The Kansas City Chiefs go on the road for the second week in a row as they take on the Seattle Seahawks Friday night in the third preseason game for both teams. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. CT.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid already said the plan was for his starters to play the first three quarters, but as we've seen over the first two preseason games and the plan heading into them—that can always change.
Last week, the Chiefs put together a solid performance against the Cincinnati Bengals—taking care of business in all three phases of the game and winning by a score of 30 to 12.
Here are five things to watch against the Seahawks:
- The preseason debuts for a few key veterans
The Chiefs saw the preseason debuts of All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce and defensive lineman Bennie Logan last week against the Bengals, and they both showed in their performances why they're so valuable heading into 2017.
Kelce caught a beautiful pass down the middle of the field from quarterback Alex Smith that resulted in a gain of 32 yards, while Logan helped stuff a Bengals rushing attack that finished the game averaging just 3.4 yards per carry.
This week, the Chiefs will see the trio of All-Pro safety Eric Berry, second-year defensive lineman Chris Jones and noted run-stuffer Roy Miller return to the field.
Berry had been dealing with a heel issue over the past couple of weeks, while Jones had offseason knee surgery and Miller is coming off an Achilles injury.
Berry, who was named the NFL's Top 100 list again this year—coming in at No. 13—has already proven to be one of the elite defensive players in the league, while Jones is one of the NFL's best young interior defensive lineman.
Jones had 42 quarterback pressures on 368 pass rushing snaps last year, which gave him a Pro Football Focus "pass rushing productivity" score of 9.4, which was the best of any 3-4 defensive end in the entire league. He's a blossoming star.
With a strong performance by the defense last week, the return of these three makes that group even better.
The Chiefs have high expectations in 2017, and these three, particularly Jones and Berry, are a huge part of that plan.
- Can Alex Smith stay hot?
Through two preseason games, quarterback Alex Smith is 12 of 15 for 131 yards and a touchdown. He has led the Chiefs' offense to points in each of his three drives this preseason (two touchdowns, one field goal).
After putting together what many consider his best training camp in five years with the Chiefs, Smith has carried that momentum over to the game field.
Smith's connection with Tyreek Hill, which was the biggest storyline of training camp offensively, was evident from the first play of the preseason—a 32-yard strike deep down the right sideline to Hill.
Furthermore, the game on Friday night will be the most extensive action Smith and the first-team offense will see before this group takes on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Thursday, September 7, to open the 2017 NFL season.
If Smith can put together another solid performance against the Seahawks, there will be plenty of momentum heading into one of the key matchups of the season for the Chiefs.
- Will the offensive line carry their momentum to this week?
Speaking of momentum, the Chiefs' offensive line will look to carryover their performance against the Bengals last week to the game Friday night against the Seahawks.
The group up front paved the way for a Chiefs' rushing attack that ran the ball 33 times for 228 yards, which was good for a 6.9 yards per carry average.
Led by right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who currently ranks as Pro Football Focus' No. 1-ranked guard after two preseason games, the Chiefs will face another challenge against a solid Seahawks defensive front.
It's a challenge they need as they prep for a Patriots defense that has been particularly dominant at home under head coach Bill Belichick.
- Crucial reps for key positional battles
With the NFL changing the rule that now allows teams to carry all 90 players through the fourth and final preseason game, the final roster spots are up for grabs with just two more games for these guys to make their cases.
The competition for the final spots on a team as deep and talented as the Chiefs have right now means tough decisions are coming, and the tie-breaker often comes on special teams.
"The backup guys—your tight ends, running backs, linebackers, secondary and wide receivers—you've got to be able to contribute (on special teams), that helps you make the club," Reid confirmed.
While the reps on offense and defense are important, the area to watch for guys making their cases is on special teams—that's where some of these guys will have to shine.
- The kicker spot has become a storyline
With kicker Cairo Santos (groin) already being ruled out for Friday's game, and the fact that Santos was limited in practice on Monday, and then didn't work Tuesday or Wednesday, the chances might be growing that Sam Ficken is the Chiefs' kicker by the time we get to that opener against the Patriots.
"We are still evaluating that," Chiefs' special teams coach Dave Toub said of Santos' injury. "We do not want to rush it. You know we want to make sure we are smart with this thing because it is a long season. We are still in preseason so we do not want to rush him. We are going to work with the doctors and the trainers with that and watch how he kicks.
"We have a guy and he is doing a good job for us."
Ficken, who was signed by the Chiefs back on August 8 after Santos hurt his groin during practice, is 2 of 2 so far this preseason—hitting a 45-yard field goal against the 49ers, and then a 23-yarder last week against the Bengals.
"He's a gamer," Toub added of Ficken. "He does a good job in the game. He missed an extra point and that was a high snap too, so (James) Winchester deserves some of the credit for that miss. Overall, he's not bad for a guy that was on the street. We brought seven guys in here and he was the best one. He's doing a good job."