Tag Archives: Justin Houston

Patriots Report Card In AFC Championship Win Over Kansas City

Steve Balestrieri
January 22, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Well… That was a wild finish to that game. The fourth quarter and overtime were exactly the way we described it in our pregame matchup piece, an instant classic. A low scoring game for three quarters exploded in the final 20 minutes of the 4th quarter/OT.

The Patriots went on the road in a very tough place to play in front of a very raucous crowd and were able to pull out a very impressive win to capture their third straight AFC championship and for the Brady/Belichick legacy, this is their ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2001.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win:

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady came out of the gate and led the Patriots on a beautifully called opening drive where the Patriots went 80 yards and ate up eight minutes of the first quarter before the Chiefs even touched the ball. They went back down again with a chance to go up 14 and Brady threw an interception on the end zone on a poor decision. Late in the half, he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett on a really nice pass to the corner of the end zone.

Brady ended up completing 30-46 for 348 yards with a TD and 2 interceptions, the other going off Edelman’s hands and right into the hands of the defender. But after the Chiefs found their offensive mojo and came to take the lead, the Patriots needed Brady’s magic. He gave it to them in spades.

In the last eight and a half minutes of the game, (3:32 in regulation and about 5 minutes of OT) Brady led the Patriots to three touchdown drives. He was vintage Tom Brady and checked all the blocks: Throwing into tight windows? Check. Zipping the ball downfield? Yes for certain. During those last three drives, Brady was 11-16 for 147 yards.  And a perfect 5-5 on 3rd downs. In Overtime, the Patriots converted three 3rd and 10s.

Lucky? Why are we still even having this drivel asked anymore?

Running Backs: A

The Patriots were once again led on the ground by Sony Michel, the rookie had another very productive day, grinding out 113 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. He was spelled late in the game by Rex Burkhead who ran 12 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner in Overtime.

James White didn’t have a big a role as we envisioned carrying just six times for 23 yards. The Patriots rolled up 176 yards on the ground. They did exactly what was asked of them, they set the tone early in the game and then late when the Chiefs were selling out on their pass rush, they gashed them for three late scores.

Wide Receivers: A-

Julian Edelman was once again the Patriots leading receiver with 7 catches for 96 yards and he was immense in the game-winning drive converting two huge 3rd and 10 scenarios with a 20 and 15 yard gain. But he was nearly the goat. He had a pass bounce off his hands and right into a Chiefs linebacker’s (Sorensen) for an easy interception. But he more than made up for that during crunch time. With the hits he took down the middle Edelman once again proved he is as tough as woodpecker lips.

Chris Hogan chipped in with five catches for 45 yards including a huge third-down conversion where he dove and pulled the ball into the crook of his arm for a catch that was challenged but upheld. White had four catches for 49 yards including a huge 30-yard screen pass that set up a score. Phillip Dorsett had just one catch but it was a big one, a 29-yard touchdown. Burkhead had four catches for 23 yards, Cordarrelle Patterson had two for 18, James Develin added in one for nine.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski once again dominated in the running game. He, Dwayne Allen, and Develin unleashed the backs with some crushing blocks on the linebackers and edge players. But the Chiefs decided to single cover Gronkowski mostly with a single safety (Eric Berry).

Gronkowski had a big game in the passing department as well hauling in six passes for 79 including the huge 15-yarder over Berry that set-up the final runs by Burkhead that gave them the win. It was an almost vintage-like Gronkowski performance and a well-needed one.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line had another dominant performance. The Patriots rolled up 524 yards of offense, they ran 94 offensive plays and had only one play (1) go for negative yardage. The kneel down by Tom Brady at the end of regulation.  Kansas City had a very good group of pass rushers who tallied up 52 sacks in the regular season.

Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney dominated Chris Jones last night and not only did he not get any pressure on Brady, but they also pushed him around a lot in the running game.

This was magnified by the Patriots being on the road in a very loud stadium. So the Chiefs could anticipate the snaps from Brady without having to worry about a hard count. Brady was pressured on only seven of 46 dropbacks. Outstanding.

Defensive Line: B+

The Patriots defensive line had a very big game. The Chiefs running game was registered as an afterthought gaining only 41 yards on 12 carries. The defensive line did a great job of mostly containing Patrick Mahomes in the pocket and bringing pressure.

Trey Flowers was terrific on the edge and Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown were stout inside. Flowers had a sack, a tackle for a loss and two QB hits. Guy split a sack with John Simon.  Adam Butler came on in passing downs and helped push the pocket.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots much-maligned linebacking corps had another big day. Kyle Van Noy was outstanding, making plays all over the field. He had a pair of sacks, six QB pressures, and five run stops. He was a pain in the ass for the Chiefs offensive line all night.

Dont’a Hightower had another strong game playing 100 percent of the snaps and providing some pressure up the middle. John Simon saw more snaps than Elandon Roberts and had another under the radar strong game. He had a half-sack, and three QB pressures.

Secondary: A-

Wait you say. They gave up 31 points and 24 in the fourth quarter??? Well, look at the job that the secondary did on shutting down Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Those two combined for just four catches for 65 yards. No one held them under 100 yards all season and the Patriots did it in Arrowhead. Hill was doubled by Jonathan Jones/Keion Crossen with outstanding help over the top by Devin McCourty. Big Mac was terrific.

Sammy Watkins had 4 catches for 114 yards but his big one, 54-yarder was one play where Mahomes had all day to throw and Watkins finally shook free from Stephon Gilmore. The Pats moved Gilmore over to Kelce in the second half and he smothered him.

Rookie J.C. Jackson was the victim of several flags and was beat by Kelce (with a push off) for a touchdown.

Special Teams: A-

The only potential bad play was the almost muff by Edelman on a bouncing punt. It was a near and potentially game changer. But Edelman was very good in the punt return game returning three for 38 yards. Patterson had three kick returns for 80 yards including a nice 38 yarder. The coverage units did a much better job time around.  Ryan Allen was solid and Stephen Gostkowski hit a difficult 47-yard field goal considering the conditions.

Coaching: A+

Bill Belichick had an absolutely masterful game plan and the players executed it flawlessly in the first half. The Chiefs were shut out at home for the first time all season and they held them to just 32 yards of offense. They would adjust and finally explode with a huge fourth quarter but that allowed the Patriots to play with the lead all game.

