Chiefs, Saints meet with Super Bowl-sized expectations
The Kansas City Chiefs sit alone atop the AFC.
The New Orleans Saints are tied for the best record in the NFC, tough they sit as the No. 2 seed because of an early-season loss to Green Bay.
The Chiefs (12-1) have clinched their fifth consecutive AFC West title and the host Saints (10-3) are on the verge of clinching their fourth consecutive NFC South title as the two teams meet in one of the marquee match-ups of the regular season, and a potential Super Bowl preview, Sunday.
The game will take on even more glamour if Saints quarterback Drew Brees can return from injured reserve to face Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champions.
“Hopefully I get to go up against him,” Mahomes said of Brees. “but if not, hopefully we’ll get to face him some other time.”
Brees, who has missed the last four games because of rib and lung injuries, was designated to return to practice by the Saints on Wednesday.
That means Brees can practice with the team and is eligible to come off of injured reserve any time during the next three weeks. But he won’t appear on the practice report until he is activated, and whether he is able to return against the Chiefs likely will be determined later in the week.
“He’s got a ways to go still, and he’s someone we’re not going to just hurry back and just put him in the game,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I think the significance of the injuries are such that you’ve got to make sure he can function and feel confident.”
The Saints’ surprising 24-21 loss at Philadelphia last week was their first loss with Taysom Hill starting in Brees’ place. That lost ended New Orleans’ nine-game winning streak, leaving Kansas City’s eight-game winning streak as the longest in the NFL.
Mahomes is the leading passer in the NFL and he had his sixth consecutive 300-yard game in a 33-27 victory at Miami last week, giving him a league-high nine games this season in which he’s reached that mark.
He could face strong pressure from the Saints No. 2-rated defense, which is tied for seventh with 36 sacks. All-Pro tackle Mitchell Schwartz (back) has not returned from injured reserve and the two tackles who have been starting in his absence — Eric Fisher and Mike Remmers — both missed practice Wednesday because of back issues.
Travis Kelce is 127 receiving yards short of the NFL single-season record for a tight end. He leads the NFL with 1,250 yards and could become the first tight end to lead the league in receiving yards.
Multi-purpose wide receiver Tyreek Hill leads the NFL with 16 touchdowns and the Chiefs also have a dynamic running back tandem in LeVeon Bell and rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
“We’ve got some explosive players,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. “I’ve always said there’s one ball and we try to spread it around as best we can.”
New Orleans had not allowed an individual to rush for 100 yards in an NFL-record 55 consecutive games until the Eagles had two 100-yard rushers in Miles Sanders (115) and Jalen Hurts (106).
“Obviously when you give up 240 yards rushing there aren’t a lot of things you did well,” Payton said.
This will be the Saints’ first home game after a three-game road trip, though the number of spectators will be limited to 3,000 for what otherwise would be a playoff atmosphere for a game featuring two heavyweights in mid-December.
The Saints can clinch their division title by beating the Chiefs or if Tampa Bay loses to Atlanta.
–Field Level Media