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GIANTS (2-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-4)
Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Spread: Chiefs, -10
The entire NFL is looking to Kansas City wondering what’s wrong with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. After two straight trips to the Super Bowl and three straight to the AFC championship game, they seemed like they were destined for another deep run.
Now they might miss the playoffs instead?
It seems unthinkable and a little unbelievable. In fact, Giants head coach Joe Judge doesn’t seem to believe it at all.
“I think it’s a foolish narrative for us to buy into,” Judge said, “if we think this team isn’t as good as they are.”
Does he have a point? Well, consider that the Chiefs’ four losses have come to the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans – teams that are all 4-2 or 5-2 and possible Super Bowl contenders. And consider that for all their supposed offensive struggles, they’re still the NFL’s No. 3 offense and are averaging nearly 27 points per game.
So what’s the problem? There are a couple. One is that the defense, coached by old Giants friend Steve Spagnuolo, isn’t very good. The Chiefs are giving up 404.6 yards and 29 points per game, which is basically undoing everything their offense does.
And while Mahomes is still an incredible quarterback who has thrown 18 touchdown passes, and has his usual array of weapons including tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill, he also is tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions.
He had 11 total over the previous two years.
What that means for the Giants, though, is unclear. In theory, if their defense was any good, they could take advantage of a quarterback who is suddenly turnover prone. But the best way to do that would be to pressure him to force those mistakes.
And until a surprising appearance last week against a banged up Carolina Panthers offensive line, the Giants’ pass rush has been mostly nonexistent. And don’t forget, pressure alone isn’t always enough against a quarterback who is dangerous outside of the pocket like Mahomes.
So assume the Chiefs’ offense, especially at home in one of the toughest stadiums in the league for a road team, is still dangerous. That gives Judge and the Giants a very interesting choice:
“There’s that element of ‘Do you try to play four corners basketball and just keep the ball out of their hands?’” Judge said. “(Or) ‘Do you try to go out there and do everything you can to roll the dice, take shots and just try to match points for points?’”
And there’s the Giants problem. With Saquon Barkley still out this week, the Giants don’t have the rushing attack to play “four corners basketball.” They can slow things down to a point, if they want, but it’s really not their best offensive game.
Their best game is to put the ball in the hands of quarterback Daniel Jones, like they’ve done more frequently recently, and let him use the weapons around him. Unfortunately for the Giants, they fall short there as well, with receiver Kenny Golladay out.
Taking the air out of the ball and hoping the Chiefs don’t put on an electric offensive show doesn’t seem like a winning strategy for the Giants – or any team, really. And unlike the Ravens, Chargers, and Bills, they don’t have the kind of offense that can keep pace, especially with so many key offensive players out. The Giants certainly hope that Jones can have one of those games and take advantage of what definitely is a vulnerable Chiefs defense.
But stopping the Chiefs' offense is just going to be too big of a problem for a defense that has been inconsistent and, more often than not, bad. Maybe, if Mahomes is off, the Giants can stay in the game longer than they would if Mahomes was on top of his game. But they still probably can’t stay close enough to have a real shot.