Josh McDaniels called another strong game. He knew where the Chiefs’ weaknesses were and the Patriots offense rolled up 524 yards while having a more than double time of possession advantage (43:50 to 20:53).

Brian Flores called another very good game as the Patriots defense held Kansas City to under 300 yards of total offense. Penalties hurt but those are part of the game. We’re on to Atlanta and Super Bowl 53.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as our writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots-Chiefs AFC Championship, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
January 18, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Round Two Winner Goes to the Super Bowl

The New England Patriots travel to Kansas City on Sunday night to take on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, the winner of which goes on to Atlanta to the Super Bowl.  The Patriots are advancing to their eighth straight AFC title game, an NFL record. With a win, they’ll also become the third team to appear in three straight Super Bowls.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS 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, Evan Washburn, and Jay Feely 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 (12-5) dominated the LA Chargers 41-28. Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns, Tom Brady completed 34-44 for 343 yards and a score, Julian Edelman caught nine passes for 151 yards and James White caught 15 passes as the offense rolled.

The Chiefs (13-4) beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 on a snowy Saturday afternoon. The Chiefs defense played their best game of the year holding the Colts to just 13 points while the offense ran for four scores on the ground. Damien Williams ran for 129 yards on 25 carries and a score. Patrick Mahomes completed 27-41 passes for 278 yards.  

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Chiefs are meeting for the 37th time including the playoffs in their history since the days of the old AFL when they would meet twice a year. Kansas City holds the overall lead 18-15-3. The Chiefs hold an 11-3-1 advantage in games played in Kansas City and a 5-1 record at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Patriots won the last meeting between the two teams 43-40 on a Week 6 Sunday Night Football matchup.  

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 has been a strength of the team down the stretch. Opposing defenses can’t just pin their ears back and rush Tom Brady as they’ve been able to run and run effectively with Sony Michel. In the first meeting, Michel ran for 106 of the Patriots 173 yards on the ground. Rex Burkhead, James White, and FB James Develin will all contribute on the ground as well. The Pats were 5th (127.3 yards per game) on the ground this season.

The Chiefs defense was pretty awful against the run this season, allowing 132.1 yards (27th) on the ground. Last week, however, they were aggressive and took control of the line of scrimmage and kept the Colts at bay. Chris Jones had a very big game for them.

Look for the Patriots to try to control the line of scrimmage, much like they did last week against a much better defense. However, this week the Chiefs are at home, with the deafening crowd noise, they’ll be able to time the snaps and get a very quick jump off. Michel and the ground game will be key on keeping the balance they need to keep the offense moving. They controlled the line last week and in the first meeting but this one will be tougher. The Jet sweeps weren’t a big factor the first time, but may very well be on Sunday night, taking advantage of the linemen pushing up the field.

Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game last week took advantage of the Chargers zone defense and Brady shredded them for 343 yards. Brady passed for 340 yards in the first meeting on throwing just 34 passes. The Patriots had the 8th best passing game (266.1 yards per game) in the league in 2018.

The Chiefs pass defense was worse than their run defense in the regular season allowing 273.4 yards per game (31st in the NFL) What they lived off of was their pass rush which is excellent. Chris Jones, Justin Houston, and Dee Ford, can not only get after the opposing quarterback but knock down passes as well. Their secondary should have Eric Berry back and they’ve played much better with him than without.

Look for Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton to try to jam the middle of the field and contest all of the short to intermediate throwing areas that Brady thrives in. If they force him to hold onto the ball a bit longer, it will allow their pass rush to get home.

The Patriots will try to move Edelman around to create some space on the outside, while trying to clear out the flat for James White to work in the passing game. Kansas City allowed the 5th most passing yardage to running backs this season. Brady will look to attack the middle of the field first. Gronkowski hurt the Chiefs with two big pass plays by getting the one-on-one matchups when they were there. That will definitely be in play if it becomes available to them.

Pass protection is everything in this game for the Patriots, regardless of the running game, it is still a complimentary game and they remain a passing team first and foremost. Key matchup here is LT Trent Brown against Chris Jones in both the running and passing games. With crowd noise and not being able to mix up their snaps, the Chiefs will look to tee off. Flashback to Pittsburgh, the OL can’t shoot itself in the foot again with double-digit false starts again.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs lost their workhorse in Kareem Hunt but have gotten nearly identical production in the running game from Damien Williams. He gashed the Colts for 129 yards on 25 carries last week. KC had the 16th best running game in the league, averaging 115.9 yards per game.

Kansas City likes to mix in the jet sweep and with the explosive Tyreek Hill, he blew thru the Indy defense for a 36-yard touchdown last week. The Chiefs rushed for 94 yards in the first meeting with Hunt getting 80 of those and averaging 5.5-yards per rush.

The Patriots run defense has really been trending up the past three games. Last week against Melvin Gordon and the Chargers, they allowed just 19 yards on 10 carries.The defensive line and linebackers have been much, much better. On the season they allowed 112.7 yards on the ground (11th in the league).

Andy  Reid has gotten pass-happy in big games before, will he have the patience to stick with his running game on Sunday? I expect the Patriots will go with a lighter front for much of this one and there should be room to run the ball.

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs passing game was positively electric this season. Mahomes threw for 50 TDs and they were third in yards this season with 309.3. But everything goes thru Hill, the small but incredibly fast wide receiver who, if he gets the slightest edge outside is gone. That happened in the first meeting, he got a step on one of the Patriots fastest defenders in Duron Harmon and he blew by him like he was a turnstile at the airport.

Mahomes also has Travis Kelce who caught over 100 passes this year, Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley, Williams, Specer Ware, and Kelvin Benjamin, who was a healthy scratch last week against the Colts.

The Patriots’ secondary play has improved over the course of the season. Stephon Gilmore had an All-Pro type of season and rookie J.C. Jackson an UDFA from Maryland has come on and played terrific down the stretch. The front seven has gotten plenty of QB pressure but that hasn’t translated into many sacks.

Look for the Reid to run those RPOs (run/pass option) plays that gave New England fits last season. That allows Kelce to get quick separation at the line. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots approach covering Hill. While we fully expect him to be doubled with help over the top, who will draw him? The Patriots will probably get Gilmore on him with safety help over the top. We expect them to chip on Kelce at the line as well, to try to throw off their timing.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots have a solid group of specialists with Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, and returners with Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson returning punts and kickoffs. The coverage units have been much better when the team added veterans Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber after Thanksgiving.

