Later today, the New England Patriots will host the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game. While both teams have changed quite a bit since their meeting in January — one New England won 37-31 in overtime — they are still among the best in the league and fighting for positioning in the AFC’s playoff picture: the 10-2 Patriots are the second seed at the moment, the 8-4 Chiefs the fourth.
Nevertheless, that Kansas City is expected to be formidable challenge for the Patriots — but one that is certainly beatable as Arrowhead Pride’s Pete Sweeney pointed out while talking to Pats Pulpit earlier this week. The Chiefs reporter offered the following three main reasons why the team he is covering could lose in the highly anticipated matchup between two of the league’s premier franchises:
- The Chiefs haven’t put together a flawless game since quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ return from injury
- The Chiefs are still trying to find a rushing attack
- The Chiefs defense may not have an answer for Sony Michel and James White
Pete also revealed his rationale behind pointing out the three reasons why New England could win on Sunday:
1.) The team hasn’t put together a flawless game since Patrick Mahomes’ return
Patrick Mahomes returned to the lineup three weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans after he missed time with a dislocated right kneecap.
Against the Titans, Mahomes’ statistics popped — he went 36 of 50 for 446 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs lost 35-32 when everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and the defense couldn’t hold up.
The two games since have been wins, but that has been largely due to defensive success.
Patrick Mahomes has played 26 full regular season games. His last 2 games have ranked...— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) December 2, 2019
- 25th & 26th in passing yards
- 25th & 26th in yards per attempt
- 22nd & 25th in passer rating
These have been 2 of his 3 worst games as a pro in back-to-back weeks.
It is amazing to say it, but for the first time in his young career, Mahomes has looked human over the past two games.
The Patriots defense has been among the best — entering the game second in yards allowed and first in points allowed. The fact that Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson found a way should give Chiefs fans hope, but if Mahomes doesn’t play up to their level for the third straight game, winning will be a tall task.
2.) The Chiefs are still trying to find a rushing attack
Mahomes and the passing offense might be aided by a rushing attack, if the Chiefs had some consistency there. The last time the Chiefs had a rusher over 100 yards was Week 9 — Damien Williams against the Vikings. Damien will likely be ruled out on for the game on Friday.
Over the last two games, Patrick Mahomes (vs. Chargers) and Darwin Thompson (vs. Raiders) were the leading rushers with 59 yards and 44 yards, respectively. Mahomes’ yardage came on five scrambles and Thompson’s came during what would be considered garbage time. Both outputs were under 60 yards.
To make matters worse, second-year rusher Darrel Williams was placed on IR this week, forcing the Chiefs to sign Spencer Ware, a familiar face who was out of football.
That leaves LeSean McCoy, who it feels like the Chiefs don’t really trust, and Thompson, who the team says still needs work in his pass protections.
All of these issues will be up against the No. 5 rush defense (yards per game) in the league.
3.) The Chiefs defense may not have an answer for Sony Michel and James White
And on the other side of it, no team does worse against the run when it comes to total production than the Kansas City Chiefs. Even in the Chiefs’ 40-9 dominant win against the Oakland Raiders last week, Josh Jacobs still rushed for more than 100 yards.
Asked about the matchup problem of White, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said that his players will have to simply recognize the personnel on the field at a given time.
“The first thing as a defense is as coaches, we can be over there and see who’s going in as the running back, but the players who are out on the field have to be aware of who that running back is. That’s the first thing, and then we’ve talked about what each running back does, what they’re asked to do, the percentages of what they do, so hopefully that registers, the guys absorb it, and they use it on gameday.”
As the Chiefs tend to struggle with any traditional running back, it makes me wonder how they will be able to handle such a unique attack.