I’m siding with Kansas City plus 3½ on Monday night, and if this showdown is a sneak preview of the Super Bowl, let’s play two.
As you know, the game was moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum because of the bad field conditions in México City. But because the Rams were already training at altitude in Colorado when word of the change came down, they stayed there this week to complete preparations. They return Saturday to southern California, where many in the Rams organization have been dealing with the deadly wildfires.
The two key offensive players in this showdown are Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Rams running back Todd Gurley. Mahomes already has one jersey in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, because he became the first quarterback to throw 10 touchdown passes in his team’s first two games of a season. The son of a former major-league pitcher, Mahomes is already familiar with the big stage.
Mahomes also has some big contributors around him, including Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. In my opinion he has more playmakers than L.A.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff suffered a blow this week when talented, young wide receiver Cooper Kupp was lost for the season to a torn ACL. But everything the Rams do starts with Gurley. He is 12 shy of 1,000 rushing yards, and he has caught 40 passes for another 402 yards. In the Rams’ 36-31 win a week ago over Seattle, Gurley totaled 160 rushing and receiving yards. So how does Kansas City stop him? The Chiefs defense recently welcomed back linebacker Justin Houston, and he will be very important in containing Gurley.
The Rams defense features the best rush man in football in Aaron Donald, but the question is whether he can get to Mahomes. The Chiefs offensive line allowed only 12 sacks all season before last week, when the Cardinals got to Mahomes five times.
Which brings us to the Rams secondary. Marcus Peters was the scapegoat when the L.A. lost to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints 45-35 two weeks ago. Saints receiver Michael Thomas caught 12 passes for 211 yards with most of the catches coming against Peters.
The Rams are still without injured cornerback Aqib Talib, and Peters will be lining up against the team that dumped him last season. He clearly is not yet comfortable in Wade Phillips’ man-to-man defense – another advantage for the Chiefs.
Let’s make it Chiefs 33-28, let’s look forward to the rematch Feb. 3 in Atlanta, and remember, cashin’ tickets is what it’s all about.