. For a number of reasons, though, things just haven’t gone smoothly under new head coach Steve Wilks and defensive coordinator Al Holcomb.

Arizona will play this game without defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, making for one more issue that the Cardinals will be dealing with.

Hunt’s season high in rushing is just 121 yards, against Denver in week four. There’s a likely explosion coming at some point from the Pro Bowl running back. Arizona just has to hope that he doesn’t blow up against them.