Chiefs-Eagles scouting report
The dominant story line of the Andy Reid Bowl has been Reid's return to the city where he coached 14 seasons. Reid was the most successful coach in Eagles history before his departure at the end of 2012.
Reid moved on, the Eagles moved on. That much will be clear when Reid brings his 2-0 team to Philadelphia, and the Eagles are energized with a new system and new philosophy under coach Chip Kelly.
More important to the Eagles than beating Reid is simply getting a victory. They are 1-1, which was a reasonable expectation for this point of the season. But next week's game is against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, a matchup in which the Eagles are likely to be heavy underdogs.
They cannot afford to lose Thursday and face the risk of falling to 1-3 entering an Oct. 6 visit to the New York Giants.
One game at a time. You've heard that before - especially from Reid. But this one is especially important to the Eagles, homecoming story lines aside.
When the Eagles run
The Eagles followed the opening week's victory, during which they rushed 49 times, with only 20 carries last week. It could have been categorized as a Reid-ian run-pass distribution, although it was dictated by the defense. The Chargers stacked the box to keep LeSean McCoy from running wild, prompting the Eagles to pass. Look for the Eagles to have a more balanced look on Thursday because it will be more difficult to test the Chiefs secondary than the Chargers'.
McCoy will likely get 20-plus carries again, but he probably won't be in the 30-plus territory of the opener. Kelly keeps discussing Bryce Brown's role in the offense, but he had just three carries in Week 2. Look for Brown to factor into the rushing mix, assuming the Eagles get more plays.
McCoy and Brown might not find much space, though. The Chiefs have the NFL's No. 2 rush defense, and opposing rushers average only 2.8 yards per carry against the Chiefs. A big reason - emphasis on "big" - is 346-pound nose tackle Dontari Poe, who is having a breakout season in his second year in the NFL. Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson is a strong tackler, and there's a good combination of size and speed all over the Chiefs' 3-4 defense. One familiar face is Akeem Jordan, who starts at inside linebacker.
Michael Vick threw for a career-high 428 yards last week, is completing 62.3 percent of his passes, and he has not yet thrown an interception this season. DeSean Jackson leads the NFL with 297 receiving yards. So the Eagles' passing offense has been impressive during the first two games even without Reid calling the plays.
But they also have not seen a secondary like Kansas City's. Safety Eric Berry is one of the NFL's best at his position. Cornerbacks Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, and Dunta Robinson are all experienced players with a track record of production. Pay attention to Flowers, who would likely cover Jackson if he plays. Flowers is questionable with a knee injury. If he misses the game, it would be a big advantage for the Eagles.
Kansas City's top pass rusher is former Penn State standout Tamba Hali, who rushes from the right side. He has averaged 11 sacks the last four seasons.
The Chiefs have the NFL's No. 7 pass defense and are keeping teams below 200 passing yards. That will be difficult to do against the Eagles, but it's the Eagles' toughest challenge yet.
When the Chiefs run
Insert joke here about Andy Reid's not calling running plays, because it's easy to make. The Chiefs feature Jamaal Charles, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his first five seasons. Charles has been limited to 132 yards on 32 carries in the first two games, but he should worry teams whenever he touches the ball.
Charles is most dangerous as a big-play threat, and the Eagles were susceptible to long runs in the preseason. They must keep Charles from turning the corner, where his speed could be devastating. He runs in front of a solid offensive line that includes No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher at right tackle.
The Chiefs can also use quarterback Alex Smith in the running game. Smith has 12 carries for 82 yards this season.
The Eagles need a good game from inside linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.
When the Chiefs pass
You know Reid will pass the ball, and the Eagles struggled against Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Smith is not quite Rivers, although he's a smart, accurate quarterback who has thrown for 34 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions from 2011 to 2013. He was a 70 percent passer with the 49ers last season and is a 60 percent passer this season.
Smith's top receiver is Dwayne Bowe, although Kansas City has not yet accumulated many yards through the air. Smith has spread the ball around, and no receiver has more than 100 yards in the first two games. Charles is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, so the Eagles must be careful with him. But the Chiefs are thin at tight end, with Anthony Fasano doubtful and Travis Kelce questionable. Considering the struggles the Eagles had against Antonio Gates, this is positive news for the Eagles defense.
It's also positive news that cornerback Bradley Fletcher returns to the lineup after missing last week with a concussion. That moves Brandon Boykin back to the slot, giving the Eagles a better defensive backfield. They still struggle at safety, where Nate Allen continues to start and Earl Wolff will split time.
The biggest area of improvement since Reid left the Eagles is special teams, where Kelly's emphasis has paid off this season. The big blemish last week for the Eagles was Alex Henery's missed 46-yard field goal, but he's been so accurate in his career that the miss shouldn't be a major concern. If the Chiefs are forced to punt, it will be worth watching whether they punt to DeSean Jackson. Reid's special-teams coordinator is Dave Toub, who was in Philadelphia from 2001 to 2003.
Even if Reid doesn't admit it, his players have said it this week: This game means a little more to "Big Red." But it's still a road game on a short week, and the statistics favor the home team in that situation. The home team is 21-9 in the last 30 Thursday non-opening games. It will be a difficult turnaround for the Chiefs, even with the Reid factor.