I am personally connected to Peyton Manning. Yes, that Peyton Manning, future Hall-of-Famer and one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. I met and talked with his dad, Archie Manning, and because of the "Six degrees of separation" theory - whereby any person on Earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries - I'm connected to the Manning clan.
Nice theory to help my shameless name-dropping, but in this era of shameless social media, those degrees of separation are probably smaller. Yet, somehow, the Bears and Chiefs might be forever defined by their eight degrees of draft separation. Chicago chose Mitchell Trubisky No. 2 overall in the 2017 draft; Kansas City, you guessed it, took Patrick Mahomes eight picks later in the No. 10 spot. Using P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Statistics) we'll discover how much No. 8 separates these two teams.
Mahomes is a transcendent talent. Last season, his first starting at quarterback in the NFL, he passed for over 5,000 yards and threw 50 touchdowns. He performed a feat only one other person (2013 Peyton Manning: 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns) has ever accomplished in the history of the game. Conversely, Trubisky - who is in his third season starting for the Bears - has only thrown 48 touchdowns in his career. Ouch!
Entering Saturday, Mahomes is eighth in passing yards (3,606) and his 8.5 yards per pass attempt is third in the league. Trubisky, on the other hand, is 23rd in passing (2,774 yards) and his 6.2 yards per pass attempt ranks 30th overall. There is a lot that separates these two players, but what probably widens the gap is the amount of explosive plays generated within the offenses.
Explosive, big-play passes are considered to be 25+ yards per attempt by NFL standards. The Chiefs' 40 big-play passes rank second league-wide, with Mahomes accounting for 32 of those. On the other hand, the Bears are 24th in the league with 23 explosive pass plays (Trubisky taking part in 19). The fact that the three top rushing teams in the NFL all have more explosive passing plays than the Bears (Ravens - 25; 49ers - 33; Seahawks - 25) adds context to Chicago's struggling offense this season. For these chunk plays to have success, the receivers targeted must be capable and productive, too.
Between the two teams, Bears wideout Allen Robinson is the most targeted receiver. His 130 targets are eight more than the Chiefs' top receiver, tight end Travis Kelce (122). Robinson also has nine big-play receptions to his credit, one more than the eight chunk receptions by Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill. Close behind Hill in explosive plays are his teammates, Kelce and fellow wideout Mecole Hardman, each with seven big plays to their name.
Both teams show a quick-strike ability to attack downfield, so having a defensive deterrent to limit each teams' scoring punch is necessary. The Bears are eighth in the NFL in yards allowed, giving up 324 per game, and eighth in preventing third down conversions at a 34.9 percent rate. They're even better at home, where they allow only 31.6 percent of third downs to be converted.
On the season, the Bears have eight interceptions and have recovered eight fumbles. However, the Chiefs rank eighth in takeaway differential (+7) because they've forced 21 turnovers while only surrendering the ball 14 times.
Unfortunately for Chicago, they are eighth-worst in sack percentage at 5.7 percent and trail the Chiefs, who are sacking teams at a 7.2 percent rate. Kansas City has collected 39 sacks in the process, while Chicago is eight behind with only 31 sacks on the year. Believe it or not, the Bears have actually run eight more plays (908) than the Chiefs (900). The fact that the Chiefs are the fourth-highest scoring team (28.1 ppg) and the Bears are the seventh worst (18.3 ppg), makes efficiency with each offensive possession key to winning Sunday night.
The Bears are 7-5 against the Chiefs all-time. A victory Sunday will, ironically, be No. 8 for the Bears this season, as well as the overall lifetime series between the two franchises. Matt Nagy has the same record (19-11) as Chiefs head coach Andy Reid had after his first 30 regular season NFL games coached. If Nagy is going to improve upon his +8 career victory total on Sunday, he'll have to outduel his former mentor by creatively doing these few things:
● Score early and often in the first half. The Bears only average 8.4 points in the first half of home games. Conversely, the Chiefs average 18.1 points on the road in the first half.
● The Bears' defense must continue to limit opponents' passing touchdown percentage. They currently rank eighth at 51.7 percent
● Nagy and Trubisky must be their best "selves" and not get caught up in the comparisons to Reid's and Mahomes' successful careers to date.
Hopefully for the Bears, Nagy won't suffer from separation anxiety as he faces off against his former boss. Plenty of years coaching together will forever connect him and Reid, but come kick off, Nagy will have his opportunity to separate from the shadow of his mentor.
Bear PAWS: Escaping the shadow of the past vs. the Chiefs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago