The Kansas City Chiefs in 2016 took advantage of a late opportunity to swipe the AFC West in 2016 and carried that into hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers in the division round. However, against the Steelers defense the Chiefs struggled to move the ball and their run defense struggled between the 20 yard lines, stiffening up in the red zone where they held the Steelers to 6 field goals. The Chiefs scored a potential game-tying TD and 2-point conversion until the latter was called back due to a ticky-tack holding call on Travis Kelce and the Steelers wound up visiting New England.
The Chiefs present an interesting problem for the Patriots. They’re a fundamentally solid team on offense, defense, and special teams for the most part and have the ability to burn teams in those 3 phases. However, at the same time, their talent level wasn’t as good as it’s been in the early days of Andy Reid’s current gig as the Chiefs have aged out in certain positions and have dealt with injuries to key players. The Chiefs haven’t done a great job of replacing their core from 2013-2015 either in the draft and free agency.
Offensively, the Chiefs are slow and methodical. They like to run the ball to grind up clock and shorten the game. Their top backs from 2016 were Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, although they added one of my draft crushes in Kareem Hunt. Their receiving corps isn’t that special as a unit although Tyreek Hill is a threat to score every time he gets the football and Chris Conley is clearly a part of the Chiefs plans. Aside from Hill, the Chiefs most dangerous weapons in the passing game is TE Travis Kelce. The Patriots will be paying special attention to him in the middle of the field, I wouldn’t be surprised if they bracket him on most plays with a linebacker and safety.
The Chiefs defense has a couple of stars, but mostly consist of bit players. Justin Houston is one of the game’s best pass rushers, but has been suffering from chronic knee-related problems the last couple seasons. When Houston is healthy, he is a nightmare to block off the edge in addition to being able to play a mug 3-technique on passing downs. Marcus Peters and Eric Berry are the stars in the secondary, the former very capable of shutting down one side of the field and the latter one of the best cover safeties in the league. The Patriots can easily counter Peters by simply not throwing to his side of the field or try to create confusion with route combinations.
In addition, previous defensive stars like Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson have aged considerably and have been dinged up the past couple seasons. I do think the Patriots can exploit certain matchups by using James White out of the backfield against the Chiefs linebackers or using Rob Gronkowski, who has 8” on Berry in the red zone. The Chiefs are mostly a problem if they can play the game they want to play which is a slow-paced offense that gets help from turnovers from the defense and big plays on Special Teams. If the Patriots play their game against the Chiefs, a playoff matchup in January is going to swing New England’s way considerably.