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Patriots vs Chiefs keys to the game: New England has to keep things simple

Related: Resetting the Patriots’ quarterback depth chart after Cam Newton’s positive Covid-19 test

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

If 2020 could be described in one weekend, it would be this past one. With the New England Patriots all but set to fly to Kansas City on Saturday afternoon, the shocking news of Cam Newton’s positive Covid-19 test put a halt to that and kept everyone in New England on their toes.

Since then, everyone on the Patriots and Chiefs, who also had a positive test come from their practice squad quarterback, have tested negative and the game between the two teams had to be postponed to 7:05 pm ET later today.

From a football perspective, Newton’s positive test flat out sucks: this would have been a true measuring stick for the Patriots to see how they matched up with the defending champs and an opportunity for the team’s new quarterback to showcase himself versus Patrick Mahomes. There is a human aspect to this as well, of course, and although Cam Newton is reportedly feeling well and asymptomatic, we wish him nothing but the best so he can get back on the field as soon as possible.

It’s been reported by Ian Rapaport of NFL Network that veteran Brian Hoyer is expected to get the start in Newton’s absence, which will mark his first ever start in New England in his 11th year and third go-around with the team.

With all that said, let’s take a look at this week’s keys to the game.

Slow down the Chiefs offense

Although the Mahomes-led Chiefs have averaged 31 points per game against Bill Belichick’s defenses, New England’s head coach has been able to slow down this Chiefs offense to an extent in all three of his matchups with Mahomes. In each of the games dating back to the 2018 season, the Patriots have held the Chiefs without a touchdown in at least one half.

Cam Newton or not, getting in a shootout with the Chiefs is a recipe for disaster. With Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins and first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, there’s plenty of team speed on the offensive side of the ball. We saw the Patriots defense get exposed a bit back in Week 2 when Seattle took advantage of their second level with crossers and deep posts to guys like Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.

The Patriots defense, in particular the linebacking corps, will need to be on its toes all night long for the team to have a chance in this one.

Keep things as simple as possible

Brian Hoyer’s role on this team is exactly for what is transpiring this weekend; being placed in emergency situations that you can put in at any time and know exactly what you’re going to get and don’t need to change the offense too much because you have the confidence that he knows it like the back of his hand. Brian Hoyer (or Jarrett Stidham) going into Arrowhead Stadium after flying out the morning of the game and sneaking out a win is certainly possible. However, it’s going to take all of the guys that are active on Monday night.

Whatever we see from the team, and whoever lines up at quarterback tonight, will just have to keep things extremely simple in order to move the ball downfield efficiently and give the Patriots a chance in this thing. We know the Chiefs are going to score, and we know they are probably going to score a lot. The only way for the Patriots to stay in this game and have a chance will be to control the game and keep No. 15 on the sidelines for as long as possible.

Lean heavily on the run game

Belichick is 2-1 versus Mahomes and Andy Reid, and in both of those wins the Patriots ran the ball extremely well rushing for over 150 yards on the ground. Despite missing their starting quarterback and top running back, Sony Michel, the Patriots have plenty of bodies and ways to attack the Chiefs on the ground.

For one, it is entirely possible that Damien Harris is still being activated off injured reserve before the game. The team also is expected to get James White back after a two-game absence following the death of his father.

Being able to control the clock in this game is extremely important in order to stay in it and keep the Chiefs’ offense off the field. Kansas City can hang 30 points on you easily even with 20-25 minutes of possession, but being able to run the ball efficiently and potentially cashing in on one or two Chiefs mistakes can certainly keep the Patriots within striking distance and make this one a lot closer than many expect.

Prediction: Chiefs 34 - Patriots 20

I think the Patriots will be able to slow the Chiefs down for some parts this game and keep it close for most, but ultimately the Chiefs will pull away late and come away with a double digit win.

Did you know?

  • This is Brian Hoyer’s sixth season and third journey in New England throughout his 11th year career. However, tonight’s game will be his first ever start in New England. If Jarrett Stidham gets the nod, it will be his first career start.
  • The Patriots are 11-point underdogs on Monday night. The last time a Belichick led team was a double-digit underdog was Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams.
  • Belichick’s Patriots’ have only lost by 14+ points 21 times since he took the job in 2000.
  • The Patriots have rushed for 200+ yards in both their wins this season. In their two wins versus the Mahomes-led Chiefs, they have rushed for at least 175 each time.