Week 8 Key Match Ups: Kansas City Chiefs

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won 23-13. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Smith vs. Third Down Defense

The Chiefs are among the worst teams in the league in converting on third down. The Lions defense is average on third down. This is going to decide the game. As I mentioned before, the Lions didn’t force a punt last week until the middle of the fourth quarter, only forcing two punts the entire game. They also committed a penalty on a third down that resulted in a Minnesota touchdown. Against Chicago, the Lions stopped 8 of Chicago’s 14 third downs, but they also turned the ball over twice on Chicago punts. The Lions need to keep the Chiefs offense on the sideline.

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The Chiefs should make it easier on the defense, having converted just 33% of their third downs to date. That’s after a good performance last week against Pittsburgh where they converted 9 of 16 third downs, their first good performance all season. Of those nine conversions, only two were beyond five yards and four of them required just a single yard to gain for the first down. That means the Lions need to keep the Chiefs out of 3rd-and-short scenarios.

Alex Smith is an extremely conservative quarterback. The Lions’ pass defense needs to take advantage of this. When we think about the amount of pressure that Stafford has been under this year, he’s been sacked 16 times, it pales in comparison to what Smith has faced. Smith has been sacked 26 times through seven games. That’s almost four sacks a game. While we’re comparing the two, Stafford has thrown 9 interceptions to Smith’s 3. And that’s really where the difference between these quarterbacks becomes apparent. Stafford isn’t afraid to throw some jump balls when his team is trailing. Smith will take the sack 9 times out of 10. Literally (26 times out of 29). That means the Lions should be able to play more aggressively and jump shorter routes because that is all Smith does.