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New England Patriots X-Factors against the Kansas City Chiefs

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The Patriots need a strong performance from these players to win against the Chiefs.

NFL: New England Patriots at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots will open up the season tonight against the Kansas City Chiefs, which will start with banners, ceremonies, and Roger Goodell clown shirts. The game will start off as an event, but as the ball kicks off it’s all business. The Patriots are well-equipped to beat the Chiefs on paper, but sometimes it doesn’t play that way. In order for the Patriots to win tonight, these players need to have a strong game.

James White/Dion Lewis/Rex Burkhead: This is more about the receiving back position more so than just one guy. The Patriots have 3 players that create mismatches against linebackers out of the backfield and can line up all over the field. One way to attack the Chiefs defense is to spread it out and force their linebackers to cover in the boundary or slot instead of the middle of the field. With Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan symbolizing vertical threats on the field, the safeties have to play deep and not in the middle of the field. If the Patriots are able to exploit RB vs. LB matchups in space, they should be able to sustain drives fairly easily.

Chris Hogan: Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett have gotten a lot of publicity about taking the top off the defense, but Hogan is another possible vertical threat from the slot. Steven Nelson will not be available for the game due to injury, which takes the Chiefs top slot corner off the field. Marcus Peters is a top-10 CB, but he only covers one guy and the Patriots have plenty of other weapons to use. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hogan was the leading receiver for the Patriots in this game with his ability to run every route in the book.

Stephon Gilmore: The Patriots will divert a lot of attention to Tyreek Hill and his game-changing speed. That means Gilmore needs to lock down his man on the other side of the field. Gilmore will most likely deal with Chris Conley, who the Patriots once had pre-draft interest in, and Conley has very little experience overall. Very often Gilmore will be left on an island in this game unless the Patriots are able to stop the run with their Front 6.

Ryan Allen: It’s equally as important to limit Tyreek Hill’s impact on offense as it is on Special Teams. The strategy may be for Stephen Gostkowski to blast the ball through the end zone on kickoffs. On punts, the Patriots need to be able to prevent Hill from making a big play and flipping the field or score. That means Ryan Allen needs to pin his punts near the sideline and the coverage unit needs to cover his punts well. In the battle for field position, if Ryan Allen the Patriots punt coverage unit has a good day, it goes a long way to helping the defense make stops.