Breaking down how the Rams (3-7) and the Kansas City Chiefs (8-2) match up heading into their game at 1:25 p.m. PST on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The game will be shown on Fox (Ch. 11) and streamed on NFL+.
When Rams have the ball
With quarterback Matthew Stafford in the concussion protocol, Bryce Perkins will start for the first time. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Perkins presents a dual threat. In last week’s 27-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints, he led two field-goal drives. He has completed six of 11 passes for 61 yards, and has rushed for 43 yards.
Perkins will not have the luxury of a full receiver corps. Star Cooper Kupp is on injured reserve because of an ankle injury. Tight end Tyler Higbee (knee) and receiver Allen Robinson (ankle) are questionable but expected to play. Second-year pro Tutu Atwell scored his first NFL touchdown last week on a 62-yard pass play.
In the wake of the Rams releasing Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers and rookie Kyren Williams are the top running backs. Perkins and the backs will be operating behind an injury-ravaged offensive line. With left tackle Ty Nsekhe questionable because of an ankle injury, rookie A.J. Arcuri could become the fourth player to start at the position this season.
Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones has a team-best nine sacks, outside linebacker Carlos Dunlap four and end Frank Clark three. Linebacker Nick Bolton is the top tackler and has intercepted a pass.
When Chiefs have the ball
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes leads the NFL’s top scoring and passing offense. Mahomes has passed for 28 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He also has rushed for a touchdown.
Tight end Travis Kelce is Mahomes’ favorite target. Kelce has 69 catches for 855 yards and a league-best 11 touchdowns. Receiver Mecole Hardman is on injured reserve and receiver Kadarius Toney is out because of a hamstring injury, but Mahomes has plenty of other weapons. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who returns after sitting out a game because of a concussion, has 46 catches, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 27.
Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has rushed for three touchdowns and also has three touchdown receptions. Isiah Pacheco averages 5.1 yards per carry.
The Rams have forced only one turnover in the last eight games, none in the last four.
Defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Saints, so Greg Gaines and Marquise Copeland will be counted on even more to help perennial All-Pro Aaron Donald. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd has come alive of late with five sacks in the last four games, including two against the Saints. Michael Hoecht could play as an outside linebacker in rotation with Terrell Lewis.
When they kick
Rams placekicker Matt Gay, a 2021 Pro Bowl selection and pending unrestricted free agent, has made 14 of 15 field-goal attempts. Punter Riley Dixon has averaged 41 yards per kick.
Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker has made eight of 11 field-goal attempts. Tommy Townsend has averaged a league-best 46.4 yards per punt.
Gary Klein’s prediction: As a two-touchdown underdog, the Rams are positioned to take some chances. But it won’t change the outcome against Mahomes, who won’t require a last-minute drive to beat the Rams.
CHIEFS 31, RAMS 13
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.