WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
The Chiefs defense stifled Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the opener, so it will be a test for Carson Wentz. Wentz sparkled at times in his season debut, and his ability to extend plays will be important. The Eagles can be a big-play offense when plays break down and the receivers get open downfield, as on Nelson Agholor’s opening touchdown against the Redskins. The Eagles relied on middle-of-the-field targets Agholor and Zach Ertz in Week 1. Outside receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith can challenge Kansas City, although Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters is among the best in the NFL. He’s a ball hawk, so Wentz must be careful to avoid turnovers. Jeffery had a quiet debut, but the Eagles still tried finding him. That will be a weekly effort, and he’s talented enough to have a big game any week. Wentz and Smith couldn’t connect on two deep balls last week, although Smith’s deep speed was apparent and will continue to threaten defenses. Kansas City’s pass rush sacked Brady three times. Outside linebacker Justin Houston will rush on Lane Johnson’s side and present a major challenge; he had two of those sacks. The Eagles will have Jason Peters back at left tackle after Peters missed time against Washington because of a groin injury.
The Eagles struggled to establish a running game, as the backs combined for only 2.6 yards per rush. The Chiefs limited the Patriots to 3.5 yards per rush. The middle of Kansas City’s defense will look familiar to Eagles fans — it’s nose tackle Bennie Logan, who started four years for the Eagles. Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson is a four-time Pro Bowler. The Eagles would be wise to get Wendell Smallwood more involved after giving him only four carries in Week 1. LeGarrette Blount led the team with 14 carries for 46 yards.
When the Eagles are in field-goal situations, they will turn to new kicker Jake Elliott. The rookie was signed off Cincinnati’s practice squad and will be playing in his first NFL game.
WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL
The Chiefs have a versatile offense that includes multiple personnel packages and formations to try to keep the defense guessing. Veteran quarterback Alex Smith is in his fifth season as Kansas City’s starter, and he’s coming off a stellar performance — completing 80 percent of his passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns against New England. Smith has never had back-to-back 300-yard passing games in his 13-year career. He’s a smart, efficient, mobile quarterback, although he’s not known for being especially strong-armed.
However, Smith benefits from weapons that allow him to stretch the field. Second-year wide receiver Tyreek Hill is one of the fastest players in the NFL — he scored on a 75-yard catch and run against the Patriots. Travis Kelce, the brother of Eagles center Jason Kelce, is one of the NFL’s best tight ends and will require attention in the middle of the field. Rookie Kareem Hunt, a third-round pick, had 246 combined rushing and receiving yards in his debut along with three touchdowns. Those are the three top skill players for the Chiefs.
The Eagles secondary will miss top cornerback Ronald Darby, out with a dislocated ankle. Jalen Mills will be the Eagles’ top cornerback, and he must compensate for lack of elite speed if covering Hill. Patrick Robinson is the next cornerback on the depth chart, although the Eagles like him in the slot. Jaylen Watkins and rookie Rasul Douglas could see action. The Eagles will need good performances from their safeties, with Rodney McLeod likely to be the deep centerfielder and Malcolm Jenkins important in coverage on Kelce.
The equalizer could be the Eagles’ pass rush. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham were difference-makers against Washington, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said the forced turnovers in the preseason and Week 1 resulted from pressuring the quarterback. Kansas City is invested in the right side of its line, which must block those two. The matchups against right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will go a long way toward determining if the Eagles can pull off the upset.
8-3: That’s Andy Reid’s record when coaching against his former assistants who have become head coaches. Reid has his shortcomings, but the most successful coach in Eagles history remains one of the NFL’s best, and he’s especially tough when he has extra time to prepare. Doug Pederson, who learned under Reid, said he cannot get caught up in that history when in Arrowhead Stadium. After spending three years in Kansas City and all his assistant coaching career with Reid, Pederson will benefit from his knowledge of Reid’s schemes. But Pederson wasn’t in Kansas City when the Chiefs acquired some key personnel, such as Hill and Hunt.
Zach Berman: Chiefs 28, Eagles 23
Jeff McLane: Chiefs 27, Eagles 19
Les Bowen: Chiefs 24, Eagles 17
Paul Domowitch: Chiefs 24, Eagles 17