The Chiefs have kicker Harrison Butker and the excellent Dustin Colquitt in their kicking game. They also have the dangerous Hill and Tremon Smith who had a 97-yard return in the first meeting.

This time however, we’re going with experience. Edelman has been at his best in big games and Patterson is as dangerous a kick returner as there is in the NFL. Look for the Patriots to get after a punt this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is shaping up to be an instant classic. The first meeting went right down to the wire with the score tied at 40, Brady hit Gronkowski with a big 42-yard pass play down the field and Gostkowski kicked a FG with three seconds left. We expect another really close game, perhaps not quite as high scoring as the first matchup.

The keys from a Patriots perspective this week are:

Start Fast And Be Ready For the Onslaught:

The Chiefs at home have been ridiculously fast starters, they’ve outscored opponents at home in the first quarter by a huge margin.  Last week against the Colts was no exception. They bolted out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back.

The Patriots have been notoriously slow starters this season, especially on the road. That would be curtains for any chances of winning if that happens. They have to be on top of their game from the opening kickoff. Reid scripts his first 20 plays or so, so we’d expect the Chiefs to throw some wrinkles at them right off the bat. Expect a very aggressive start on both sides of the ball to get the crowd even more into it.

Last week the Patriots got off to the best start in the history of the team in the playoffs last week and that propelled them to an easy win over the Chargers. They need that type of start again.

Mix Things Up:

Offensively, the Patriots have to keep the Chiefs defense off-balance, Third and long situations will unleash the KC pass rush and they have to limit those type of situations. The Pats rolled up 500 yards of offense last time, by doing just that. Running effectively, and spreading the ball around.

Defensively, they won’t pin their ears back and come after Mahomes like they did to Rivers because if he escapes (and frequently does), then a big play is sure to follow. Mix up coverages, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some split coverages by the secondary. The key is contain him and keep him in the pocket. When plays break down and the Chiefs play backyard football, big plays will result.

The Patriots will want to try to slow the pace down this week, a track meet will really favor the Chiefs at home. They want to grind them down with slow, methodical drives that eat the clock.

Win STs/Red Zone:

The Patriots special teams have been much better down the stretch and I expect some big plays to happen this week. Patterson and Edelman will have to kick it up a notch but a STs score or big play will go a long way this week.

The Red Zone will of course, be of paramount importance this week. Kicking field goals in KC is a recipe for losing. They have to score like last week. In the first half the Pats were 5-5 in the red area. On the flip side, they have to manufacture some stops and force the Chiefs to settle for some threes or get a turnover or two.

When the Chiefs beat the Colts, I immediately pegged this as a loss. I thought the Pats would win a tough, close game at home against the Chargers and then go on the road and lose to KC.

But the performance last week, sold me that this team isn’t dead yet. They’ve found their stride and saved their best game of the year for the playoffs. That makes me feel that they can go in and win this game. It won’t be easy and will go down to the wire. But something tells me Brady pulls another big win out of his hat, and Bill Belichick dusts off that Super Bowl game plan he used against the Bills when he was with the Giants. They may dare the Chiefs to run all day long, but they’re going to get it done. Get ready to head to Atlanta.   Patriots 31-28

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Players To Watch Patriots-Chiefs SNF Week 6

Steve Balestrieri
October 12, 2018 at 9:07 am ET

“It Feels Like We’re Playing Kansas City”  

The New England Patriots are playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in a much-hyped game for Week 6 in the 2018 NFL season. Except for Bill Belichick that is. Belichick wasn’t buying into all the talk for playing for AFC supremacy, home-field advantage or anything else. On Thursday at his press conference, he was asked a few times about how he feels about the significance of the game. Belichick’s not-so-surprising response… “it feels like we’re playing Kansas City.”

But make no mistake it is a big game for both teams. The Chiefs have been on a roll and are 5-0, they want to continue their dominance and build upon that. But they also know they were in a similar position a year ago when the wheels came off. The Patriots started badly at 1-2 but have played much better the past two weeks and now it begins a very tough stretch of games for them.  

This game features two very intriguing QBs, Tom Brady, the reigning MVP and winner of five Super Bowls and Patrick Mahomes, the second-year player making just his seventh start in the NFL who has been lighting the league on fire for the first month plus. Their skill sets and strengths are pretty different and each will have the chance to showcase their talents again on the big national stage on Sunday Night.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back is actually questionable to play with a knee injury and was limited in Thursday’s practice session. It isn’t known if this latest injury is a continuation of his knee that was drained of fluid during training camp or it is another new injury that he suffered during the Thursday night game against the Colts.

Michel in the past two weeks has gained over 200 yards and has been really rounding into form after missing all of the preseason games this summer. He has begun to show the form that he exhibited in college that attracted him to the Patriots this spring and gives them a dynamic back who gain can break a small run into a big one.

He should be (if he’s good to go), a big part of the game plan this week. The Patriots will look to stay balanced and run the ball, controlling the clock and keeping Kansas City’s pass rushers off balance. And the best way to do that is running the ball right at them.    

Josh Gordon

The Patriots newest wide receiver has still only been a member of the team for about a month and is still learning the playbook and the route tree for the Patriots wide receivers. So far, the results while encouraging, have been small in relation to what his potential can be. Gordon has been saying and doing all the right things and his teammates seem to be completely behind him.

This might be a week where the coaches try to get him a bigger piece of the game plan and try to stretch the field more vertically. We saw last week, the Jaguars try to the same thing time and again, and while it was successful a few times, their protection didn’t hold up enough to make it viable.

The Patriots could opt to do some of the same, especially if Eric Berry and Justin Houston are out. Gordon has the size and athleticism to be a huge target down the field, opening up all kinds of room for guys like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to work the middle of the field.

James White:

Assuming everyone is healthy (or reasonably so) and on the field, White could be the Patriots “X-Factor” this week in the passing game. As we wrote in our keys to the game earlier this week, with the Chiefs having to cover Gronk, Edelman, and Gordon, it opens White up as the movable chess piece for Brady to use in the air.

While Michel is the valuable piece in the ground game, White is the Swiss Army Knife for the passing game. Look for Brady to put him in motion and try to isolate him on a linebacker where they can possibly get a mismatch.

