Morning musings: 11 thoughts on the Week 11 matchup with Kansas City

1)   There are about 11 different ways to reinforce tonight as one of the most anticipated regular season games in NFL history. Here are a select few:

  • Second time in NFL history that two 9-1 teams collide (1977 – Broncos at Colts)
  • First time one-loss teams from different conferences meet in Week 11 or later.
  • Latest into a season that two teams averaging at least 33 points per game square off.
  • First – and it will go down in history as the only – regular season meeting between the Chiefs and the Rams at the Coliseum. Thank you, Shakira.

2)   Perhaps you're familiar with the Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man meme? That's Chiefs versus Rams. Surely these coaches must have felt as if they were looking in the mirror when formulating their strategies. ESPN Stats & Info offered one example: No other team uses play actions and screens more than the Rams and Chiefs. Therefore, success executing and defending against those designs figures to be paramount tonight. Kansas City has been one of the best defending those plays this season; unfortunately, Los Angeles has been among the worst.

3)   Sticking with defense, neither has done well enough against the run to warrant a Super Bowl billing. The Rams have allowed 5.2 yards per rush this season, worst in the NFL, and the Chiefs have allowed 5.1 yards per carry, third-worst. Both teams are allowing over three yards BEFORE first contact, according to ESPN Stats & Info, which is abysmal. Week 11 may come down to which defense can fit the run and tackle best.

4)   Perhaps you've noticed: The Rams have developed a nasty habit of falling behind early. The last three weeks, Seattle, New Orleans, and Green Bay have all scored touchdowns to open the game. And all three opponents held touchdown leads over the Rams after the first quarter. There may be more trouble ahead, as Kansas City holds a +56 first quarter differential this season (while Los Angeles sits in a -7 deficit in the opening quarter). The Chiefs have also scored 55 points on opening drives, far and away the most in football in 2018.

5) How about more encouraging trends? The Rams are 3-0 in prime time under Sean McVay (averaging 37.3 points in those nationally televised games). And the second-year head coach is 7-0 against the AFC.

6) No question, Pat Mahomes is an MVP front-runner. But how will he operate with Aaron Donald rampaging through his office? The 23-year-old Chiefs quarterback has the best passer rating in the NFL from a clean pocket (140.5). However, according to PFF, it dips to a mediocre 64.6 when he's under duress. Good thing for the Rams, Donald leads all defenders in QB pressures.

7) With Travis Kelce in town, this nugget from ESPN Stats & Info caught me off-guard: The Rams have allowed opponents to complete just 59% of attempts to tight ends, the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL. My memory must be skewed by seeing Jared Cook and George Kittle (among others) up close this season. As it turns out, the Rams are defending tight ends quite well, which is encouraging as they play host to one of the game's best.

8) How much will Jared Goff miss Cooper Kupp? The second-year receiver was the Rams favorite red zone target, a trusted third down option, and part of the most prolific receiving trio in 2018. Goff's season-lows in almost every metric have one thing in common: the absence of Kupp in that game. Another Ram who could suffer? Brandin Cooks. The four games that Kupp has missed all-or-part of in 2018 just happen to be the four least productive games of Cooks' tenure in Los Angeles. (Note: Cooks was knocked out of Week 5 in Seattle, along with Kupp.)

Check out photos of the Rams taking on the Kansas City Chiefs through the years.

9) Speaking of receivers, ESPN Stats & Info tells us that Goff has completed 71% of his attempts to his wide receivers this season, top three in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Kansas City secondary has allowed the lowest completion percentage to wide receivers in the NFL (57%). Perhaps tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett will continue to emerge in LA's passing attack.

10) The Chiefs present arguably the most potent edge rush in the league with Justin Houston and Dee Ford at outside linebacker. Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein bracket the Rams offensive line, each with Top 10 PFF grades this season, due in large part to their ability to erase pass rush. It will be strength against strength tonight.

11) After their most penalty-plagued contest of the season, at home against Seattle in Week 10, much of the conversation around the Rams this week has centered around eliminating the self-inflicted mistakes. Even after having 10 flags accepted against them for 102 yards against the Seahawks, the Rams are still among the least-penalized teams in the NFL (4th at 5.5 per game). The Chiefs are the most penalized. On what figures to be an intense and emotional night at the Coliseum, could discipline prevail?

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