Five things to watch: Chiefs at Lions
Measuring stick. Statement game. Biggest early season Lions game in years.
Pick your favorite media-created narrative and strap yourself in.
Kansas City Chiefs fans are looking for Patrick Mahomes to take them all the way to the Super Bowl.
But Lions fans are wondering which of two truths will prove most true about Detroit: 1.) This is a flawed team that has played very poorly at times in all three games, or 2.) The Lions are undefeated and are showing signs of being a team that makes plays at winning time.
It’s the ultimate house money game. Even with a loss, the Lions will go into the bye week at 2-1-1 and in decent shape one quarter through the season.
With a win, well … maybe it’s time to start dreaming.
Here are five things to watch Sunday when the Lions play host to the Chiefs (1 p.m., Fox/WJR 760):
1. Patrick Mahomes
We’ll keep the first one simple. You might want to get there early to watch his awe-inspiring warmup and keep your eyes fixed on him even when you think the play is doomed.
As an AFC player, Mahomes won’t come to Detroit much in his career. Peyton Manning played at Ford Field twice in 17 years. Tom Brady has played four regular-season games in Detroit in 20 seasons, including his four-pass career debut in 2000.
These chances don’t come around very often.
2. Playing it safe?
I asked Matt Patricia this week if having the bye week coming up next might impact how he approaches injuries this week against Kansas City. Shockingly, the Lions coach didn’t say anything illuminating.
But will the week off entice the Lions to sit banged-up players like Darius Slay and Danny Amendola, and give them an extra week to heal?
Or — gasp — is there a chance quarterback Matthew Stafford sits out a game that’s certainly not must-win, and rests his injured hip?
3. Coming together
The Kansas City defense doesn’t need to be great. In fact, average could be enough to lift Lombardi.
But under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, new players like Michigan's Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Ogbah, Damien Wilson, Breeland Bachard and Tyrann Mathieu could start getting comfortable four games into their KC careers.
If any of those players can establish themselves as playmakers this weekend, a new narrative could start to form around the embattled unit.
4. Get it rolling
The Lions need to get the ground game going to keep Mahomes off the field. Yards could be out there against the Chiefs, but the Lions offensive line has struggled to open holes — Kerryon Johnson is getting just 2.6 yards per carry this season.
Detroit's coaches and offensive line all swear they're primed for a breakout rushing the ball. It’s time to make it happen.
5. Banging the Chiefs
According to the Action Network, the Chiefs are the most lopsided bet of the weekend NFL slate, with 82% of public bettors willing to lay seven points and take Kansas City.
The Chiefs are 3-0 against the spread this year, despite Las Vegas knowing all about the high-octane offense.
Will this be the week the oddsmakers catch up to Mahomes, and set a number so high that even he can’t reach it?
Many are betting not.
Chiefs at Lions
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
Records: Lions 2-0-1, Chiefs 3-0
Line: Chiefs by 6½
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.