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What to watch for in Chiefs-Rams on 'MNF'

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You've probably heard about it by now, but in case you don't have anything invested in professional football and just stumbled onto this page, welcome! This is NFL.com, home of the National Football League, I'm Nick Shook and I'm here to tell you about an important football game.

It's between the two of the three best teams in the NFL according to overall win-loss record: The Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) and the Los Angeles Rams (9-1). Each are defending divison champions, and each lost in upset fashion early in the playoffs last year, returning in 2018 with eyes on redemption and more.

They've played like it all season, tearing through opponents and squeaking past the peskiest of challengers. They've each only suffered one setback, and they're each a favorite to win their respective conferences.

They meet Monday night.

If that wasn't enough, here are five reasons why you should watch the game on Monday Night Football.

1. It's the game of the year!


This is not hyperbole. Consider the numbers below:

The Chiefs and Rams rank third or better in each of these four major offensive categories: wins (tied for first), points per game (Chiefs rank second, Rams third), total yards per game (Rams rank second, Chiefs third) and point differential (Chiefs rank first, Rams second). Their meeting is tied for the fifth-highest combined win percentage between teams in any NFL game played in Week 10 or later since 1970. This century has only seen two games with a better combined win percentage: 2013's Broncos at Chiefs game, and 2007's Cowboys at Packers contest.

Equally as juicy: Each team has just one loss, and each of those losses came to teams directly threatening them for the crowns of their respective conferences. Kansas City fell to New England in a Sunday night thriller, and the Rams lost to the Saints in an exciting meeting down in New Orleans. And this is just the fourth game between 9-1 or better teams since 1970.

Let's also add in the unexpected layer of the game being moved from Mexico City to the home of the Rams in Los Angeles due to unplayable field conditions at Estadio Azteca. Chiefs fans will complain about the Rams gaining an unfair advantage, but it was the Rams who sacrificed a home game to play in Mexico City. Emotions are already high. Supremacy (or really, the ability to claim it) is on the line.

2. MVP heavyweights meet


They won't face each other directly, seeing as they're both offensive players, but for at least a few weeks now the debate for the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award has centered on two candidates: Todd Gurley and Patrick Mahomes.

On one hand, you have the NFL's rushing leader in Gurley, who is also effective in the passing game, leading the league in scrimmage yards (1,390) and touchdowns (17). He's also just the fourth player in NFL history with one or more touchdowns in each of his team's first 10 games, making him literally about as valuable as possible.

On the other is Mahomes, the second-year offensive dynamo who does everything and does it well. Mahomes has engineered Andy Reid's offense well enough to earn it the aforementioned offensive marks -- plus the league lead in pass yards (3,150) and passing touchdowns (31) -- and thanks to the weapons with which he's working, nearly every team struggles to find ways to stop it no matter how deep into the season we get. The quarterback has a cannon for an arm, can throw on the run with accuracy rarely seen from a quarterback at any level and hasn't hit the rookie or second-year wall we've seen from young stars in the past.

This game's outcome -- and their performances within it -- are positioned to significantly impact this race as we begin the stretch run of the season.

3. Marcus Peters faces his former, now red-hot team


Marcus Peters was a phenom of sorts at corner for the Chiefs, a jewel of former GM John Dorsey's 2015 draft. An instant contributor, Peters was quickly elevated to the group of the league's best cornerbacks with seemingly infinite potential. Then 2017 arrived, and he had a meltdown in a late-season win over the Jets that included him returning to the field without his socks and later getting suspended.

Then, just a little under three years after his selection, Peters was traded by the Chiefs to the Rams, who were clearly going all-in on their current window of contention. Paired with fellow offseason acquisition Aqib Talib, Peters found a new home with a team that definitely wanted him -- but he hasn't had the best go of things lately.

Some of it is a question of how he's being used. For example, he was asked to press and run with the Saints' Michael Thomas in a Week 9 loss to New Orleans, and was rightly burned by Thomas for a clinching touchdown.

But this week presents an opportunity for Peters to get some revenge on the team that didn't want him anymore. It also presented a few chances for some bulletin board material, but neither side blinked in that arena. They'll keep in on the field, where Peters will face a challenge, whether it's in guarding Tyreek Hill or Sammy Watkins. And he'll get a chance to get the last laugh.

4. Chiefs' pass rush vs. Rams' premier line


One of Kansas City's recent strengths has been its ability to get to the quarterback. Led by linebacker Dee Ford, the Chiefs have averaged 3.5 sacks per game in their last four games, chopping down opposing points allowed from 28.7 per game to just 17. It's had a pronounced effect on how they're winning games, which early in the season was offensively reliant and has now balanced back out, bolstering their prospects against elite competition such as the Rams.

For the season, they're tied for first in sacks as a team, tied for fourth in QB hits and tied for eighth in takeaways. All but the last of those marks are better than the Rams, but they bring their own strength to the game: Their offensive line.

I tabbed the Rams as having the league's best offensive line at the midway point of the season a couple weeks ago, largely because they do a good job of keeping Jared Goff protected. The group, led by veteran Andrew Whitworth, had three of its five starting linemen ranked in the top 10 of Pro Football Focus' position grades among offensive linemen. If ever there were a group equipped to handle one of the league's hottest pass rushes, it's this one.

5. Familiar faces meet: Wade Phillips vs. Andy Reid


It's really a question of which high-powered offense is better, because along with the Saints and Patriots, these two teams are in direct contention for the league's best unit. They've combined to score 68.8 points per game this season, the most combined points per game entering a game in Week 10 or later in the Super Bowl era, which is 53 years old. That's a lot of time.

But within this matchup is a pair of wiley veterans wearing headsets: Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The two got rather chummy when Reid was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillips the head man in charge of the Dallas Cowboys, so this isn't something new. It's instead a matchup of a class of coaches who are becoming the old guard of the NFL, but have embraced new ideas.

Reid's offense employs all of the latest concepts, and Rams head coach Sean McVay's offense might be the only one that's more futuristic. Where Phillips fits in is stopping Reid's offense. He has a track record but hasn't seen this from a Reid team, ever.

He has 10 weeks of tape to study, but will have to be a step ahead of Reid, Mahomes and Co. to get the stop or three needed for the Rams to take a lead and hang onto it with their own prolific offense. And after the game, he'll shake hands with someone he's seen before. Whether that will include a smile is left to be decided on the field.

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