Offense: Whoever's on the Interior vs. Dontari Poe
The Patriots are playing one of the best interior defensive lineman in football on Monday, and they will need to find a way to limit his impact. Wait, you're already sick of hearing this? Well, if you're not used to it already, you will be by Monday.
Any way you put it, this is going to be the key match-up for the Patriots when they have the ball on offense. You're probably also sick of hearing about Tom Brady and his struggles vs. pressure up the middle. And finally, you're probably sick of hearing about the Patriots problems on the interior line.
All of this makes for the perfect storm of issues for the Patriots. The Patriots are undoubtedly making slowing down Poe a big part of their game plan for Monday. I've heard some argue that the Patriots shouldn't insert Bryan Stork into the line-up because it would be like throwing him into a fire because of his lack of experience. But are Jordan Devey's now three career starts that much more impressive?
Perhaps the Patriots keep an extra running back in the game at times while in the shotgun to help with any pressure Poe creates up the middle. Perhaps the Patriots make sure they are always double or triple-teaming him.
The bottom line is, the Patriots need to adjust with Poe on the field, regardless of who actually matches up against him. And how they adjust will be the key match-up for the Patriots when they have the football
Defense: Linebackers vs. Travis Kelce / Running Backs
Against the Raiders a week ago, the Patriots did an excellent job limiting the tight ends and running backs. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr played a generally conservative game, opting for quick throws and check downs to backs and receivers.
The Chiefs will deploy a similar game plan, but have far superior personnel to execute. The Patriots linebackers will have to bring their A-game. Jamaal Charles is a dual threat who had 70 receptions on 104 targets a year ago. Knile Davis has seven catches through three weeks. Tight end Travis Kelce could be the real problem for the Patriots. He's a big, athletic, playmaking tight end that has seen his playing time increase in each of the last three weeks.
Jamie Collins played just 20 snaps a week ago after coming back from injury, but could see his role increase in a potential match-up against Kelce. Both Mayo and Hightower will be counted on to control the YAC allowed to running backs. Although if Hightower plays anything like he did last week, that shouldn't be an issue.