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Things to Watch for in Cardinals vs Chiefs Matchup

Can the Cardinals pull off an upset? Rejuvenation of David Johnson?

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals will face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday. Although the odds of winning are stacked against the Cardinals, that does not mean that they can’t pull off an upset. The Chiefs have one of the best aerial attacks in the NFL along with an improving defense. Patrick Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce has given almost every opponent they played nightmares. The Cardinals must finally show up and put up their best performance of the season. Offense, defense, and special teams need be at their best. They have to break free from their mediocrity.

Here are a few things to look forward to this Sunday:

David Johnson’s Return to Form or Failure

Johnson has not looked like his 2016 self, when he led the league in scrimmage yards. But expect Byron Leftwich to continue to include him in the receiving game. Chiefs have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL but that doesn’t guarantee him a productive game. The run game has to come alive and there is no better time to do it than this Sunday. The mental errors have to be reduced and he has to stop being so hard on himself. Run hard but play smart. Look for holes and don’t just run into the backs of the offensive linemen. He had the tendency of doing that a lot this season.

Cardinals’ Offensive Line vs Chiefs Front Seven

The Cardinals’ offensive line is the worst in the NFL and they’ll have to fend off Chris Jones, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston. The return of Justin Pugh will help but he can only do so much. His play has been inconsistent, along with the rest of the offensive linemen. D.J. Humphries needs to step up his game and show the Cardinals why he should be their franchise left tackle. The pass rush will be fierce and that will be trouble for Rosen. Keep Rosen upright and the Cardinals could pull off the upset.

Being Prepared for the Screen

The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to defending the screen. Kareem Hunt in space will eat any team alive and his inability to fumble the ball will pose a big challenge. The Cardinals need to prepare for the screen as they would do for the run. Be dominant up front and cover every player. The defensive tackles and linebackers must fill their gaps but be wary of the players around them. Because the Cardinals blitz the most in the NFL, the Chiefs will likely utilize the screen more often than they usually do.

Chandler Jones and Markus Golden vs Patrick Mahomes

The one thing that the Cardinals can’t allow is for Mahomes to scramble out of the pocket. He makes his biggest plays that way. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden have to prevent this from happening and set pressure off the edge. They have to contain Mahomes and give him as little time as possible. He makes too many big plays when given too much time. So long as he’s in bounds, he makes the impossible possible. If the Cardinals can’t get after the quarterback, they will be in for a very long day. Chiefs’ offensive tackles (Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz) are both having very solid seasons.

Patrick Peterson vs Tyreek Hill

The Cardinals will need to do more than just have Patrick Peterson following Tyreek Hill all day. We have seen what speedy receivers can do against the Cardinals. Peterson got beat on a slant route by Marquise Goodwin for a 55-yard touchdown a few weeks ago and would have been beat a second time had the ball not been under thrown. Goodwin and Hill are both very similar receivers. He has to have some safety help or, at the very least, put double coverage on Hill. Mahomes is not afraid to challenge NFL’s top cornerbacks so expect him to throw in Peterson’s direction a lot.

Expect a couple jet sweep calls and other end-around plays to utilize Hill’s speed. The Cardinals need to be prepared for this because one mistake will lead to a big gain by the Chiefs’ star receiver. They must not put Bene Benwikere against Hill. It could be his Julio Jones nightmare game all over again, where Jones torched him for 12 catches and 300 yards in 2016. It’ll be a tough challenge to contain Hill but it’s not impossible.

I’m just not sure how the Cardinals will be able to defend Travis Kelce. He has been unstoppable this season, along with the rest of his teammates.