Andy Reid had no real incentive to announce his starting quarterback any sooner than necessary before Sunday’s kickoff. Competitive reasons, keep ’em guessing, all the normal subterfuge that NFL coaches employ in these situations.
Maybe the Kansas City Chiefs will start Patrick Mahomes, or maybe Matt Moore (wink, wink).
Reid announced midweek that he was monitoring the situation day by day, which possibly was an honest answer but was more likely his attempt to create enough uncertainty to force Mike Zimmer, his staff and Vikings defensive players to prepare for two vastly different scenarios.
One thing is certain: Preparing to face either Mahomes or Moore is like not knowing whether those dark clouds in the sky are going to produce mist or a gully washer. Both require steps to avoid getting wet, but only one creates a feeling of dread.
Reid listed Mahomes as questionable on the final injury report. His status likely won’t be made official until inactives are released 90 minutes before kickoff.
If the Chiefs ultimately decide to keep Mahomes sidelined for one more game while he recovers from a dislocated kneecap, the Vikings will catch a break. Which would be a bummer.
Not a bummer for Zimmer’s defense and the Vikings’ playoff prospects, of course, but what football fan on Earth would rather watch Moore over Mahomes based purely on entertainment value and artistry at that position?
Mahomes is one of the most electrifying players to enter the NFL in a long time. He is a transcendent talent who won league MVP honors last season at age 23. Moore is a journeyman who was plucked out of retirement in a pinch before the season.
To be fair, Moore handled himself capably last week against Green Bay in his first start since late in the 2017 season. He passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and a 107.1 passer rating in a 31-24 loss. He didn’t look rusty or out of place. But he’s also not Mahomes, who specializes in razzle dazzle.
“A lot of people make comparisons to [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers,” Vikings safety Harrison Smith said. “I can definitely see that. He’s really talented and creative.”
Creative best describes Mahomes’ sleight-of-hand style. He makes unorthodox throws that few, if any, other quarterbacks would even consider. He threw — and completed — a lefthanded pass against Denver last season. He’s not lefthanded. He throws no-look passes as if he were playing point guard and leading a fast break.
“He’s got a big arm,” Vikings safety Anthony Harris said. “He can buy time with his legs. Get out of the pocket, move around in the pocket. … You can’t take a play off just because you think he’s going to the other side of the field because he might throw back across. That’s just some of the different challenges that he poses.”
Mahomes’ creativity is accentuated by a group of skill players who look more like track stars. The Chiefs have two of the NFL’s fastest players in Tyreek Hill and rookie Mecole Hardman. Receiver Sammy Watkins is a speed burner, too. Not surprisingly, Kansas City leads the NFL in yards after catch.
“[Their speed] puts a lot of stress on you,” Zimmer said.
That won’t change whether the Vikings face Mahomes or Moore. Reid is a creative offensive architect who gets the ball to his sprinters in different ways to create mismatches.
This will be a matchup of strength vs. strength. The Vikings rank third in the NFL in scoring defense (16.5 points per game); the Chiefs are No. 4 in scoring offense (28.2). The matchup also involves two wise old play-callers and schemers in Zimmer and Reid matching wits.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes said the Chiefs’ formula is no mystery. They want to play 100 miles per hour with their abundance of speed.
“It’s nothing new to us,” he said. “Nothing new to [the media], nothing new to the NFL, nothing new to anyone, the fans, nothing. We all know what these guys can bring to the table.”
Except there is one unknown. Which quarterback will orchestrate their offense? That’s a fairly significant question hanging over the game.