By: Brady Gardner
When the NFL regular season schedule came out earlier this year, every fan’s eyes were immediately drawn to a certain Week 11 matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Two of the league’s best young quarterbacks, two of the league’s coaching masterminds, and two of the league’s most prolific offenses squaring off on primetime TV. It was a game tailor-made for fantasy football junkies and traditional enthusiasts alike.
With the game now in the rear view mirror, I think it’s safe to say that this game did not disappoint. 105 points and 1,001 yards of offense tells the whole story – it was a game jam-packed with eye-popping plays resulting in outrageous numbers, keeping viewers glued to their seats in living rooms across the nation. After the Rams beat the Chiefs 54-51, the entire football world was wondering just when we would see a game like this again.
As I’ve covered in previous columns already this season, the NFL is trending in a very offensive-friendly way. However, there are really only two teams in the league that can put together the performances we witnessed on Monday night. These teams feature unmatched combinations of deadly mobile quarterbacks, elusive backs, explosive receivers, and potent defenses, and having these clubs on the same field made for a game unlike any other conceivable matchup in the league. So when, if at all, will we see these teams face off again?
From Week 1, many NFL aficionados have predicted the Chiefs and Rams to meet in Super Bowl 53 this upcoming February. This would be the earliest possible rematch of this fixture, coming in dramatic fashion on the biggest stage in American sports. Looking at the personnel on each side, it’s a logical possibility; two balanced teams with a healthy dose of stars on each side, led by respected coaches along the sidelines. But there’s an X factor here – a real game-changer that could prevent a championship meeting between these two teams: experience.
Both teams are led by quarterbacks under the age of 25, both of which have less than three complete seasons under their belts in the NFL. In his first year as the starter for the Rams, Goff did enough to receive an invite to the Pro Bowl, but posted an underwhelming 259 yards and one touchdown in his lone playoff appearance.
Goff’s counterpart Patrick Mahomes is a year behind the Rams’ quarterback, becoming the starting quarterback this past September. While the sample size is small, Mahomes has shown a slight lack of discipline and execution down the stretch in significant games, both qualities that could trouble the young star once the playoffs begin.
Complementing these quarterbacks are a plethora of top-tier weapons, but players who are also inhibited by inexperience. Surrounding the 23-year old Mahomes are elite talents in Tyreek Hill, 24, and Kareem Hunt, 23. The most experienced member of the Chiefs’ primary attack is tight end Travis Kelce, but the 29-year-old has only caught one touchdown in four postseason appearances. Surrounding Goff on the Rams are Robert Woods, 26, Brandin Cooks, 25, and Todd Gurley, 24. While this is a slight improvement from the youth of the Chiefs, Woods and Gurley have played in only one playoff game each, and Cooks has participated in three, all coming last season as a part of the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl run.
On the sidelines, 32-year-old head coach Sean McVay is in just his second season with the Rams, with his first resulting in a disappointing loss in the Wild Card round. On the other side, Andy Reid has long been criticized for his struggles in the playoffs, holding an 11-13 postseason record despite developing feared teams during the regular season. These are two coaches in very different times in their careers, but both have yet to prove themselves in the postseason.
If these teams are going to get to the Super Bowl, the players will have to adapt quickly to playoff football, and their coaches will have to defy what is expected of them in the postseason. Regular season success is one thing, but knowing how to win in the playoffs is a completely different animal. These clubs will be competing for Super Bowl spots with the likes of the Saints, Patriots, and Steelers, all of which have proven their abilities to win games when the stakes are high.
So, will these teams be able to overcome their inexperience and meet in the Super Bowl?
My answer is no.