For the first time in a while the Patriots offense is the not the most talked about thing around New England. After back-to-back offensive outputs of 38 points against the Dolphins and Colts, and it could’ve been even more in the case of the Colts game, the offense seems to have put it together and appears to be on the rise. Furthermore, it should only get stronger when Josh Gordon gets closer to full health.
Going into the game against the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots look to be relatively healthy and we should learn more about the team overall from this game. The game will also say a lot about Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs as well, meaning this game has all the makings of a classic shootout game that leaves you glued to the television.
Here is what to watch for on Sunday night:
1.) Explosive offenses collide
A few weeks ago I think everyone would have been queasy thinking about how the Patriots could keep up offensively with the Chiefs, who seem to have a new gadget play every week. Offensively for the Chiefs they are led by Patrick Mahomes, one of the top performers at quarterback this year despite his inexperience and youth, last year’s rookie sensation Kareem Hunt, one of the league’s top tight ends in Travis Kelce, and of course do it all playmaker Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs also have Sammy Watkins, Spencer Ware, Demetrius Harris and Chris Conley as guys who have supporting roles in the offense.
On the other side we all know the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski, the much bandied about acquisition Josh Gordon, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett to go along with Sony Michel and James White. An underrated player that could play a big role going forward is Jacob Hollister, but he first needs to stay healthy in order to earn a bigger role as we get closer to the middle of the season.
These are some high end options and with two great offensive minds calling the game against defenses that have yet to hit their stride, this could be a 38-34 kind of game. Look for the Chiefs to try and strike early on and make the Patriots play from behind, and look for the Patriots to do the same to the Chiefs as they hope to expose Patrick Mahomes in a way others have failed.
2.) Tight ends dominate: Who is the better TE?
For the past week or so much has been made about who the better tight end is in the league and sure enough we get a matchup that features both players in high-flying offenses. Gronkowski has held the title of top tight end for a while now, while Kelce has clearly stepped his game year after year. Either way you look at it both players should be motivated to prove themselves against defenses that should struggle to cover them.
Looking at it specifically, Eric Berry did a great job on Gronkowski last year to start the year, but he hasn’t been practicing and looks headed toward being out for the game Sunday giving Gronk more room to run.
The Chiefs on the other hand are looking at a Patriots defense that just allowed two inferior tight ends in Eric Ebronand Erik Swoope to combine for 12 catches 149 yards and 3 touchdowns something that has to have Andy Reid, Travis Kelce and Pat Mahomes licking their chops. One other player who is not as known to the average fan is Demetrius Harris who plays a more complimentary role, but could see an uptick in playing time with the problems the Patriots had last game. Harris is a really good athlete and is a solid tight end that I think could create problems, similar to Hollister for the Patriots. Either way both teams are loaded at tight end and they all will factor heavily in the decision.
3.) How do Patriots attack Mahomes?
This is the million dollar question right now because no one has really figured out how to slow Mahomes for a whole game. Denver stifled him for a half only to see him lead an offensive surge back to win the game. In this game I would expect on most downs that the Patriots would spy Mahomes with someone like Kyle Van Noy who is their most athletic linebacker for sure, along with keeping Mahomes in the pocket. I am sure Bill Belichick and Brian Flores saw how Mahomes creates plays outside the pocket and that is something that has to be limited with disciplined pass rushers while also staying in their gap and pushing the pocket.
One aspect I am curious to see is how often the Patriots blitz, which is something they have adopted more of since the transition of Matt Patricia to Brian Flores. However they choose to play it, the Patriots cannot afford to produce the same pressure on the quarterback they have shown in some of the past games. The Chiefs are too skilled and with two studs in Kelce and Hill, to go along with good complimentary options it could make for a long night if Mahomes has all day.
4.) Will Patriots lean on pass or run, or will they stay balanced offensively?
The Patriots are in a unique spot this week in that the Chiefs are horrible both defending the run and pass. The Chiefs are 24th against the run and 31st against the pass. Meanwhile the Patriots possess the 11th ranked ground attacked, but just 21stranked passing attack. In all fairness, the Patriots passing attack should be drastically improve as the season goes on as well.
I am sure Tom Brady will get his shots in especially in the play action pass department, but I think could easily be a game where Josh McDaniels decides they are going to run it down the Chiefs throat early to impose their will and dictate the pace of the game and engage his big guys on the line early. If the Patriots control the game with the run early it limits the times Mahomes and that offense go out there and thus gives the defense a better chance at defending the Chiefs dynamic assault. No matter what plan they go with though it should be a great chess match between two gifted offensive minds.
-David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani