Eagles-Chiefs player matchups to get excited about in Week 4

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Dealing with Chiefs’ skill players and more in Week 4 matchups to watch originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles (1-2) are hosting Andy Reid and the Chiefs (1-2) on Sunday afternoon at the Linc.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Patrick Mahomes vs. Jonathan Gannon

There’s no question that the Chiefs have a high-powered offense and that’s led by Mahomes, who is widely considered to be the best quarterback in the NFL. While the Chiefs are sitting at 1-2, Mahomes is off to a good start. He has completed 70% of his passes for 940 yards with 9 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.

But the thing that makes Mahomes so difficult to defend is that no play is ever over and he has the ability to throw to anywhere on the field from anywhere on the field.

“I mean, he's really -- to me, I don't know what a generational quarterback is, but whatever that is, he probably is that,” Gannon said.

“What I think they do a really good job of is they make you defend -- everyone has heard, ‘every blade of grass.’ They really do. We have to understand that, and we have to do a good job of minimizing some of those explosive plays when he gets off schedule.

“When he starts moving around, and their verse, their guys do a good job of knowing how to get open, what spots to find, and he can be running this way on the numbers and throw it back over here where typically you'd be like, ‘He's never going to throw it over there.’ So, it's going to be a big challenge for us.”

Travis Kelce vs. Eagles’ safeties

The Eagles have another tough tight end to face to begin this season. They faced No. 4 pick Kyle Pitts in Week 1, George Kittle in Week 2 and now Kelce in Week 4. The crazy thing is the tight end that hurt them most so far was Dalton Schultz on Monday Night Football.

But Kelce is arguably the best tight end in the league and at 31 years old, he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down at all. Through three games, Kelce already has 20 catches for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns, on pace to have the best season of a career that will likely end in Canton. Kelce has been a Pro Bowler each of the last six years and is also a three-time All-Pro.

“He knows how to get open. He has a big catch radius. He's really good run after the catch, and he's smart,” Gannon said. “And he's got a quarterback that he's on the same page with. When you're defending a guy like that, you see a lot of times when we're looking at the tape and it's named a certain route concept, and you look at it and you're like, ‘No, that's not that concept.’ Well, it actually is, but then he's adjusting his route off the coverage.”

Last week, Schultz had some success against the Eagles’ linebackers. With Kelce, they’ll need a better plan to stop him.

Tyreek Hill vs. Eagles’ corners

There are some fast players in the NFL. And then there’s Hill.

So how do the Eagles try to stop him?

“Shoot, not let him go deep,” Darius Slay said.

Easier said than done. Since he entered the NFL in 2016, Hill leads the league in 40-plus-yard catches with 31. The next closest player has just 23. The Eagles in that same span have just 41 total as a team.

It seems like a big emphasis for Gannon’s defense to avoid giving up big plays. They’ve given up just two plays of 40+ this season. So it’ll be imperative for the Eagles to keep Hill in front of them, even after he catches the ball.

“You know he runs fast, he’s explosive,” Slay said. “Gotta have 11 hats on him, making sure everybody’s containing him, everybody’s running to the ball and everybody’s tackling him. He’s a great guy after the catch and great down the field. We gotta be good on all levels.”

Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard vs. Chris Jones

The significant change for the Chiefs on defense this season was moving two-time Pro Bowler Jones from his defensive tackle position to defensive end. The Chiefs hadn’t been getting a ton of production from their edge players, so now that’s where Jones plays most of his snaps.

For Johnson and Dillard, Jones will be a different kind of challenge than the one they saw last week with Micah Parsons for part of that game. They are really seeing the wide range of edge players in this league. Parsons (245 pounds) is a linebacker playing end and Jones (298 pounds) is a defensive tackle playing the same spot. One wins with speed, the other with power.

And it’s worth noting that Johnson appeared on the injury report this week with an ankle injury. He’s been dealing with that bad ankle since 2018 and if he has trouble anchoring in this game, it could be a tough matchup. Meanwhile, Dillard will make his second consecutive start in place of Jordan Mailata (knee).

Jalen Hurts vs. Tyrann Mathieu

Hurts is coming off one of the worst games of his young career on Monday night in Dallas. He really struggled to throw the ball accurately and missed another deep ball that was picked off.

If he doesn’t improve this week, it could be a problem because the Chiefs have Mathieu roaming the middle of the field. Mathieu missed the Chiefs’ Week 1 game but since returning has looked pretty good. He had two picks against Baltimore and returned one for a touchdown.

He’s just the type of player that you need to keep an eye on all game. Hurts has to know where he is at all times.

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