As the Kansas City Chiefs have fallen from the 5-0 juggernaut to the the 6-3 still pretty good team, it’s been the defense that has let the team down. The offense isn’t quite as high octane as it was to start the season, but the unit still ranks third in DVOA. On defense, Kansas City ranks 26th, though they’ve also faced the third toughest schedule of opposing offenses to this point. The Giants aren’t going to help that ranking at all, but there’s a few piece of the Chiefs defense the offense can look to exploit.
By the numbers
Rushing: 89.8 yards per game (25th), 4.1 yards per carry (17th)
Passing: 217.8 yards per game (18th), 6.2 yards per attempt (29th)
Total: 307.6 yards per game (25th), 26.85 yards per drive (24th)
Points: 16.7 points per game (t-28th), 1.38 points per drive (28th)
Rushing: 131.1 yards per game (29th), 4.8 yards per carry (31st)
Passing: 259.2 yards per game (28th), 7.5 yards per attempt (21st)
Total: 390.3 yards per game (30th), 36.97 yards per drive (31st)
Points: 23.1 points per game (t-19th), 2.12 points per drive (27th)
Unleashing Evan Engram
Well, yea, this is going to be at the top of the list when going against any defense. Engram has been great, but not exactly efficient. Despite his volume, Engram ranks just 24th in both DYAR and DVOA among tight ends per Football Outsiders. It’s hard for anything to really be efficient on this offense, but Engram’s usage could continue to be optimized through the remainder of the season.
Since Odell Beckham’s injury, the Giants have slowly turned Engram into more of a receiving threat. Through the first six weeks of the season, Engram had an average depth of target (aDOT) of 7.9, meaning Engram was on average 7.9 yards down the field when a pass went his way. Since Week 7, he’s has an aDOT of 9.4, which suggests the Giants are trying to get him the ball further down the field. Still, they could be more successful in doing so.
Late against the San Francisco 49ers, the Giants tried to hit Engram twice up the seam, but Eli Manning missed both throws. The first came with Engram as an inline tight end on the left side of the line, he ran straight up the seam, but the pass was overthrown.
The second came with Engram in the right slot. He ran past safety Eric Reid off the line, but the pass was behind Engram, which forced him to stop and adjust to the ball and also allowed Reid to get a hand up for a deflection.
These are the types of plays the Giants should be trying more often early in the game. Much of Engram’s work has been done on crossing routes, which get Engram into space, but more shots down the field could open up both the offense and more of Engram’s potential.
Kansas City ranks 15th in defensive DVOA against tight ends, so it’s not like the Giants will be able to have their way in that area. But getting some deep shots in early can create both big plays and open the underneath routes later in the game.
Getting the run game going
There, of course, is always a double-edged sword to the run game argument. Even when the run is working, it’s hard to stick with it if the offense is going to be in catch up mode all game. To this point in the season, the Giants have started each offensive drive trailing by an average of 4.95 points, which is 28th in the NFL. That’s not an environment set up to run the ball.
But if the Giants can keep the game close early, there’s some advantages that could be had on the ground because the Chiefs feature the league’s worst run defense by DVOA. It’s possible the Chiefs will try to sell out to stop the run early -- most opponents have against the Giants. Per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Orleans Darkwa has face an eight-man box or more on 45.68 percent of his rushing attempts this season, which is the fifth-highest rate in the league.
Next Gen Stats also show there’s been no more decisive or efficient runner, either. Darkwa has averaged 3.03 yards run for every positive yard gained, which is the best rate in the league. The Giants have turned into a fast downhill running team with Darkwa in the game and once a hole appears, Darkwa hits it. Last week against the 49ers, Darkwa had no runs for negative yards. Darkwa has rushed for zero or fewer yards on 17.3 percent of his carries this season and for five or more yards on 35.8 percent. Wayne Gallman has surprisingly been even better at 14.6 percent and 37.5 percent, respectively.
One thing the Giants shouldn’t try to do this week is get the running backs involved in the passing game. The Chiefs are first in DVOA against defending running backs through the air.
To avoid or not avoid Marcus Peters
Marcus Peters is viewed as one of the league’s best young cornerbacks. But unlike some of the other top-tier corners in the league, the Chiefs usually keep Peters on one side of the field. When teams are scared of testing Peters, it eliminates one side of the field for the offense and Kansas City’s defense can focus on the other two-thirds of the field. Kansas City’s other cornerback, Terrance Mitchell, is the league’s second-most targeted corner this season because of that strategy.
However, Peters hasn’t completely lived up to his lockdown reputation this season. Kansas City opponents don’t have a drastically different DVOA going away from Peters on the right side (3.1 percent, 21st) opposed to going at him on the left (minus-2.2 percent, 20th). Peters does have three interceptions, but his coverage has not been as tight as it was in past seasons. Last year, the Chiefs had the fourth-best defensive DVOA on the right side of the field (minus-21.2 percent).
Per Sports Info Solutions charting data, Peters currently ranks 63rd among 63 qualified corners in Success Rate (42 percent) and 45th in yards allowed per pass (7.8).
Stopping Justin Houston
This season, the Chiefs’ pass rush has mostly been a one-man show and that show has been pretty good. As a team, Kansas City ranks 12th in defensive pressure rate per Sports Info Solutions charting. Individually, Justin Houston ranks 13th among defenders in pass pressures with 23 and already has 7.5 sacks.
Houston typically lines up across from the right tackle and with Justin Pugh officially out again, that means one of the game’s best pass rushers will be squaring off against either Bobby Hart or Chad Wheeler, making his first NFL start. That’s not an ideal matchup for the Giants regardless of which tackle is out there.