The New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs may not be going head-to-head in the race for the number one seed in the AFC’s playoff picture this year, but they are still among the best teams in the conference and all of football — and are expected to be in the race for the long haul. Sunday’s meeting between the two clubs is therefore a highly anticipated one, and a rematch of the 2018 AFC Championship Game that the Patriots won in overtime.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at the Patriots’ Week 14 opponent.
Record: 8-4 (1st place AFC West)
Points scored: 3rd (29.0 points/game)
Points against: 16th (22.1 points/game)
Head coach: Andy Reid
Coordinators: Eric Bieniemy (OC), Steve Spagnuolo (DC)
Games so far
Week 1 at Jacksonville Jaguars: W 40-26
Week 2 at Oakland Raiders: W 28-10
Week 3 vs Baltimore Ravens: W 33-28
Week 4 at Detroit Lions: W 34-40
Week 5 vs Indianapolis Colts: L 19-13
Week 6 vs Houston Texans: L 31-24
Week 7 at Denver Broncos: W 30-6
Week 8 vs Green Bay Packers: L 31-24
Week 9 vs Minnesota Vikings: W 26-23
Week 10 at Tennessee Titans: L 35-32
Week 11 at Los Angeles Chargers: W 24-17
Week 12: Bye
Week 13 vs Oakland Raiders: W 40-9
Kansas City started the season on a roll by winning its first four games of the season. However, the team was not blowing past opponents like it did in 2018 and the games against Indianapolis and Houston unveiled some vulnerabilities on both sides of the ball. To make matters worse, quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered a dislocated kneecap the following week against Denver which forced backup Matt Moore into action.
Moore performed admirably in one of the best offensive systems in the league, and led the team to a 2-1 record during Mahomes’ absence. The reigning league MVP finally returned in Week 10, only to see his team drop another game — this time against the Titans, who were able to capitalize on Kansas City’s mistakes in all three phases of the game. The Chiefs did bounce back the next week, however, and ultimately played their most dominant game of the season in Week 13 against Oakland.
Three storylines that describe the 2019 season
The development of Patrick Mahomes: A first-round draft pick in 2017, Patrick Mahomes bursts onto the scene last year when he led the Chiefs to the AFC title game and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. One year later, the 24-year-old is still among the best quarterbacks in all of football even though his numbers are not quite on the same level as in 2018: missing two of his teams games, Mahomes has completed 227 of his 352 pass attempts (64.5%) for 2,983 yards and 20 touchdowns as well as just two interceptions. Make no mistake, though, he is capable of single-handedly deciding games in Kansas City’s favor.
The defense under new leadership: After the Patriots dissected the unit in the aforementioned AFC Championship Game, Kansas City replaced defensive coordinator Bob Sutton with Steve Spagnuolo — a change that led to some improvement both against the pass and the run. The latter is still a weakness for the group, though, and an area that the Patriots might try to attack once again on Sunday. As a whole, however, the additions of Spagnuolo and free agency signing Tyrann Mathieu have certainly helped made the unit a more consistent one.
The rookie contributors: Kansas City has one of the best young cores in all of football, and this year’s draft added more talent to the equation. On offense, second-round wide receiver Mecole Hardman has turned into a valuable contributor that has caught 23 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, fellow second-rounder Juan Thornhill has carved out a role as the Chiefs’ starting free safety — a player that rarely leaves the field and has caught two interceptions. Other rookies such as defensive tackle Khalen Saunders and cornerback/special teamer Rashad Fenton have also been able to leave their mark as rotational options.
Three players to know
WR Tyreek Hill: While Patrick Mahomes is the engine that powers the Chiefs’ offensive attack, his receiving weapons are integral pieces as well — the most dangerous of which might be Tyreek Hill. Despite missing four games earlier this season due to injury, the three time Pro Bowler is again posting outstanding numbers: through eight games this season, Hill has caught 38 passes for 598 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. Slowing him down has to be a priority for New England on Sunday, and it would not be a surprise to see the team once again double-cover him with Jonathan Jones and a safety over the top.
TE Travis Kelce: With Rob Gronkowski no longer playing, Travis Kelce now has a strong case as the best tight end in the NFL — at least when it comes to receiving. The team’s leader in catches and yards, Kelce has 68 receptions to his name this season for a combined 923 yards and four touchdowns. He is as dangerous as pass catcher as there is in the NFL due to his combination of size, strength and speed, and will command special attention from the Patriots wherever he goes on the football field. Last year, the team used cornerback J.C. Jackson and Patrick Chung as his primary matchups and a similar plan might be used this year as well.
DT Chris Jones: While the Chiefs’ offense gets most of the headlines, the team’s defense has its outstanding performers as well. And none of them is as consistently disruptive as interior defensive lineman Chris Jones. Just take a look at his numbers: 25-year-old leads the team in quarterback pressures despite having missed three games — he has registered 6.0 sacks, 10 hits and 23 hurries. While somewhat inconsistent as a run stuffer, Jones’ pass rushing prowess makes him a factor that needs to be accounted for.
What to watch this week
Will the Chiefs get their revenge for the AFC title game? The last meeting between the two clubs was one for the ages — a highly contested playoff battle at a jam-packed Arrowhead Stadium that ended with the Patriots winning 37-31 and advancing to the Super Bowl. While the stakes will not be that high on Sunday, the game is still a chance for Kansas City to win its first game against New England since Patrick Mahomes took over as the team’s starting quarterback last year.