White is one of the most dependable, versatile players on the Patriots offense. He can do it all, run between the tackles, catch out of the backfield, and pass block. He and Michel will no doubt feature prominently this week.

Tom Brady:

With all of the league abuzz, and rightfully so over the early season excellence of Patrick Mahomes, Brady is usually a player that will use that fact as fodder to motivate himself to elevate his game this week. Not that he should need any extra motivation. The past two games against Kansas City have ended badly for New England.

Brady started slowly this season, but the past two games, he’s looked much better and is getting hot at just the right time. The Patriots will need a big game out of him, and with many questioning, whether New England is ripe to fall, this game against the undefeated Chiefs will be a big measuring stick.

Brady will look to start quickly this week, something he did against the Colts where he went 9-9 for 75 yards and a touchdown pass to Cordarelle Patterson. KC’s defense has given up a ton of yardage but has been very stout on 3rd down, which will automatically be something that will bear watching this week.

Pat Chung/Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots defense has a pretty heavy task in front of themselves this week, in trying to scheme a way to slow down the high flying Chiefs’ offense. To do so will require a total solid defensive effort but a couple of players must have strong games on Sunday night. And it starts with Chung and Van Noy.

The Chiefs’ RPO (run/pass option) game is strong and gave the Patriots fits last year, not only against the Chiefs but in the Super Bowl against the Eagles. No doubt Andy Reid took note of that. Van Noy will need a big game this week. KC likes to fake the run and get Travis Kelce that deep open space behind the linebackers with lots of room to move. Van Noy will have to get the depth and take away those easy passes.

Chung is outstanding in run support and he’ll probably draw the task of covering Kelce much of the time. It will be an interesting chess match. It won’t be an easy one to win but they should have a good game plan in place.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots-Chiefs Week 6, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2018 at 8:24 am ET

The New England Patriots host Sunday Night Football, their second primetime game in a row, where they will appear in four in five weeks. The Patriots travel to Chicago for a 1:00 p.m. start next week followed by a Monday Night Football game in Buffalo and then another Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya 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 (3-2) defeated the Colts on Thursday night 38-24. Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns while Sony Michel rushed for 98 more yards this week as the offense played the best game that they’ve had all year.

The Chiefs (5-0) beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-14 as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense sliced and diced the Jags defense. After the talk that Jacksonville did before the game, it had to have been demoralizing to the say the least.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Chiefs are meeting for the 36th time including the playoffs in their history since the days of the old AFL when they would meet twice a year. Kansas City holds the overall lead 18-14-3. The Patriots own the edge in games in Foxboro with an 11-7-2 record. This is the fourth straight primetime game between the two teams since 2011.

The Chiefs won the last matchup between the two teams 42-27 on Opening Night in the NFL for 2017.

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 has found its rhythm the past two games with Sony Michel and James White sharing the duties. Michel had 112 yards against Miami and then 98 more against the Colts last Thursday night. They just brought back Kenjon Barner to add some depth. But they miss Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead who are both on IR.

The Chiefs defense has struggled against the run allowing an average of 118.8 yards per game and a whopping 5.8 yards per rush. And a part of that is that the Chiefs have been playing with the lead every game and are pinning their ears back with their pass rush. However, they aren’t great against the run and can be run on, running right at those edge rushers.

Look for the Patriots to stay balanced and keep riding Michel attempting to keep the Chiefs defense on the field and to slow down their pass rushers. This will allow them to use play action passing on early downs as well as to control the clock.

Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game finally has all of their weapons on the field at the same time. And that unit looked nothing like the one that struggled for the first few weeks of the season. Having Julian Edelman back gives them a huge boost from the short-yardage slot position and this keeps the chains moving. Josh Gordon has only caught four passes in two games but brings a different element to the field. As he gets more and more comfortable in the offense, his production will increase.  Rob Gronkowski has been slowed by a bothersome ankle but should see a spike as well.

The Chiefs pass defense has struggled in 2018 allowing an average of 343 yards per game. They miss safety Eric Berry who may not play this week. Pass rushers Justin Houston and Tanoh Kpassagnon may also miss this week with injuries as well. Only the Bucs have allowed more yardage thru the air and the KC defense is dead last in total yards allowed as well as 25th in points.

Look for Brady to attack the middle of this defense, especially if Houston is out with Edelman and Gronkowski early. This should open up opportunities on the perimeter with Gordon and their complementary guys in Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan. The “X-Factor” for the passing game this week is James White out of the backfield. With a full complement of receivers now, he can be a big mismatch when they split him out wide. This would be a good week to get Jacob Hollister involved a bit more in the passing game as well.

Of course, everything depends on the protection. The Patriots offensive line has to do a good job of keeping the Chiefs pass rushers at bay. They saw how Dee Ford single-handedly impacted the Jacksonville game. That must come with a combination of better blocking and having the running game keeping them off-balance.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs have their workhorse in Kareem Hunt who burst on the scene as a rookie with a huge game against the Patriots in his first NFL game. Hunt led the league in rushing a year ago and tremendous vision, balance and runs with good power.

Kansas City didn’t use him much the first couple of weeks because they were just lighting up the opposition through the air but that changed in Oakland where he rushed for 121 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

The Patriots run defense was awful for the first three weeks of the season and very good the past two weeks, albeit playing against teams that don’t run the football well (Dolphins/Colts).  But the difference was the play of the front seven, specifically the defensive line. Where they were getting pushed around a lot, they stiffened and were getting penetration, disrupting the opposition the past two weeks.

The Chiefs gashed New England with Hunt a year ago, opening up all kinds of holes in the passing game, particularly running to the right. Look for much of the same with Hunt who it seems is starting to find his groove.

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs passing game has been lights out so far in 2018. No one has figured out a way to stop them and with a plethora of playmakers to throw to, (Tyreek Hill, Sammie Watkins, Travis Kelce and Hunt out of the backfield), Patrick Mahomes has had historically crazy success. Thru five weeks he’s averaging nearly 300 yards per game with 14 TDs and just 2 interceptions.

The Patriots’ secondary play has been better as of late, however, the pass rush has been inconsistent again and they’re allowing opposing QBs for the most part too much time to see the field and throw the ball. Against the Chiefs this week, that is a recipe for another big night for Mahomes.

Look for the Andy Reid to run those RPOs (run/pass option) plays that they sliced New England up with last year again. Those plays freeze the defense and allow the TE Kelce to get immediate separation in the gap behind the LBs with room to move. When the Chiefs get in the red zone, they spread the ball around beautifully and nine different players with TD catches… Who do you try to take away?

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Chiefs

The Patriots have a solid group of specialists with Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, and returners with Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson returning punts and kickoffs. The coverage units have been a bit inconsistent and need to play better.

The Chiefs counter with Harrison Butker and the excellent Dustin Colquitt in their kicking duties. But the Chiefs feature the dangerous Hill who returns kicks and has a 91-yard punt return. As a team, the Chiefs are averaging a ridiculous 26.7 yards on punt returns, while holding opponents to 1.7 yards per return average. That’s called flipping the field.

The pressure will be on Allen this week, to keep the ball away from Hill and angle his punts out of bounds.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is shaping up to be an exciting Sunday Night game, that may harken back to those days of the old AFL shootouts before the 1970 merger. Reid’s offenses always get off to a fast start in the season. It will be interesting if the Patriots and Belichick, with 10 days to prepare to figure out a way to slow down the Chiefs offense.

The feeling here is to do that, they’ll have to be aggressive, play Cover 1 man and try to jam and reroute and/or slow the receivers at the line of scrimmage. If they can do that and disguise their coverages, then they have a shot at slowing down KC’s offense. But traditionally against mobile QBs such as Mahomes, the Patriots M.O. has been to be more passive and in a react, containment mode. That, in our opinion, will not work and they’ll get smoked if they do that.

Offensively, the Patriots offense can match up just as well against the Chiefs defense with Brady leading the way. They can stress the KC defense with plenty of weapons of their own. One big area to watch is third down, one area that the Chiefs defense has done very well in.

The key from a New England perspective is to start fast. KC has outscored the opposition 59-9 in the first quarter of the games this season. They’ve either been slightly outscored or are even in every other quarter. They have to find a way to get the lead and force the Chiefs to play catch up for a change. This could be one of those games where the team that has the ball last wins. Since the Patriots are home, we’re saying that it will be Tom Brady.  Patriots 38-35

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Chiefs Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 6, 2017 at 11:19 am ET

The New England Patriots begin the 2017 season trying to become the first team since the 2003-2004 Pats to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. They have a great first game of the season on tap as they face the Kansas City Chiefs who were the #2 seed in the AFC a year ago. 

The game will be televised by NBC with their top announcing crew of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth handling the play-by-play and analysis duties. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (14-2) won the AFC East a year ago and were the top seed in the AFC They beat the Texans and Steelers at home before going to the Super Bowl LI and coming from 25 points down to wind up defeating the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

The Chiefs (12-4) won the AFC West before losing to the Steelers 18-16 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Chiefs have met 34 times with Kansas City holding an all-time 17-14 edge (three ties). The series has been dominated by the home teams, with KC owning an 11-3-1 lead at home and the Patriots enjoy an 11-6-2 mark at home. The last time the teams met was in January 2016 when the Patriots defeated KC 27-20 in the Divisional Playoff Game.

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 Kansas City

The Patriots running game is really a new entity in 2017 With Mike Gillisllee and Rex Burkhead coming on board this spring, Dion Lewis is waiting in the wings as well with James White. They have plenty of weapons and they will be able to run the ball very well this season. But in Week 1? They haven’t worked together much on the field and although the unit is solid, they’ll need to get things sorted.

KC was uncharacteristically soft in their run defense in 2016 giving up 121 yards per game. Dontari Poe was let go as they felt he couldn’t handle the double teams anymore and the team brought in Bennie Logan. Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson return as well and this unit should be much tougher to run against than a year ago.

Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game was outstanding for the 2016 season and they’ve added Brandin Cooks this spring. However, the loss of Julian Edelman is a huge blow to the offense, especially on third down. But with Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen with RBs White, Lewis and Burkhead coming out of the backfield, QB Tom Brady has a plethora of targets to use.

The Chiefs have an outstanding pass defense. With CB Marcus Peters and SS Eric Berry, they have two of the best players at their position in the league. With Houston back and healthy after two seasons of knee injuries and Dee Ford as their pass rushers, they can get after the QB. They suffered a big blow with CB Steven Nelson going on IR. Terrance Mitchell will fill in and will be tested.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs lost their starter Spencer Ware during the preseason and he was expected to be the lead back in Andy Reid’s offense. That was a big loss for them, but rookie Kareem Hunt from Toledo is an intriguing player with a lot of upside. Many of the pundits had him as one of the top RBs in this year’s draft class. Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller back him up. Tyreek Hill is the X-factor in the running game as is Alex Smith who can scramble. The KC Offensive line is very good.

The Patriots are set up very well to stop the run in 2017 with Alan Branch returning, Malcom Brown inside along with Lawrence Guy and linebackers Dont’a Hightower and David Harris. This preseason, opponents were running right at the center of the defense, albeit with many backups in the game. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues into the regular season.

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Alex Smith had a stellar 2016 completing 67 percent of his passes. He rarely makes mistakes, and while he’s not an “elite” QB, he’s plenty good enough to take them deep into the playoffs if he gets help around him. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are his top two targets and they are each difficult to account for in their own way. With releasing Jeremy Maclin this spring, KC needs a third WR to step up.

The Patriots added CB Stephon Gillmore this spring to an already solid secondary. Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe (slot), along with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung give the Pats an (on paper), outstanding secondary. But the question this season will be is the pass rush going to be good enough? They get their first test on Thursday night against a good OL and a QB that can run.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots special teams get the slight edge in the kicking game, where Stephen Gostkowski is among the best in the league at the pooch kickoffs stranding teams deep and he’s seeming back on track after a solid summer. He gives them the edge over Cairo Santos. Dustin Colquitt and Ryan Allen are both outstanding punters that excel in directional punting and hitting punts inside the 20  But in the return game, the Chiefs have a clear advantage. Hill is a dynamic returner who averaged 15.2 yards per return. With Cyrus Jones and Julian Edelman on IR, the Patriots return game is starting from scratch.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This game and the first game of every season are always among the most difficult to predict because there are so many unknowns out there with no regular season film to watch. The Patriots should get a huge boost from the home crowd especially with dropping Super Bowl banner #5 just prior to the game. But I worry about them coming out flat after all the emotion of the pregame celebrations.

