We have finally arrived.
The most important week of the Chiefs regular season – a matchup with the New England Patriots in Foxboro – is here.
I have a lot of feelings about this game and frankly, I am probably being too optimistic when I say the Chiefs should absolutely, positively win Sunday. And they should do it convincingly because they are a better team. It is not that simple but it is hard to ignore the opposite directions these teams are trending over the last month.
The Patriots are 2-2 in the last month coming into this game and the two losses were atrocious. Sandwiched between the losses to Baltimore and Houston were unconvincing victories against teams in Dallas and Philadelphia who appeared unwilling to try and win those games.
We could say the Chiefs haven’t been much better in their last month, which included an absurd loss at Tennessee and wins against division opponents in the Chargers and Raiders. It is fair to point out that in the latter two games, Patrick Mahomes appeared uncomfortable throwing the ball downfield. Most notably against Raiders Sunday, Mahomes consistently made undesigned rollouts to avoid pressure he anticipated breaking through the left side of the offensive line. The Chiefs also have concerns at running back with Damien and Darrell Williams likely out, leaving LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware – who signed with the team Tuesday – to handle the workload. Despite all of that, the Chiefs are better prepared to face this Patriots team than they ever were last season.
The only thing I am truly worried about is what their secondary will be able to do in disrupting Mahomes. Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty have nine interceptions between them this season. We have seen Mahomes be a tad reckless over the last month, especially with the deep ball, and this is the unit that can make him pay for it more than any other. New England is also a top-5 team in getting to the quarterback so Eric Fisher will need to be on his best behavior for Mahomes to feel comfortable standing in the pocket consistently.
On the other side of the ball for the Patriots is where I believe their downfall will come.
It has become abundantly clear this season that this team is not the traditional Tom Brady squad that can score at will. They punt just as much as any bad team in the league but their defense is so good that they almost always get the ball back. The only teams that have punted more than the New England Patriots’ 66 this season are the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. Rob Gronkowski is gone, Julian Edelman appears to have lost a step, Josh Gordon was waived and they lost Antonio Brown before he could make a real impact. Sony Michel is not running half as well as Josh Jacobs for the Raiders, so I would be surprised if he even sniffed 100 yards Sunday. Brady had more time to throw in the pocket against Houston last week than he had in any game this season. Obviously, having more time to make reads and throw – even if it is just a second – should make a sizable difference, but it does not matter if the receivers cannot get open or drop passes.
All in all, the Chiefs’ defense will not have nearly as big a challenge in facing the Patriots as they originally expected. Tyrann Mathieu has been on fire the last couple weeks and Juan Thornhill broke out with a pick-six, opening the door for more improvement in the secondary.
It cannot be missed that New England has had a disastrous year in the placekicking department. I can’t tell you who their kicker will be Sunday because the latest signee missed an extra point last week but I expect Bill Belichick to gamble frequently on fourth down rather than kick field goals against Mahomes.
Chiefs 31, Patriots 27
Jason Brown is the sports editor for the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at email@example.com