With six franchises on a bye week this weekend, it was a strange few days for the NFL as only 11 games occurred on Sunday. However, whatever the weekend lacked is certain to be made up for by Monday’s gripping tie.
The Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs clash in LA in a battle that sees two red-hot offences collide, while MVP frontrunners Patrick Mahomes and Todd Gurley square off at LA Memorial Coliseum.
Both teams boast a 9-1 record this season and stand amongst the contenders to go all the way, with this matchup potentially being a preview of a SuperBowl clash between the Rams and the Chiefs in February.
With plenty on the line, we have taken a look at the key areas for the clash.
Rams coping with Kupp’s absence
The LA Rams have one area of uncertainty heading into this one as Cooper Kupp has been lost to a torn ACL, which could lead the Chiefs defence to clamp down on Brandin Cooks. That could limit the Rams’ passing game but leaves things nicely poised for Todd Gurley.
If Gurley gets going, the Chiefs’ defence may struggle to have a response as they have allowed 5.1 yards per rush so far this season, third-worst in the NFL. Gurley, who himself averages five yards per carry, will certainly fancy his chances.
Chiefs pressure on Goff
Protecting Jared Goff will be crucial for the Rams’ hopes as the Chiefs are tied with the most sacks in the NFL this season, 31 in total, a stat which is often overlooked as it tends to be the Kansas City offence that attracts the most plaudits.
Linebacker Dee Ford is the man to watch in this area as he boasts nine sacks this season, five sack assists and four forced fumbles. If he gets near Goff, the Rams could face problems.
Hunt’s moment to shine
Kareem Hunt was a 1,300-yard runner last season but has been quiet in recent weeks. With 754 rushing yards this season, Hunt is fourth in the NFL standings and has the capacity to cause the Rams’ defence issues if he gets going.
Last time out against the Cardinals, Hunt secured just 71 yards and had just 50 in the clash with the Broncos at the end of October – where he averaged just 3.1-yards per carry. Those numbers need to increase if he is to be an asset against the Rams.
With the game likely to be extremely tight, the difference could be provided in special teams and the Chiefs may feel they have the edge through kicker Harrison Butker, who has made 16 of 17 attempts this season – his only miss being from beyond 50 yards.
For the Rams, it could be time to utilise Pharoh Cooper on kick return after he became eligible to return from injured reserve. However, it is likely that JoJo Natson will remain as the primary option in punt return.
A crucial first-quarter
A strong start from the Chiefs could create problems for the Rams, as statistics from the first-quarter of matches this season do not favour Los Angeles – who have a deficit of 65-58 in first-quarter scoring this term.
In comparison, the Chiefs hold an astronomical 92-36 advantage on first-quarter scoring this season and the challenge for the Rams will be keeping Kansas City quiet during the opening exchanges. If they don’t, then a similar defeat to the one endured against the Saints could be on the cards.