I keep reading all over social media that the Pats are going to romp in this one. I couldn’t disagree more. This Chiefs team won 12 games a year ago and have a few of their key pieces back that was missing. I think this is going to be a tough, hard-fought one with almost a playoff atmosphere to it.

A couple of the key matchups to watch is Eric Rowe, who I think will draw Kelce on defense and if he can stand up to the physicality of him. Malcolm Butler will draw Hill with safety help. The Chiefs aren’t an air-it-out team but you can expect them to try a few times. I look for them to try to get Hill the ball in space. Look for shallow crosses or rub routes. When he gets the ball, he can fly.

On offense, look for Tom Brady to spread out the Chiefs defense and try to find the mismatches. With everyone talking about Cooks and newcomer Phillip Dorsett, who may not even play, they’re forgetting the main man for Brady and that is Gronkowski who is healthy now and wants to put on a show in primetime…much like Hill. With Brady stretching the seams and forcing some of the Chiefs excellent LBs into coverage, they should be able to find some space. This will be a tough, exciting matchup. I like the Patriots to hold serve at home.

Patriots 28-20

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots 2017 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Chiefs

Steve Balestrieri
September 5, 2017 at 9:36 am ET

The Patriots, as well as the 2017 NFL season, kicks off with a Thursday night prime time matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. The game will be televised nationally by NBC with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on the call and Michelle Tafoya handling sideline duties. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m.

The Patriots begin their quest to defend their Super Bowl LI title and are the last team to successfully win back-to-back titles in 2003-2004. The team will unfurl their fifth Super Bowl banner prior to the game and have asked that fans be seated by 8:00 p.m. for the festivities planned.

The Chiefs (12-4) won the AFC West and were the AFC’s #2 seed heading into the playoffs. But they lost a home playoff tilt to Pittsburgh 18-16 or they would have met the Patriots in Foxboro for the AFC Championship. In a salary cap move, the team jettisoned former #1 wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in the offseason, feeling that 2nd-year player Tyreek Hill is more than ready to assume the mantle as their top receiver. Tight End Travis Kelce had 85 catches for 1125 yards and four TDs.

Tyreek Hill is the Chiefs “X-Factor” on Offense: When the two teams meet on Thursday night, all eyes will be on the Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. He’s the new #1 wide receiver in just his second year and can do it all. In his press conference on Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the Patriots have to be ready for everything.

“I’m sure they have a lot of different ways to use him and he’s a very versatile player,” Belichick said. “He can run, he can catch … I’m sure they use him a decoy. He’s a very explosive player.”

“I don’t know exactly where he’ll be, but you certainly have to be conscious of him whenever he’s on the field,” Belichick added.

Hill loves playing in prime-time games and relishes his chance to shine in them.  He shined last season on a Sunday night at Denver, when he became the first rookie since Gale Sayers to score a touchdown by rushing, receiving and kick return. In another prime-time game against the Raiders, he caught a 36-yard touchdown pass and had a 78-yard punt return for a score.

Then Christmas night against the Broncos, Hill gashed their division rivals for a 70-yard touchdown run.

“I’m always trying to make the big play under the lights because everyone’s watching,” Hill said. And everyone will be watching him on Thursday.

The Chiefs Have Invested Heavily in Their  Defense: Kansas City the past several years has pumped a lot of money into their defense. In fact, their salary cap money tied to the defense is nearly 2-1 in favor of the defensive side of the ball. And it shows.

Justin Houston, the Chiefs linebacker has struggled with knee injuries the past two years but is reportedly healthy finally and looking to recapture the form where in 2014, he led the NFL with 22 sacks. He and Derrick Johnson, and Dee Ford gives the Chiefs the pressure they’ll need to compete again in a very tough division.

The team thought enough of Bennie Logan, that they allowed Dontari Poe to walk in free agency this spring. And with the Chiefs defense, they have one of the top corners in the NFL with Marcus Peters. Safety Eric Berry returns this season as well.

Since the 2013 season, the Chiefs defense is second only to the Seahawks allowing just 18.5 points per game.

There is No QB Controversy With KC, Alex Smith is the Man: When the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes this spring, many predicted that the writing was on the wall for the steady, but unspectacular Alex Smith. And while Mahomes dazzled in the preseason, Andy Reid and the Chiefs coaching staff are sticking with Smith, at least for this season as the best chance to getting KC a deep playoff run.

Many Chiefs insiders have stated that despite the hype, Smith is still ahead of Mahomes by a wide margin. “Alex is so far advanced from the mental side,” GM Brett Veach said, “in regards to his ability to read coverages, to shift to better plays and really play the chess game. He’s so far ahead of what Pat is.”

Chiefs fans will have to be patient and let the rookie develop. In the meantime, Smith trudges along, and for the most part underappreciated. But rather than sulk about his successor being drafted, Smith relished his role. He has been a big help for the rookie and has doubled down on his own efforts at improving. It speaks volumes to his professionalism and to Reid’s staff.

Spencer Ware’s Injury Opens the Door for Kareem Hunt: The Chiefs, like the Patriots suffered an injury to a key member of their offense. The KC running game was supposed to funnel mainly thru Spencer Ware in 2017.  But after the talented back tore his PCL/LCL this summer, he was lost for the season. But also like the Patriots and their loss of Julian Edelman, the injury at least happened early enough for the team to be able to adjust accordingly. The next man up for the Chiefs is Kareem Hunt.

Hunt is a rookie from Toledo that had a terrific summer for Reid and the Chiefs. He brings a nice blend of power, speed and elusiveness to the backfield and behind a good offensive line should be primed to have a good season in KC. He’s a patient runner that reads the play and flow well and is a very good blocker in the passing game.

He’ll be backed up by veterans Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller in the backfield. Teams ran at the Patriots middle this summer. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs use Hunt on Thursday night.

Steven Nelson’s Injury Opens Up Questions at Corner: We already mentioned that the Chiefs have one of the NFL’s best corners in Peters. They lost a very talented youngster in Steven Nelson to IR, but hope that he’ll be able to return later this season.

But that doesn’t help them in the meantime and specifically on Thursday night. Who will the Chiefs play opposite Peters when facing Brady and the Patriots offense?  KC will probably opt for veteran Phillip Gaines who they drafted in the 3rd round 2014. He was a starter early in 2015 but suffered an ACL injury and was lost for much of the season. He came back late in the year but struggled, which isn’t rare since it takes a good 12-18 months to regain one’s strength and mobility. Now he’s back and seemingly fully back to where he was.

