As a counter to the previous article talking about why the Patriots will lose in Kansas City Chiefs, I will share this piece of optimism and why the Patriots can still win in Kansas City. The Patriots obviously have their challenges facing a team with one of the most talented skill groups in NFL history, a quarterback with video game defying skills, and a defense that can put heats on opposing passers as they desperate trying to stay with the Chiefs offense.
Add in the fact that not only do they have to face that, they have to travel on the road to one of the most hostile environments in the NFL. It won’t be easy, as the Indianapolis Colts found out last Saturday, but if there is one team that can do it, it will be the Patriots. This is why:
Tom Brady is the Quarterback and playing at his usual high level
If the Patriots had an inexperienced quarterback, then there would be more cause for concern with this game. However, the Patriots feature the greatest signal caller in NFL history with experience playing in hostile environments in the past — from the early 2000s Steelers teams and a super-charged San Diego team back in January 2007. Tom Brady has erased deficits of 10 and 25 in the Super Bowls of recent years, so he’s faced every kind of adversity in the postseason. Brady proved against the Chargers that he still has it even at 41, although he’ll experience more problems with the Chiefs’ man coverage defense than the Chargers’ cover 3 zone scheme.
The team is healthy
The Patriots are at full strength with a healthy Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman in the fold. All five starting offensive lineman along with the Patriots’ main skill players are healthy and all capable of putting up big numbers. On defense, the only non-healthy scratch against the Chargers was Deatrich Wise Jr., who will be three weeks removed from a minor ankle injury and was pulled off the injury report yesterday. With the team at full strength against the Chargers, they put in their best showing of the year against a team that won 12 games.
The Patriots have a good running game
Ball control will be key for the Patriots to stop the Chiefs. That means relying a lot on Rob Gronkowski (as a blocker), James Develin, and Dwayne Allen blocking at the point of attack for Sony Michel. The Chiefs often play with a lead, as evidence by their near 7-point differential per game in the first quarter. The Patriots cannot allow the Chiefs to establish a lead and what better way to do it than to establish control of the ball and cram it down their throats. The Patriots invested heavily in their run game in the offseason by selecting Isaiah Wynn and Michel in the first round before giving Shaq Mason, their best run blocker, a 5-year extension. Michel has averaged about 71 yards a game in rookie season and has been the difference maker in 3-4 games already this season, although the team will need him to repeat his Week 6 and Divisional Round performances.
The secondary is better than in Week 6
J.C. Jackson has emerged as the #2 corner for the Patriots, leapfrogging both Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty for the role opposite of All-Pro Stephon Gilmore. Jackson was inactive in the Patriots’ Week 6 win, although he’ll draw the dubious assignment of playing the underneath coverage on Tyreek Hill and/or Sammy Watkins on the boundary. With Jackson in the lineup, the Patriots have put together some of the better stretches of games with the team allowing 17 points or fewer in their final 3 games and helping the offense put away the Chargers. The Patriots’ talented secondary has allowed de-facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores to be more creative with the front seven, including the 1-5-5 amoeba package that has given opposing teams fits.
No Kareem Hunt
Perhaps the biggest relief for the Patriots is not having to defend a player who has torched them badly in 2 games. Hunt has posted 246 and 185 yards from scrimmage, catching a 75+ yard touchdown against the Patriots in both games he’s played against him. With the domestic violence incident placing him on the exempt list back in November, the Chiefs offense is just a bit less dangerous. Hunt was very good at exploiting the Patriots’ deficiencies with playing under a light box as well and covering running backs. The Chiefs have replaced him with Damien Williams, the former Miami Dolphins back, who has done a solid job filling in. Williams doesn’t terrify me as much as Hunt did, however, even though Williams will have space to run since the Patriots will be working on keeping everything in front.