After beating the Las Vegas Raiders in rather convincing fashion on Sunday, another AFC West team awaits the New England Patriots’ this week — one that poses a far superior challenge: the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots will go on the road to take on the reigning world champions, who are coming off a dominant victory on Monday Night Football to improve their record to a perfect 3-0.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s upcoming opponent.
Record: 3-0 (1st place AFC West)
Points scored: 4th (30.3/game)
Points against: 6th (20.0/game)
Head coach: Andy Reid
Coordinators: Eric Bieniemy (OC), Steve Spagnuolo (DC), Dave Toub (ST)
The Chiefs’ coaching staff features plenty of experience in all three phases, and two of the brightest offensive minds in the game: head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who should become a head coach himself next offseason, have built their system to perfectly fit the team’s elite quarterback and equally impressive supporting cast. While Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has been impressive as well so far this year, the Chiefs are a team built around the offense and explosive firepower the unit has — in large part due to Reid and Bieniemy.
Season so far
Week 1 vs Houston Texans: W 34-20
Week 2 at Los Angeles Chargers: W 23-20 (OT)
Week 3 at Baltimore Ravens: W 34-20
The Chiefs are undefeated this season and in fact have not lost since November 10 last year — a 12-game winning streak that includes a victory in the Super Bowl and wins over two of the AFC’s best teams this year: Kansas City dominated the Texans on opening day and was also able to blow out the Ravens in Week 3. In between, however, they showed some weaknesses by being taken to overtime by the Chargers and rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. The Chiefs may be the best team in the NFL right now, but L.A. showed that they are not invincible.
Including playoffs, the Patriots and Chiefs have met 36 times so far:
- Patriots wins: 14 wins (2 playoff wins)
- Chiefs wins: 19 wins (0 playoff wins)
- Ties: 3
New England and Kansas City are no unfamiliar foes after playing each other twice a year in the old American Football League between 1960 and the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Since then, the teams have not met that often but they have played some memorable games throughout the years — from a 41-38 overtime thriller in 2002, to the game that saw Tom Brady tear his ACL in 2008, to a 43-40 shootout in 2018.
The most memorable meeting, however, may have come in January 2019: the Patriots went on the road against the favored Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game and punched their ticket to the Super Bowl thanks to a 37-31 win in overtime.
Projected starting lineups
QB Patrick Mahomes; RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire*; WR Tyreek Hill, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Demarcus Robinson; TE Travis Kelce; LT Eric Fisher, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Austin Reiter, RG Mike Remmers, RT Mitchell Schwartz
While it doesn’t lead the NFL in scoring, the Chiefs’ offense is arguably the most talented in the league from top to bottom with elite talent across the board. Led by reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, the team features an outstanding group of wide receivers, one of the best tight ends in the game (Travis Kelce), and possibly the top pair of offensive line bookends as well. Add the aforementioned scheme and impressive rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and you get an offense that is as hard to stop as any in football right now.
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, DT Chris Jones, DT Derrick Nnadi, DE Frank Clark; LB Anthony Hitchens, LB Damien Wilson, LB Ben Niemann; CB L’Jarius Sneed*, CB Rashad Fenton; S Tyrann Mathieu, S Juan Thornhill
While most of the headlines are reserved for Mahomes and company, the Chiefs’ defense is one of the better unit’s in the game in its own right. Chris Jones and Frank Clark offer proven quality up front, with the safety duo of Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill roaming the backend. The cornerbacks and especially the linebackers may not offer the same quality, but they too have looked good so far in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.
K Harrison Butker, P Tommy Townsend*, LS James Winchester; KR/PR Mecole Hardman
The two names that stand out among the Chiefs’ specialists are place kicker Harrison Butker and returnman Mecole Hardman. Butker is usually one of the most accurate kickers in the league, but he has missed both a field goal and two extra points this season. Hardman, on the other hand, has looked good: the second-year man is averaging 11.5 yards per punt return and 23.3 yards per kickoff runback.
Three things to watch
1. Will the Patriots slow down the Chiefs’ weapons? Every team that is playing the Chiefs has to ask itself one question: How do I slow down Patrick Mahomes and the elite group of weapons surrounding him? New England has actually shown an ability to do that by employing unique pressure packages as well as one of the best secondaries in the game. Whether or not the Patriots can find success again and keep Kansas City’s offense from getting into a rhythm will be a key factor during the game.
2. Can Cam Newton bounce backer after a subpar Week 3? The Patriots’ new starting quarterback was not necessarily bad last Sunday against the Raiders, but he did not play on the same high level he showed over the first two games of the season. Going against a Chiefs defense that is giving up just 17.7 points a game — third fewest in the NFL through three weeks — Newton will need to return to his A-game in order to give New England a chance to hang with Kansas City’s offense.
3. What can New England learn from the first three weeks? The Chiefs are entering the game with a perfect 3-0 record, but that does not mean they haven’t shown some weaknesses the Patriots can learn from. Whether it is attacking a run defense that is giving up 5.3 yards per carry and was repeatedly torched by the Ravens on Monday night, or focusing on limiting chunk plays against Mahomes and company, New England has to look at what other teams did well against Kansas City this year to find some potential weaknesses to exploit.