The New England Patriots will have their hands full against the Kansas City Chiefs, but they could catch a break if Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin isn't able to play at his best. Maclin is recovering from a high-ankle sprain he suffered against the Houston Texans during Wild Cad week.
Maclin has yet to practice this week.
"We'll see what happens later in the week," Chiefs offensive coordinate Doug Pederson said. "Next man has to step up, we'll be leaning on Chris Conley a little bit more and ask him to fulfill that role."
The 6'2, 215 lbs rookie Conley caught one pass for 9 yards against the Texans, and that went for a touchdown. While Conley only picked up 17 receptions for 199 yards and a touchdown in the regular season, the one game that Maclin missed against the Steelers, Conley collected 6 receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs certainly trust that he can step up.
"He's a really smart kid and I think he's learned a ton this year as the season goes on," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. "When he has those opportunities he's gone and made the most of them."
The Patriots could defend Conley with Logan Ryan, although the Chiefs receiver has blazing 4.35 speed that could really do some damage to the New England secondary. Conley would play alongside 5'9 wide receiver Albert Wilson.
Of course, there's an off chance that Maclin could still see plenty of time on Saturday, according to the Kansas City coaching staff.
"He could [play without practicing]," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said about Maclin. "He might not have to do that, but he could do that."
No matter what happens, Kansas City will push forward a wide receiver with tremendous speed and the Patriots will have to be ready to counter with perfect coverage. Whether it's Ryan, or Malcolm Butler, or Justin Coleman, the Patriots will have to be at their best to slow down the Chiefs receivers.