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5 Questions with the Enemy: Tom Childs of Arrowhead Pride talks Chiefs - Bengals

We tap the insider knowledge of one of the lead contributors over at SB Nation’s Kansas City Chiefs site to get the inside scoop on this weekend’s big clash with the Bengals.

When Week 17 was released on the annual NFL calendar, thoughts of the No. 1 seed in the AFC would be at stake between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals. While that hasn’t come to pass right now, this game still has major playoff implications for both teams.

To get insight on the Kansas City Chiefs as they get set to host the Cincinnati Bengals, we asked Tom Childs at SB Nation’s Arrowhead Pride to get the skinny on the big matchup. Here’s our chat:

1.) AC: My first one is multi-pronged: Respected NFL film guru Greg Cosell recently noted how Patrick Mahomes isn’t doing the “second reaction throws” well, nor is he seeing the field the same as in years past. No. 1, do you agree with that sentiment? And, Nos. 2 and 3, is it more Mahomes or the supporting cast not pulling their weight in this regard?

TC: Yes, I think Patrick Mahomes has become a one-read-and-bail kind of quarterback of late. However, I do not believe that he’s been this way all season. To begin the season the Chiefs’ offensive line was holding up in pass protection, however, the wide receivers weren’t getting open.

These days the offensive line can’t hold protection for any longer than a couple of seconds and guess what, some of the wide receivers still can’t get open. Just look at what the Raiders did last week! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team play the Chiefs like the Raiders did. They challenged everyone to win early, knowing that the offensive line wouldn’t hold up and that the Chiefs had no real deep threat. It was an excellent plan that led to Mahomes’ worst game of his career in terms of EPA per drive.

This isn’t to say that Mahomes is blameless for the Chiefs’ offensive spiraling towards mediocrity at best. At times, he has made bad decisions and displayed the poor technique that many scouts were worried about when he was leaving Texas Tech.

2.) AC: Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a solid rookie year, but has fallen a bit out of favor since. He may have a higher profile role this week than he has in recent history, given the injury to Isiah Pacheco. How confident are you that, if he is the No. 1 back this week, he’ll show the trademark versatility that made him a first-round pick out of LSU?

TC: It seems that Isiah Pacheco will be good to go following the concussion last week. I just hope that a knee to the back of the head will finally be the reason for him to tighten up his chin strap. But even if Pacheco does go, I still expect Clyde to be heavily involved.

I’ll be honest here, I was a huge advocate for the Chiefs taking Clyde in the 2020 draft. As you mentioned, he was a versatile running back who looked like he could be the next in a long list of successful Chiefs running backs.

Unfortunately for Clyde, things have never really got going for him. Injuries have played their part, but it has been his lack of ability to make his mark, which has led to him falling down the depth chart during his first three years.

Now considered the RB3 behind Pacheco and McKinnon less is expected of him, which in turn has led to an upturn in performance. He has run with a purpose this year; he has seen openings in the run game; and of course, he has displayed those hands which he was famous for at LSU.

With a larger-than-normal workload to come and the Chiefs probably leaning on the run and screen game more, I think (ok, hope) Clyde could have a mini-breakout game.

(Authors note: I’ve just noticed CEH is questionable...)

3.) Taylor Swift aside, how would you gauge Travis Kelce’s year in 2023? He’s still way up there in receptions (90) and yards (968), but the yards per reception are down by nearly two yards from his pro average, and the touchdowns are way down from last year. Would you say he’s garnered more attention and picked up the slack for the inconsistencies at wide receiver, or is father time very slowly creeping up on the 11th-year tight end?!

Even with the stats, I think everyone will be in agreement that it has been a very frustrating season for Travis Kelce. And no, I don’t think it has anything to do with Taylor Swift.

With the receivers being as bad as they are, of course, there has been added expectation of Kelce. I mean, he’s Travis Kelce. You can argue that he and Mahomes are a top 5 duo of all time. If anyone can get the Chiefs out of their bad patch, then it must be those two right?

Wrong?

Just like everyone else on the Chiefs team, Kelce has been guilty of a lack of attention to detail. We’ve seen dropped passes, fumbles, and, more recently, offensive pass interference penalties.

The ability to get open is still there, and he seems healthy enough. Maybe just the accountability is missing with him just like everyone else.

4.) AC: A lot of the talk about the Chiefs and their offense has been about drops and underachievement. Whether or not that may or may not be true, who is a player on that side of the ball that has pleasantly surprised everyone?

TC: The only answer is Rashee Rice. There can be no one else. We’ve already discussed the issues of Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes, and the offensive line — plus everyone and their aunties know how bad Valdes-Scantling, Kadirius Toney, and Skyy Moore have been.

Perhaps the only other player that could be worth a mention is Noah Gray, but even in comparison to Rice, Gray’s contribution has been small.

If the Chiefs’ season is going to end in a disappointment (like I expect it to), then Rice and Gray will be the only redeeming parts of the Chiefs’ offense. It was obvious early on, that Rice was better than his peers, but annoyingly so, it took Andy Reid and Matt Nagy a little longer than the rest of us to work it out. But as Rice has impressed more and the other wide receivers have obliterated their reputations, the rookie’s recent snap counts have risen with every passing week.

His 811 yards and 7 touchdowns have been impressive enough. Imagine what the stat line would have been had he been afforded a bigger role earlier in the season.

5.) AC: DraftKings Sportsbook has this as the Chiefs +6.5 over the Bengals. How do you see this one playing out?

TC: Coming to Cincy Jungle once a season has been one of my favorite interactions over the last few years. Just like Ja’Marr Chase, I’ve enjoyed coming over here and leading with a bit of smack talk. Some of the readers of this will remember my ‘annoying little brother’ comment from last season — which led to a particularly enjoyable comments section. All part and parcel of a rivalry.

This matchup has none of that.

Neither of these teams are winning the Super Bowl. The Bengals won’t get through the AFC without Joe Burrow, while the Chiefs cannot dream of playing the Super Bowl with the offensive dross that they are currently putting on display.

Sunday’s game will demonstrate this.

I expect this game to be one of the uglier offensive games that I’ve watched, well since Christmas day. Lou Anarumo will once again have success against Mahomes — and the Chiefs defense will continue to be its incredible self.

(Author’s note: Incredible is not an exaggeration by the way.)

I think the Chiefs will just scrap through, but the Bengals will almost certainly cover. It certainly won’t be the classic that we’re so used to seeing between these two teams.

The real rivalry will have to resume next season.

Our thanks to Tom Childs and Arrowhead Pride for the chat. Go to their site to check out the other side of the conversation.