Key Matchups: St Louis Rams at Kansas City Chiefs


Without question, last week’s victory against the Seattle Seahawks was a season-saving victory for the St Louis Rams. Not only did it bring the Rams back to .500 against the division, but with defeats for the 49ers, Falcons, Bears and Vikings, all of whom had their records weakened by AFC opponents, it was huge in the wider NFC playoff picture. With Arizona facing Philadelphia, the Seahawks travelling to Carolina and the 49ers enjoying their bye, week 8 represents a good chance for the Rams improve their record versus the rest of the NFC West. Standing in their way are the 3-3 Kansas City Chiefs, who will similarly see a home fixture against the Rams as a good opportunity to improve their standing in a division which contains the Denver Broncos and the surprisingly strong San Diego Chargers. Here RamblinFan looks at some of the key one-on-one matchups.


Featuring in this slot for the third consecutive week, Aaron Donald has been drawing praise from countless observers since coming into the starting lineup, and currently graded +15.5 by Pro Football Focus. Though Knile Davis is currently Kansas City’s leading rusher with 83 carries for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns, he currently grades -10.4 on PFF, last out of 77 backs in the league. Currently listed as probable to face the Rams after a concussion scare, Charles remains Kansas City’s biggest threat on the ground, finishing in the top four leading rushers in the league in the last two seasons. With the Chiefs sitting just inside the NFL’s top ten for total rushing, this is an aspect of the game the Rams will have to contain on Sunday. If Charles can be held as Marshawn Lynch was last week, it will be vital in moving St Louis towards a second consecutive victory.


One statistic the Rams will hope to put a dent in this Sunday is the Chiefs’ success in preventing a single rushing touchdown this season, with all eleven opponents’ visits to the end zone coming through the air. Against the Seahawks last week the Rams were run-heavy, with the ball being handed off 27 times compared to 21 passing plays. This was a much more manageable number of times Austin Davis was required to throw the football – thanks in part to the support from rookie Tre Mason. This year’s third round draft pick Mason looked sharp, explosive and eager to make the most of the opportunity to take a meaningful number of carries with the ability to get to the second level that has been missing in Zac Stacy’s play in the early weeks of the season. Highlighted by Bleacher Report this week for his role in the victory over the Seahawks, Mason will be hoping to again take the bulk of the workload in the running game. Trying to stop Mason will be impressive linebacker for Kansas City, Justin Houston. The two-time Pro-Bowler is the Chief’s highest graded defensive player by a mile according to Pro Football Focus, sitting at +17.4, third linebacker in the league behind only Terrell Suggs and Von Miller. This matchup has a crucial second facet, with Houston not only hoping to restrict Mason’s yardage on the ground, but also to get past his support in pass protection (currently graded -0.9) to get to Austin Davis and add to the seven sacks he already has on the year. Can Mason come out on top in both aspects?


Smith has been the stand-out defensive back for Kansas City this season. The former Miami Dolphin has been on the field for 378 defensive snaps, more than any other player on the Kansas City roster. He has also been thrown against more times (224) than any of his team-mates. Currently grading +4.4 in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus, Smith ranks as the second among cornerbacks in his division in terms of percentage of passes caught against his coverage, currently 54.3%. This last number is way off the overall completion percentage of St Louis Rams quarterback, Austin Davis, who is currently 9th in the league on a very respectable 66%. Famously described this week by Brett Favre as “the next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner”, Davis is having a season to remember even if the win-loss column does not read as Rams fans would like. As mentioned above, the Chiefs have only been conceding touchdowns through the air, albeit 4th in the league surrendering an average total of only 1.8 per game. If Davis can hurt Smith’s numbers and continue to complete passes when it counts, particularly with the deeper ball, the Rams stand a good chance of chalking up another win.