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Week 11 Patriots vs Chiefs: 5 Things to Preview

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The Patriots host the Chiefs for Monday Night Football. What are the key factors?

1. Quarterback Curse - The Patriots have had struggles defending unproven quarterbacks in recent years. The defensive mindset has always been to stop the run and force the opposing quarterback to make throws to win the game. Facing quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez and Matt Flynn, the Patriots secondaries have been torched and the games have been extremely close. The Patriots typically walk away with a win, but the defensive strategy is abused. The Chiefs will be playing Tyler Palko in place of Matt Cassel, who has been reported out for the rest of the season. Palko has 13 pass attempts and you can bet that the Patriots will force Palko to win the game for the Chiefs.

Unfortunately for the Patriots secondary, they'll be playing without cornerback Devin McCourty who, despite a poor season, is still performing as the second best cornerback on the roster (behind Kyle Arrington). The Patriots secondary is in a weak position due to injuries and the Chiefs receiving weapons won't allow the Patriots to relax. Receivers Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, and Jon Baldwin, as well as scatback Dexter McCluster are all potent receivers who can move the chains. The Patriots have to hope the secondary can stick with the receivers and not let another unproven quarterback have a career day.

2. Pressure Cooker - The Patriots offensive line has been exceptionally average in recent weeks and the Chiefs come to town with the fewest sacks in the entire league (9). Despite that low number, they still feature Tamba Hali, one of the best pass rushers in the league. In order to stay ahead of the Chiefs and to force Palko to throw the ball, Tom Brady and the offense must operate smoothly and that means Brady cannot take sacks. The offensive line cannot afford any penalties from false starts or holding calls.

On the defensive side, Andre Carter and Mark Anderson look to continue their pass rushing success. If those two players can put the pressure on Palko, look for the secondary to take advantage of a few errant throws. The Patriots defensive line needs to spend the majority of the game in the Chiefs backfield.

3. Get Open - The Chiefs' defensive coordinator is a former Patriot great Romeo Crennel. Crennel coached the Patriots Super Bowl defenses and he knows how to coach a quality defense. Expect a lot of press coverage from the defensive backs in order to eliminate receiver Wes Welker and look for a lot of unique pressure looks and blitz packages to force Brady to throw the ball before his receivers are open. This means it's extremely important for the tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to get open quickly and move the chains. The Chiefs are without their starting Safeties from earlier in the season, and the Patriots must take advantage of the middle of the field. Whichever receiver steps up to be Brady's quick outlet, they must be effective and move the chains.

4. Run the Ball - In fact, it seems to make sense that the Patriots will come out throwing the ball and, as a result, the Chiefs might spend some extra time on how to stop the pass. In response, the Patriots should run the ball down the Chiefs' gut the entire game. The Chiefs are towards the bottom of the league in yards/game, and are average in yards/carry. That said, their defensive line and linebackers are geared to stopping the run (think of the Patriots Super Bowl defenses). This is the week the Patriots need to have a balanced offense in order to control the clock and push the ball down the field.

5. Turnover Battle - The Patriots struggle to win when they turn the ball over. The Patriots win much more easily when they force turnovers. The Chiefs are playing their back-up quarterback due to injury. The Patriots are playing their back-up defense due to injury. The main difference between this season's defense and last season's defense is this year's inability to force the turnover and this would be a good week to start learning. Hopefully Kyle Arrington can share his talents with the secondary and can grab some poor throws.

On the offense, Brady cannot afford to force passes and make bad throws. He appeared to get back on track in the second half last week, but he must continue to make the smart pass and control the ball. Don't throw it in the dirt. Don't throw it short in pincer coverage. Don't throw jump balls to Deion Branch/Danny Woodhead/Wes Welker. Basically, just be smart with the ball and the offense should function well.

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I'll be at the game tonight, but I'll give an update later.