After another impressive offensive showcase last Thursday Night against the Colts, the Patriots look to continue their winning ways as they prepare to host the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. The Patriots were finally in full force offensively last game as the return of Julian Edelman opened up the field on offense. The offense will continue to grow together and trend in the right direction as the season goes by.
However, in their 38-24 victory over the Colts, the Patriots defense allowed 439 total yards to a depleted Colts offense. Even though he threw 2 interceptions, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck still shredded the defense throwing for 365 yards and 3 touchdowns. A victory Sunday Night may rely on how well the Patriots defense can contain the explosive Chiefs offense. Let’s dive into the Chiefs roster and see what makes them one of the best teams in the NFL:
At the helm of the fiery Chiefs offense is second year star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. After being drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes was assigned the role of backup quarterback for a year to learn behind former Chief Alex Smith. After the Chiefs sent former quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins via trade, Mahomes was thrusted into the starting role. Mahomes is off to a record setting 2018 season, as he leads the NFL with 16 total touchdowns while throwing for 1,513 yards and 2 interception. He is taking the league by storm and gaining the attention of many, as a commentator on Monday Night Football nicknamed him “Showtime Mahomes” and “The Chosen One.” It may be a little soon for those nicknames, but the combination of arm strength and great decision making with a speed filled offense makes this Chiefs passing attack a force to be reckoned with.
At running back, second-year star Kareem Hunt is work horse of the offense. Last season, Hunt lead the NFL in yards as he totaled 1,327 yards and 8 touchdowns. Hunt can also catch the ball out of the backfield very effectively, as his 53 receptions for 433 yards and 3 touchdowns speak well for pass-catching ability. In his first career game, which was against the Patriots last year, he fumbled and turned the ball over to the Patriots. After that play, Hunt showcased his skills by rushing for 17 times for 148 yards and a touchdown. His efforts helped the Chiefs spoil the Patriots’ season opener last year. A key this week will be keeping Hunt in check and forcing the young quarterback to rely on his arm more than usual.
At tight end, the Chiefs have the second best player at his position in the NFL with Travis Kelce. Kelce is a defense killer, as a combination of his above average speed, agility, and precise route running make his a matchup nightmare for any opposing linebacker or safety. Kelce is having an impressive 2018 thus far, as he has 28 receptions for 407 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kelce is a passionate player, as his temper tantramptions in the past have proved. Kelce’s love for the game and willingness to compete at every moment makes him a dangerous player go up against. Once Kelce and Mahomes get in-sink, the Chiefs offense gets into a rhythm that has yet to be stopped this year.
The Chiefs deploy one of the best wide receiver groups in the NFL. Lead by Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Chris Conley, the Chiefs receivers are an extremely explosive group that can generate a big-time play at any moment. Nicknamed “The Cheetah”, Tyreek Hill is the fastest player in the NFL. His speed matched with the arm strength of Patrick Mahomes makes for consistent shots downfield in attempt to gain big chunks of yards. Hill has 27 receptions for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he is averaging 15.7 yards per catch which is eye-opening. So far containing Hill has been impossible for opposing defenses, but hopefully Belichick has an idea in mind to stop the blazing fast wideout.
Sammy Watkins and Chris Conley make for a great supporting cast around the rest of the highly talented Chiefs offense. Watkins joined the Chiefs this offseason after a quick stint with the Rams, where he had only 39 receptions for 593 yards but had 8 touchdowns. The 4th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has underperformed throughout his career considering when he was drafted, but Watkins still shows flashes of stardom especially as a number two wideout. Chris Conley isn’t having the start of a season as one would hope for as he only has 11 receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns. In his defense, it is difficult it get Conley involved considering all of the weapons the Chiefs have on offense. Nonetheless, Conley is a solid number 3 receiver and compliments Hill and Watkins tremendously.
The offensive line for the Chiefs is a talented group to say the least. Lead by Tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, the Chiefs are tied for the least amount of sacks allowed with 6 so far this season. In his third year in Kansas City, Schwartz has been a model of toughness as he has made 101 starts in a row dating back to his time with Cleveland. Eric Fisher is just behind Schwartz in the toughness category, as if wasn’t benched for rest in last years week 17 finale in Denver last season he would be preparing to start in his 76th straight game. Fisher has played in all but two games throughout his 5 year career with the Chiefs. The first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft seems to be improving year after year and is establishing himself as a top tier tackle in the league.
On defense, the Chiefs have a defensive line that can get after the quarterback at a rapid pace. As of now, the Chiefs have 15 sacks so far this year, which is tied for 6th in the NFL for total sacks. Leading the Chiefs defensive line is 4-time pro bowler Justin Houston. Houston has been a member of Kansas City’s defense since 2011, and has been a leader on the defense ever since joining the team. In 2014, Houston tallied 22 sacks in one season which is only half a sack away from tying Michael Strahan’s single season record of 22.5. Even though Houston’s prime days may be behind him, he is still more than capable of taking control of a game. Houston has been dealing with a hamstring injury as of late, and his status for Sunday Nights game is still up in the air.
The linebacking core for the Chiefs is an up-and-coming group. Linebacker Dee Ford is off to the best start to a season of his career. Throughout the first 5 games he has impressed many with his 4 sacks and 15 combined tackles. He also already has 12 quarterback hits, his ability to generate pressure is no secret.
Anthony Hitchens patrols the middle of the field for the Chiefs. Hitchens joined the Chiefs this past offseason after he spent his first 4 years with the Dallas Cowboys. Hitchens has the speed to run sideline to sideline and provides solid coverage, as according to Pro Football Focus he was targeted 36 times in the passing game last season and didn’t give up a single touchdown. Hitchens was added to Chiefs in order to fill the roles of former linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, as the 25-year old provides a younger presence on the linebacking core.
The secondary for the Chiefs is fierce group when healthy, but an injury to star Safety Eric Berry keeps the secondary a work in progress. The Chiefs have Kendall Fuller and Orlando Scandrick as their starting corners. Fuller joined the Chiefs this past offseason after he was apart of the blockbuster trade that sent Alex Smith to the Redskins in exchange for Fuller and a third round pick. Last season Fuller had 4 interceptions with the Redskins, which shows how we combines his athleticism with his above average ball skills to make plays. Scandrick is entering his 11th year in the NF and first with the Chiefs after a decade on the Dallas Cowboys. Scandrick provides a veteran locker room presence as well as elite ball skills, as he already has 7 pass defended this season. To put that into perspective, the most pass deflections Scandrick has ever had in one season was 12, so he is off to a great start in Kansas City.
Ron Parker is the starting free safety for Kansas City. After a 4 year stint with three different teams, Parker joined Kansas City in 2013 and has never looked back. Parker is an average safety in the NFL but has the ability to make plays as he acts as the center fielder of the defense. With Eric Berry set to miss Sunday Nights game, Parker is going to have to continue to step up and fill that big role that Berry provides.
Sunday Nights game will teach us a lot about both teams. We have seen hot starts from the Chiefs in the past, but nothing as serious as this offense seems to be. Applying consistent pressure on Mahomes will be key to cause turnovers and disrupt Mahomes’ timing with his receivers. The Patriots should look to limit the deep ball and keep all of the plays in front of them. With Eric Berry being out, expect a big game from Rob Gronkowski who has has his fair share of struggles against Berry in the past. Sunday Nights showdown could be a preview of the AFC Championship game this year and the outcome of the game will have a major effect on the AFC playoff race.
-Adam Pasquale, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @adampasqualejr