The Patriots head out to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City this week to take on the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs this Sunday. This is the second of three straight games against the AFC West and easily the most difficult.
After kind of sleepwalking their way through their first two wins, the Chiefs reminded everyone of why they won the Super Bowl last season and thumped the tough-talking Ravens who may have poked the bear with an easy win.
The Patriots can notch a signature win and shock the world with an upset victory but it isn’t going to be easy as the Chiefs are once again firing on all cylinders.
This week’s game will once again draw the top broadcast team of CBS on Sunday, October 4 at 4:25 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
The Patriots (2-1) won handily over the Raiders 36-20 as the running game amassed 250 yards on the ground. The defense forced three turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown. Rex Burkhead chipped in with a career-high three touchdowns.
The Chiefs (3-0) blew out the Ravens on Monday Night Football as Patrick Mahomes shredded the Baltimore defense completing 31-42 passes for 385 yards & 4 TDs and 0 INTs for a 133.5 QB rating while rushing for 26 yards & TD last week,
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2020 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
The Patriots and Chiefs are meeting for the 4th straight year and in KC for the first time in the regular season since the “they’re not good anymore” blowout win over NE on Monday Night Football in 2014. The teams used to meet twice a year in the old AFL days.
Overall the Chiefs hold a 19-14-3 edge over the Patriots since 1960. In games in KC, the Chiefs have dominated 11-3 overall and 5-1 in Arrowhead. Kansas City won last year over the Patriots in Gillette Stadium 23-16 in a rather low-scoring affair.
So, without further ado, here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Chiefs Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots running game is currently #1 (Numbah Wun) in the league averaging 178 yards per game. They’ve used a combination of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and J.J. Taylor, along with QB Cam Newton to keep legs fresh and vary the looks that opposing defenses are seeing. That’s the good news.
The better news is that it is possible that Damien Harris and James White both return this week. Harris was arguably the Patriots best back during training camp and seemed poised to wrest some starting snaps away from Sony Michel. He broke a pinkie on a fluke play in practice right before the opener and has returned to practice. White has been out because of the death of his father in a traffic accident. If they’re back and ready to go it would obviously aid the offense in a big way.
The Chiefs run defense is currently 27th in the league allowing 153 yards per game. But that, like the final numbers from MNF needs a closer look. On paper, it appeared the Chiefs were gashed (158 yards, 7.5-yards per rush) but in reality, that didn’t pass the eye test. Baltimore didn’t control the line of scrimmage and KC ensured that they kept the running game in check.
The Chiefs are much better in the middle than the team the Patriots gashed in the AFCCG in Arrowhead. However, I expect that they’ll try to attack the perimeter a bit more in this one. Having the Newton factor that they haven’t had in previous matchups should help the Patriots get some much-needed yardage and time of possession, limiting the chances for Mahomes in this one.
Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game is still very much a work in progress. The wide receivers were quiet after a big game in Seattle but much of that had more to do with Newton having an off-game rather than anything they did. Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Damiere Byrd will have to have big games if the team is going to keep pace with the Chiefs. They may get back Gunner Olszewski this week and he’d help out of the slot while they could move Edelman around.
The Chiefs’ secondary is already missing corner Bashaud Breeland who will serve the final game of his four-game suspension and is out. But they’ve also lost very promising rookie corner, L’Jarius Sneed, with a broken collarbone against the Ravens on Monday.
The 4th round pick has had an excellent first three games of his career allowing a QB rating of just 33.8 when targeting him. He has also picked off two passes. He was a starter for all three games. So, their depth has taken a hit this week. Top corner Charvarius Ward returned from a broken wrist and played only sparingly on Monday night but should be ready to go on Sunday. He’ll start along with Rashad Fenton on the outside with Antonio Hamilton in the slot with Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill at safety. And the versatile Mathieu can also line up in the slot if the Chiefs don’t like the matchup.
Look for the Patriots to get the backs involved in the passing game, Burkhead, White, and possibly Harris. So, coupled with the thinned down secondary of KC, the Patriots get a very slim edge here. But the pass rush of Chris Jones and Frank Clark under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s aggressive schemes can change things in a heartbeat.
Next up the Kansas City offense:
Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City
Don’t look now but the Chiefs have a running game…as if they lacked anything else on offense. The addition of impressive rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been intriguing to see in Andy Reid’s offense averaging 4.4 yards per carry and looks to be a handful coming out of the backfield.
The Chiefs currently have the ninth-best running game in the league and on Sunday night, their numbers and averages should increase.
The Patriots run defense has suffered from the lack of a true nose tackle (Beau Allen remains on IR) as well as the lack of inside linebacker depth. They are playing a lot of safeties as linebackers in sub-packages and we expect to see more of that on Sunday.
Look for the Patriots to try to entice KC to run and speed up the game and make them grind it out which they’d be willing to do to stay within range. Edwards-Helaire should have a big game this week.
Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Kansas City
There’s a shocker…the Chiefs have the edge in the passing game? With an abundance of speed everywhere, Patrick Mahomes can target Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins, DeMarcus Robinson, with TE Travis Kelce and now with Edwards-Helaire out the backfield, the Chiefs can spread out teams and attack down the field with everyone and anyone. Mahomes has the speed to buy time to allow his receivers to run open or scramble for big yardage.
The Patriots secondary is actually one of the better ones at keeping him in check, but they too have been apt to allow offensive explosions as can happen against this offense. The key is to play them with tight man coverage, trying to hit the receivers and disrupt their timing coming off the line. And New England has the players to do it… and it has worked albeit at times.
Jonathan Jones will no doubt cover Hill again while Gilmore will have to step up his, up to this point lackluster season and will draw either Hardman or Watkins. Who covers Kelce? Will it be Joejuan Williams or will they turn it over to J.C. Jackson? Covering Edwards-Helaire out of the backfield must be addressed (see MNF).
The one I hope we don’t see is the Patriots dropping back into soft zones as Mahomes will eat those up. The Air Raid offense and the Chiefs love to run those drags, crossers, slants, and posts that target the middle of the field. The Patriots can run a Quarters defense, something akin to what they ran against the Rams in the Super Bowl. Will it work…maybe for a short while. Like anything else, they’ll get it figured out and adjust. It’s all about staying close and giving yourself a chance to win.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Kansas City
New England is sticking with the shaky Nick Folk, who made all three short FG attempts last week but shanked an extra point attempt, Jake Bailey has been excellent thus far, while the coverage units made a nice rebound last week.
Kansas City has Harrison Butker who boomed a 58-yarder in O.T. against the Bolts. However, he shanked both a field goal at the end of the half and an extra point in Baltimore. Tommy Townsend handles the punting duties. The Chiefs did allow a 93-yard KO return for a TD to the blazing fast Devin Duvernay on Monday night, but the Patriots don’t have a guy returning kicks with that kind of speed. Can Folk be relied upon at crunch time if the game is close?
Next up, who wins and why…
This is a very tough matchup, for the Patriots traveling to Arrowhead and facing an explosive Chiefs team that has began once again firing on all cylinders. Although the Patriots have a lot of new faces in the organization this season, to include a new quarterback, they still have enough talent to win. But their margin for error is decreased and they must force the Chiefs into making a few this week on the road.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Run Effectively, Chew the Clock, And Finish – Okay, is that one or three keys? I think they are all interconnected. With the passing game still a work in progress, the onus on Sunday afternoon has to be on Newton and the running backs in the ground game.
The Patriots have to run the ball effectively mixing up the personnel packages and schemes, running inside, outside, and mixing in some Cam Newton runs to keep the Chiefs defense guessing. If they can do that and control the clock, they can limit how many times Mahomes and the Chiefs offense will get the ball. But controlling the clock is useless unless the drives are producing points. And field goals this week are a sure exercise in losing.
Last week, the Patriots kicked three short field goals, if they do that again this week, the score won’t be looking too pretty when the clock hits 0:00. They have to find a way to finish drives and score touchdowns.
Mistake Free Football – That sounds simplistic but it is true, the Patriots can’t afford to be turning over the ball to the Chiefs and giving them short fields to work off of. But turnovers aren’t the only factor, they have to completely cut out mental mistakes and limit the penalty flags…especially on defense.
The Chiefs have a very explosive offense we all know that, but the team can be blowing coverages or making boneheaded plays that give them easy first downs. I.e. being offside on a 3rd and long, or a defensive hold during the same situation.
On offense, the OL can’t be getting hit with holding penalties or the WRs getting flagged for pick plays (and yes I know KC gets away with a lot of those), those are drive killers.
Secondary Has to be On Top of Their Game – The Patriots secondary is one of the best in the league for a reason, they can compete physically with the Chiefs WRs. But they have to take away those one-play scoring drives and make them earn their way down the field a small chunk at a time and then try to get a 3rd down stop
The Patriots are as deep in the secondary as the Chiefs are at wide receiver. Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Adrian Phillips, Devin and Jason McCourty, rookie Kyle Dugger and Joejuan Williams have the physical skills to hang with this group.
But they’ll also need the pass rush to give them complementary pressure to force Mahomes to get rid of the ball before he’s ready to or to check down.
This will be an intriguing matchup. The Patriots have beaten Mahomes and the Chiefs twice and if not a blown call on N’Keal Harry stepping out of bounds, they might have gone 3-0. But that team is long gone, and while many of the same players remain, this is a team that is very different. They’re still searching for that first 60-minute game, offensively and defensively. But the Chiefs are still intact from a year ago and they’re playing at home.
I think the KC offense has a big day and the Patriots can’t keep up this time around. Chiefs 35-20
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Andy Reid Bill Belichick Cam Newton Chris Jones Damien Harris Devin McCourty Frank Clark James White JC Jackson JJ Taylor Julian Edelman Kansas New England Patriots NFL Patrick Mahomes Patriots Rex Burkhead Sony Michel Stephon Gilmore Travis Kelce Tyreek Hill