The other option would be to use veteran Terrance Mitchell. Mitchell was a player who bounced around a bit and found a home in Kansas City. The Chiefs used him as the nickel/slot corner and he played extremely well for them down the stretch and into the playoffs. Odds are, Reid leaves him right where he’s at, but they could do some mixing and matching depending on the matchups. Of course, nothing helps the secondary and cornerback play like a pass rush and with Houston back, the Chiefs will be looking to bring the pressure.

Check back with us later tomorrow as we’ll have a breakdown of the matchups between the Chiefs and the Patriots on what promises to be a very good kickoff to the NFL season.  

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots, Chiefs: Three Players to Watch AFC Divisional Playoff

Steve Balestrieri
January 16, 2016 at 11:07 am ET

The Patriots take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the 2015 NFL Playoffs at Foxboro today at 4:30 p.m. The winner will move on the AFC Championship Game next week; the loser goes home. There’s no more playing it safe with injuries and guys banged up. It’s all hands on deck and if you can get out there and contribute, you’re playing.

The Patriots injury list is as long as it has ever been after coming OFF of a bye week and there are still plenty of questions to be answered on who plays and who doesn’t. The injury list from Friday contains 12 questionable players include Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Danny Amendola, Jonathan Freeny, Nate Ebner, Scott Chandler, La Adrian Waddle and Justin Coleman.

The Chiefs come in with injury concerns of their own with Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Jeremy Maclin, Spencer Ware and Albert Wilson listed as questionable. KC has run off 11 straight wins heading into this week in stark contrast to the Patriots having lost their last two and four of their last six.

Matchups are always a prime concern regardless of the opponent and this week’s will ultimately decide whether the Patriots move on next week. And all of our Patriots players are on the questionable list. Which is telling in itself.

Here are our three players to watch from a Patriots perspective this week.

Julian Edelman: The Patriots and Tom Brady’s most trusted wide receiver hasn’t played since early in Week 9 against the Giants when he suffered a broken bone in his foot. Not surprisingly with Edelman in the lineup, the Patriots were 9-0; without him they were 3-4 and their third down conversions went from 50 percent to around 33 down the stretch.

He and a healthy Amendola keeps the Patriots short passing game going and the chains moving. Edelman is particularly effective at getting open at the line of scrimmage and allowing Brady to get the ball out quickly which helps an offensive line that is battered, bruised and has been leaky down the stretch.

Edelman is going against a secondary that is very good but tends to give a cushion and then breaks on the ball. That would not be a recipe for success against he and Brady. How effective he is today will go a long way in deciding this one.

No one is tougher than Edelman. He’s battle tested, his Super Bowl heroics in the 4th quarter were instrumental in getting New England, ring #4. As to his being rusty? Some food for thought. Edelman didn’t play at all in the preseason and was off from the SB until the opener against Pittsburgh. His totals against the Steelers in Week 1? Very Edelman-like numbers with 11 catches for 97 yards. Anything resembling that today is a great sign for New England.

Dont’a Hightower/Jamie Collins: The Patriots linebackers haven’t been on the field much together down the stretch but they really need them today. Hightower is a beast inside in the running game and when he’s healthy, he flies up in the gaps and stuffs runners at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Kansas City has a potent running game with Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware and QB Alex Smith. They operate nearly a 50/50 balance in offense between running and passing and average 127.8 yards per game on the ground. They need the running game effective to make their own short passing game effective.

If Hightower is close to his normal self, he’ll be a big factor in filling in those gaps. A look at the rush defense when he isn’t in there shows that teams have been able to run at the front seven, particularly between the tackles and if KC does that today they’ll be in good shape for an upset.

Collins will probably be tasked with spying on Smith today. He’s adept at making big plays with his feet and bust a long run from the pocket or roll out and hit one of his receivers on the fly. Collins is the Pats most athletic linebacker and with Maclin either out or limited, Smith will be forced to take on a bigger role with the offense. How effective he is will depend on the day Collins has trying to keep him contained.

Rob Gronkowski: What a week it was in Foxboro; between the on-going saga of Chandler Jones and the black eye of Belichick and the possible return of Edelman, the Patriots couldn’t afford any more distractions right? Well Gronkowski missed the last two practices with what was listed as “knee/back” issues.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported he went to the hospital for injections in his knee while Ian Rapopport of NFL Network said that it wasn’t the case. Jeff Howe reported on Friday that “if” Gronk plays he’ll be far less than 100 percent.

We’ll see, the Patriots need Gronkowski threatening the middle of the field and stretching the seams, something they haven’t been able to do in recent weeks. That opens up some real estate underneath for guys like Edelman, Amendola and LaFell to operate in with Brady.

The feeling here is not only will Gronk play but play well. Normally when a player is hurt the team keeps them around the facility for treatment. Gronkowski was spotted last week in Florida relaxing poolside which unless he reinjured it this week, tells me that his knee isn’t as bad as some are making it out to be. We’ll know for sure at 4:30 p.m.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll have the latest on breaking news for the Patriots as well as a complete breakdown of the game from Saturday.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com

Patriots – Chiefs, Key Matchups; Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
January 15, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots open their 2015 playoff season with a home game in the Divisional Round against the Kansas City Chiefs. The game will be televised by CBS with their announcing crew of Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts and Evan Washburn. The game can also be listened to on the Patriots flagship station 98.5 FM the Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

New England (12-4), had a rough ending to the season after starting on a 10-game winning streak. Injuries decimated the lineup as the team dropped four of their last six games to drop into the AFC’s #2 seed in the playoffs.

Kansas City (11-5), won ten games in a row to finish the season and secure the #5 seed in the playoffs. Given up for dead at 1-5, Andy Reid rallied his troops and reeled off game after game down the stretch as the Chiefs played inspired football. The team ran their streak to 11 games with a 30-0 demolishing of the Houston Texans in the Wild Card playoff game last week.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2015 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History: The Patriots and Chiefs will meet for the 34th time on Saturday in a matchup of old rivals from the earliest days of the AFL. Since the merger, they’ve met rather infrequently and the rivalry between the two teams has cooled.

