By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots (6-3) are coming off of a 37-16 away victory against the Jets, and are back in action on Monday Night Football to face the Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) at Gillette Stadium. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live today on WCVB Channel 5 at 8:30 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
The Chiefs are coming off of a 17-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, and will be coming to Gillette Stadium without their starting quarterback Matt Cassel who is injured. They will be starting Tyler Palko who has thrown just 13 NFL passes. However, this is a homecoming for former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who is in charge of the Chiefs defense, and should have his team ready to go.
On defense, this unit does have some talent, and has been under-performing this season. On the defensive line you have Kelly Gregg at nose-tackle, and Glenn Dorsey has the potential to be an impressive defensive end in the league.
The player to watch on this defense is Tamba Hali at outside linebacker. He already has 6 sacks, and can really get after the quarterback.
Overall, the defense tends to play very vanilla with the infamous “bend but don’t break” philosophy in keeping the play in front of you, and making the opposition work down the field. They are decent against the pass as they are ranked 14th, but they are vulnerable against the run as they are currently 27th in the NFL.
On offense, the Chiefs can certainly run the ball as they are currently 9th in the NFL. They have a trio running backs to deal with in Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster and Jackie Battle.
They do have two accomplished wide receivers in Steve Breaston and Dwayne Bowe. The latter wideout is a star, and currently has 41 receptions for 663 yards.
The wildcard in this game has to be quarterback Tyler Palko. The former University of Pittsburgh player has bounced around the league, and gets a great opportunity to show what he can do against the Patriots.
The Chiefs are definitely challenged on offense, but with Crennel running the defense, this game could be closer than most think. Honestly, the Patriots should be able to pull away, but it might take a while to really get going.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots really need to stop the run on defense. With the Chiefs starting a back-up quarterback, I think there is a a good chance that they will run the ball very frequently. The Chiefs average over 124 yards per game. I expect to see a good amount of their 3 backs getting the ball and sharing the carries.
I feel the Chiefs will play conservative, and try to eat the clock with running the ball. The Patriots have done a decent job this season against the run as they are currently 13th in the NFL. They will need to really up their game somewhat against the Chiefs.
2. The front four needs to put pressure on quarterback Tyler Palko. Conventional wisdom might be to blitz often and force Palko into making mistakes. I think the Patriots with their issues in the secondary are better off rushing the line, and dropping 7 into coverage. I think the defensive ends should be able to put enough pressure on Palko.
Maybe this is an opportunity to disguise coverages, and see if Palko makes mistakes that way? They do have accomplished wide receivers, and I would respect them by putting more players into coverage. The Patriots defense needs to make Palko work his way down the field.
3. This is the game for Benjarvus Green-Ellis to really run the ball. The Patriots running game has been slowed down recently, and this is an opponent to get it started up once again. Playing against the 27th ranked rush defense is an opportunity to really establish the run, which should open up the passing game more.
4. Both tight ends need to establish themselves in the middle of the field. With the Cheifs playing a 3-4 defense, the Patriots might find openings for Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in this game. The Chiefs might be able to take away one of these players, but the other tight end should have plenty of opportunities against this defense.
5. The offense should use the “hurry up” to change the pace of the game. I expect Crennel to have his defense ready, so I think the “hurry up” can be used to speed the game up, and get the Patriots in rhythm. When the situation presents itself in the game, I hope the Patriots use it to their advantage, and get the defense on their heels.
This is a game the Patriots should win if they play up to their capability. However, as stated earlier, this could be a struggle early in the game, but I see the Patriots pulling away in the second half. I am predicting a 24-10 Patriots victory against the Chiefs.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.