Well that game was certainly not what anyone expected. Going into week 13, Bill O’Brien had never beaten the Patriots and had been beaten down numerous times. That all changed with the Patriots offense doing what it has so many times this year: move the ball down the field on one of the opening drives, stall in the red zone, and then kick a field goal. Unfortunately after that is even more of an issue because the Patriots just haven’t been scoring points. Consider that the last four games New England is averaging just 18 points per game, which if you compare those to season averages would put them 26th in the NFL, or just above the Bears, Jets, Dolphins, Broncos, Bengals, and Redskins. None of whom are above .500 and combined have a record of just 21-51.
None of this is to say the Patriots will not adjust, or slowly produce more points the rest of the year. Heck, they could come out on fire on Sunday, score 28 points and put this to rest in the blink of an eye. Although that seems unlikely, the Chiefs are a team that could jumpstart this offense as well. No matter what happens remember the Patriots are 10-2, not 4-8 or 6-6. This team still has fantastic special teams, a top of the league defense and never forget Brady and Belichick, no matter how old or down they seem. Bet against them at your own peril
Here is what’s happening in week 14.
Looking at the Chiefs’ roster and coaching staff, it is always interesting to note how they connect to the Patriots. First name that jumps off the page is obviously Brendan Daly, who was a defensive line coach for Pats and left this past offseason. Daly was always a popular coach and left for a change of scenery. Other than Daly though, only one player from the Kansas City roster has ties to the team or area: fullback Anthony Sherman who attended UConn. Sherman is a solid fullback as a lead blocker and has good hands to catch short passes making him a solid fit in their offense.
This week will be a serious test for the New England defense, perhaps even more so than last week. The Chiefs have star power with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, LeSean McCoy and Patrick Mahomes, that will give Belichick and the defense a chance to show what they can do against the league’s third highest scoring offense. On top of that the Mahomes led offense is fourth in yards per game and third in passing yards per game.
Despite all those numbers, the Patriots have the guys on defense that can challenge these weapons. A couple of things to keep an eye on though for this week in particular is how Jason McCourty is feeling nursing that groin injury, and if the flu bug has fully gone through the locker room yet. McCourty would provide more depth and is would be a big part in the defense this week as a likely starting corner, or even be available if someone is struggling with a matchup.
On the other side, the Patriot offense has obviously had their struggles, but this week could see one part of their team get going and that is the run game. This week has a unique opportunity for them to run the ball. Why this week? Well this week they are returning home in a place they are much more comfortable, are getting healthier (other than the injury to Ted Karras), and are facing the third-worst run defense in the entire league. Above all that though, running the ball would allow them to control the clock, prevent Kansas City from putting up numbers to force Tom Brady and company into throwing the ball to catch-up.
No matter how good the defense is, the less chances you give an offense to score the better you will be in winning the game, and it is absolutely vital to the Patriots this season. If the Patriots can limit turnovers and run the ball, they will have an excellent chance to win the game.
A lot has been made about the passing game for the Patriots, and yes I am included in that mix. The Patriots have guys who can make plays, but they do need to go out and finish those plays. Mohammed Sanu and N’Keal Harry are x-factors this season as they have things that could allow them to give this passing game something they need. Harry is a big body who can win on contested catches, while Sanu can create space with solid route-running. Both are incredibly important to the success of New England going forward. Edelman is entrenched as the top guy, Meyers is a complementary piece as a third or fourth receiver, White and Burkhead can be big factors out of the backfield and Watson is the best tight end. But who can emerge as the number two receiver? This week will hopefully give more clarity on that situation.
Prediction: Patriots 20, Chiefs 16
I won’t sugarcoat it. Last week the Patriots didn’t look good on offense, but this is a new week and against a weak defense at home. This is a solid opportunity to get everyone going and build some confidence for the stretch run and it will be a huge Sony Michel game. Look for the Patriots to start fast on the ground, and then look to build in some big plays on play-action passes later in the game. Expect at least one of N’Keal Harry, Mohammed Sanu, or Philip Dorsett to connect on huge passing play that gives this offense a jolt. Oh and the defense will hold the Chiefs to just one touchdown, a year after allowing 40 points in Gillette to the same team.
-David Albiani is a Staff Writer For Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_abiani