The matchup in recent years has been dominated by the home teams. New England has won the last three in Foxboro while the Chiefs have won seven of the last eight at Arrowhead including last year’s 41-14 blowout Monday Night Football win. The teams surprisingly have never met in the post-season.

Here is a look at some of the key match-ups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2015 Playoff Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Chiefs

Steve Balestrieri
January 11, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots season in essence begins on Saturday as they take their first step in attempting to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Their opponent in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs are the Kansas City Chiefs. The game is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.

The game will be televised by CBS with their announcing crew of Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts and Evan Washburn on the call. The game can also be heard on the Patriots flagship radio station of 98.5 the Sports Hub with the voice of the Pats Bob Socci on the call with Scott Zolak.

The Patriots (12-4), as the AFC’s #2 seed faces the highest remaining seed which are the Chiefs while Denver faces the lowest remaining seed, the Pittsburgh Steelers in Denver.

Kansas City (11-5), is the NFL’s hottest team having run off 11 wins in a row and on Saturday thrashed the Houston Texans on the road 30-0. They haven’t dropped a game since a road loss to the Vikings left them for dead at 1-5. The two teams have never met in the postseason but the Chiefs curb-stomped the Patriots in Arrowhead last year 41-14 on MNF.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Chiefs:

Defense is Excellent Across the Board: When looking at the Chiefs defense, they play the classic 3-4 with three big down linemen and have an outstanding linebacking core. During the 11-game winning streak, they allowed an average of 11.6 points per game.

The Chiefs have outstanding bookend pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston although both are a bit dinged up right now. But the Chiefs registered 47 sacks on the season and most came from the (pardon the wrestling pun), the Triple H’s; with Houston (7.5 sacks), Hali (6.5 sacks) and Howard with 5.5. The pass rush against Houston was particularly effective up the middle with Dontari Powe and Jaye Howard pushing the pocket back in Brian Hoyer’s face.

Powe and Howard are outstanding at the point of attack; they can take on double-teams and stuff the run or allow inside line backers Josh Mauga and Derrick Johnson to make plays. Their active and are good laterally as well.

The Chiefs secondary is outstanding with corners Sean Smith and rookie Marcus Peters who had eight picks this season. Opposing QBs targeting Peters had a 67.7 passer rating this season. Safety Eric Berry is recovered from his cancer treatment and plays down in the box and is very active. Many Patriots fans will remember S Hussain Abdulla from the pick-six he returned against Tom Brady a year ago.

Maclin’s Absence Could be Key: Chiefs top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered an injury during the Texans game and it was initially thought to be an ACL injury but he’s been cleared for that. He did suffer a high ankle sprain which may keep him out of this weekend’s game.

Even if he does play, an ankle sprain may limit his effectiveness and Maclin has been their most productive WR by far in 2015.  He’s caught 87 passes for 1088 yards with eight touchdowns for KC this season. The next most productive wide receiver is Albert Wilson with 35 catches for 451 yards and two touchdowns.

If Maclin can’t go it would put more pressure on QB Alex Smith to find their excellent tight end Travis Kelce in the passing game as their best option. Maclin’s either limited status or absence will probably put Kelce on the Patriots radar as the player they most have to take away.

Smith Leads a Varied Offense: The Chiefs offense may be one of the most balanced that the Patriots see this season. They’re almost 50/50 with runs and passes with 473 passes attempted and 436 runs.  Last season their offensive line dominated up front and the KC rushing attack gashed the Patriots for 207 rushing yards.

With the dangerous Jamaal Charles on IR, the Chiefs turned to Charcandrick West, who averaged 4.0 yards per carry while racking up 634 yards and four scores as well as Spencer Ware who averaged an impressive 5.6 yards per carry while gaining 402 yards as well on the ground. They use some three tight end packages as well. But Andy Reid will mix it up; you’re as likely to see a run from the 3-4 WR spread as you are a pass from the 3-TE sets.

Smith is a very mobile quarterback who can hurt you with his legs as he was the Chiefs 2nd leading rusher this season with 498 yards. Knile Davis had only 28 carries this season but gashed New England for 102 yards on 16 carries last year.

Smith won’t throw the ball deep much or try to take many chances with low percentage throws, he’s careful with protecting it and had only seven interceptions this season. Besides Maclin, their biggest target is Kelce who is used in much the same manner that the Patriots use Rob Gronkowski.

Kelce will line up in-line, in the slot or split wide. He’s very good at generating yards after catch and will attack the seams. He had an impressive day against Houston with eight catches for 128 yards. On the season he caught 72 passes for 875 yards and five touchdowns. Kelce will undoubtedly draw the lion’s share of attention from the Patriots defense and he’ll be a handful, much like Gronkowski is.

They like to use secondary wide receiver Wilson in the running game, they’ll put him in motion and run the Jet Sweep and try to catch the defense over-committing. Rookie WR Chris Conley chipped in with 17 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown. West was effective out of the backfield with 20 catches and a 10.7 yard average per reception.

Turnover Battle Will Be Tough to Win: The Chiefs are outstanding at forcing turnovers. During the current 11-game winning streak, they’ve generated 28 turnovers and have a +20 turnover differential during that time.

They’re remarkably solid at not turning the ball over via fumble or interception and have been outstanding at generating them. With an offense that doesn’t generate a ton of big plays in the passing game, they feast on opponents’ mistakes and making them pay.

The Patriots are also one of the stingier teams in the league in regards to turnovers as they once again led the league with the least amount of fumbles in 2015. Tom Brady also threw only seven interceptions on the season as well. So one wouldn’t expect a lot of turnovers in this game and any generated by either team would be big.

Special Teams Will Bear Watching: As we witnessed on Saturday afternoon, the Chiefs special teams units can strike quickly. Knile Davis took the opening kickoff back 106 yards for a touchdown which quickly took the crowd out of the game and put the Texans firmly on the hot seat.

The Patriots special teams have had their issues in the second half of the season and the last thing they need is to give up a quick score to turn momentum or give the Chiefs a short field. With the injuries to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, the Patriots punt return unit hasn’t been as effective as they’ve been in the past. The Chiefs punt coverage unit has been solid, allowing only six and half yards per return.

Half of Dustin Colquitt’s 75 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line this season and he had only five touchbacks. Cairo Santos missed seven field goal attempts this season and was only 4 of 8 from 50 yards and beyond.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.