The New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs will be facing off in week four in a primetime Monday Night Football match-up. In the lead-up to the game, we asked Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride five questions on the Patriots' opponent:
1. The Chiefs got off to a blazing start in 2013, but have stumbled to a 1-2 start to begin this season. Are you able to put your finger on a reason why, to this point, they haven't been able to replicate the results from a year ago?
They're not as lucky with turnovers and they're playing a harder schedule. Go back and look at the 2013 schedule -- the Chiefs caught some breaks with that early on in the year. Don't get me wrong -- they were a good team and didn't make many mistakes but they were certainly fortunate with the schedule. This year they have a harder schedule and they probably won't be as lucky with turnovers as they were last year, which we're seeing already with a whopping zero turnovers forced by the Chiefs defense. The Chiefs looked terrible in Week 1 this year, worse than any point in 2013, which was a surprise. Week 2 and 3 is perhaps a more accurate indicator of who the Chiefs are this year as they challenged the Broncos then went down to Miami and won on the road. They can hang with the big boys but haven't proven yet that they're ready to beat the Broncos and Patriots of the world.
2. Kansas City just handed quarterback Alex Smith the big money contract that we weren't sure if he would get before the season started. What are your thoughts on the deal?
That the quarterback market sucks. The thing about that contract is that Alex Smith absolutely deserved it when you compare him to other quarterbacks in the NFL. By the time Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton get their contracts, it will push Smith's deal down to around the 15th highest quarterback contract in the NFL. 15th highest paid quarterback for Alex Smith is fair. When you compare it to others, it seems fair. It's just so much money. So I come out of this thinking more that the entire quarterback market just sucks.
3. Shifting to the running game, will Jamaal Charles to play on Monday night after sitting out last week? If yes, what can we expect from him and the Chiefs' balance on offense after the limited touches he saw week one?
I'm guessing Andy Reid will pull his best Belichick impression and say nothing about Jamaal Charles until you see him run out on the field on Monday night. I would guess at this point that Charles will play because he was close to playing last week. There's the chance that the Chiefs decide to rest him again to ensure that he's fully healthy but this game is too important to do that. 1-3 would be too devastating to the Chiefs playoff chances for them to consider resting Jamaal if he's capable of playing. Charles' backup Knile Davis will likely see more carries than he usually does with Charles in the game. Davis carried the ball 32 times last week so he's capable of more.
4. Defensively, the Chiefs were one of the top teams in the NFL a season ago. How is that unit shaping up thus far in 2014? Is it a concern that they haven't produced a turnover to this point?
Big concern that they haven't forced a turnover. That has to end this week, right? There's no way the Chiefs are going a freakin' month without a turnover? That's probably the most surprising stat of them all given the Chiefs had the second best turnover differential in the league last year. There is some randomness to interceptions and recovering fumbles but I can't explain how the Chiefs don't have a turnover yet. The pass rush is still solid so you'd think that would eventually result in a forced fumble or hurrying the quarterback into a mistake but it just hasn't. If there's one area of concern for the Patriots, it should be the pass rush. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston will bring it from the edges while Dontari Poe will provide some push up the middle. When they're all clicking, it's a tough combination to beat.
5. The Patriots underwent a major offensive line overhaul this offseason, and the Chiefs went through a similar transition having lost three starters. How is that transformation going for Kansas City?
The Chiefs offensive line was a concern entering the season. And then Donald Stephenson was suspended four games and Jeff Allen was lost for the season. So the expectations were very low after those things happened but the line has done a little better than I originally thought. I'm not saying they're good -- just not as bad as I thought they would be. Or else Andy Reid is doing a better job of scheming around it than I realize. The good thing is that they are very young, which means they're showing marked improvement each week. I do expect the Chiefs line to get better as the season goes along but there could be some problems this week. Left guard Mike McGlynn is one the Patriots will be picking on.