It seems like a long time ago since the Patriots were one of the last two undefeated teams in the league. As great as the Pats looked as they went 10-0, they’ve looked that suspect as they petered out with two wins in the last six weeks. Injuries have ravaged the team; losing Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and a slew of running backs and offensive lineman for significant stretches have led them to beating just one team with a winning record over the past two months. Sure the team still has Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (although Brady hurt his ankle in the final regular season game against the Dolphins), but how many times can the Patriots re-invent themselves and beat their opponent?
Kansas City Overview
How much can I really take from their drubbing of the Houston Texans? You could have locked Houston in Reliant stadium and they would have imploded just the same. After Brian Hoyer did his best Jake Delhomme impression, the Chiefs picked up the pieces and accepted the gift of the playoff game. I could give you the statistics from the contest, but the five turnovers Houston committed would make any conclusions drawn from it as useless as their possession turned out to be. One thing is for certain, after all the hype the Texans defense and Watt received, the Chiefs defense was the true the star of the show Saturday.
The last time these two teams met was last season, and the game ended up being a 41-14 beatdown of the Patriots. New England left Kansas City 2-2 and to hear the media tell it, the sky was falling in Foxboro. Obviously, things improved for the eventual Super Bowl champions, but the blueprint for this game will be similar; pressure Tom Brady into turnovers (he had three in their meeting), limit their own (zero), and control the clock (KC won the time of possession by nearly 13 minutes).
|Gronk will have some competition at the Tight End position with Kelce on the field|
New England Offense vs Kansas City Defense
This is by far the most intriguing matchup of the game, and the winner of this battle will likely win the game. Even with all of the injuries and the game of musical chairs they’ve played at the offensive line positions, (according to pro-football-reference.com) New England’s offense ranked 3rd in points per game. Even without either of their starting running backs (Dion Lewis and LaGarrette Blount were lost for the year earlier in the season), the addition of Edelman should at least help the passing game resemble earlier this season—the 253 yards of passing put up against the Titans is the highest in their last four games. The recent acquisition of running back Steven Jackson (primarily to help in pass protection and short yardage) notwithstanding, this unit’s production rests on Brady’s shoulders.
If it weren’t for the revolving door at the running back position and the players playing out of position on the offensive line, perhaps the Chiefs would be susceptible to the Pats’ run game. While Kansas City is top ten in yards allowed per game on the ground, they are closer to the middle of the pack in yards per rush allowed. The Chiefs pass coverage, however, is anything but mediocre; they are second in interceptions, fourth in sacks, and fourth in net yards allowed per pass attempt. In summation, they are beasts when the ball is in the air. Between safety Eric berry and corner Shaun Smith, the Chiefs are talented enough in the back end to make throwing the ball extremely difficult for the future Hall-of-famer Brady.
KC offense vs New England defense
As dominant as the KC defense can be, the offense is based on the premise of limiting mistakes (2nd fewest in the League), and using their League-best starting position to score just enough points to win games. Alex Smith has been more aggressive in his throwing, averaging more pass yards per attempt than at any other time in his Chiefs’ tenure. Unfortunately, his deep threat, Jeremy Maclin, is listed as “questionable” with an ankle injury. Their running back duo of Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West has helped to amass 144 yards per game since October 25 when they took over the duties for injured running back Jamaal Charles. If the Chiefs are missing their top wide receiver, expect the duo’s run game to be supplemented by
sneaky athletic Alex Smith designed runs and scrambles.
New England’s defense last season was stacked with stars at every level. This season, the front seven, bolstered by players returning from injury and the draft, carried the heavy load for the unit. Despite giving up nearly the identical number of points per game, the three of the top four defensive backs left in free agency and the pass defense suffered. With Maclin’s injury, their most glaring weakness may be covered; if they can keep KC’s talented tight end Travis Kelce from making big plays down the field, they should be able to hold the Chiefs’ offense in check.
Outcome:Due to injuries, both defenses are well-suited to stop the opposing offense. I expect a low scoring affair, Pats 20-13.
Line: NE -5