The Patriots will need the service of their role players in order for the Patriots to advance in the AFCCG. The main match-ups and key players that will need to step can be talked ad nauseam, but these are the players for the Patriots that need to play a large role in the outcome of the game. The Patriots need to be able to extend drives on 3rd down and apply their pass rush to Alex Smith, who is the 2nd best QB remaining in the AFC playoffs. If the Patriots allow the Chiefs to dictate terms, it's going to be a long day for the team and their fans.
WR Danny Amendola: The Chiefs have two very good boundary CBs in Sean Smith and rookie Marcus Peters, but questionable depth in the slot. With Julian Edelman coming back, that means Amendola is primarily playing in the slot for the Patriots. With the Chiefs putting a lot of attention on Rob Gronkowski and Edelman, that means there will be opportunities for Amendola to extend drives on 3rd down if Brady has to go to his 2nd or 3rd read on the play. If Amendola is constantly extending drives against the Chiefs, it takes pressure off Tom Brady and puts more on Alex Smith to try to outscore the Patriots.
ED Jabaal Sheard: The Chiefs have injuries on their offensive line, with the most recent causing their RT to move to RG and sub in their backup swing tackle Donald Stephenson. That could create a mismatch with Sheard, who is playing the best football of his career right now. If the Chiefs have to play their backup OT, that makes the matchup more in favor for Sheard. In order to keep Alex Smith from controlling the ball and keeping Brady on the sideline, the Patriots pass rush must apply the heat to Alex Smith. The pressure will lead to a potentially game-changing turnover in addition to stymieing the Chiefs offense to try to keep up with the Patriots offense.