Well as Shrek once said, “That’ll do.”
Cam Newton is out. Brian Hoyer is in. The Patriots and Chiefs are set to do battle on a ‘special edition’ of Monday Night Football.
Last Sunday, The Patriots showed their muscle and ran the ball down the Raiders throat. New England pushed their way to 250 yards on the ground, good for most of any team in week three. That 250 yards is the second most of any team in a single game thus far this season. (The Packers ran for 259 yards in week 2 vs the Lions)
That rushing attack could really help them as the season goes along. More specifically though, this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City once again looks like a powerhouse as they thoroughly manhandled fellow AFC favorite, Baltimore, dominating in all aspects of the game. Moreover that vaunted offense looks the part once more as they are averaging 30 points per game and are in the top 10 in most major offensive categories.
This week the rushing attack could be the difference in just how much Patrick Mahomes gets to touch the ball, and let’s face it, the fewer times he does the better.
Here is what’s happening in week four:
First Down: With Cam Newton having been placed on COVID-19/IR, the Patriots have six players listed on the injury report. However, most should be good to go if last week was any indication. Special teamer Cody Davis was ruled out, but Sony Michel, Adam Butler, Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn, and Julian Edelman all will likely give it a go. Moreover, N’Keal Harry isn’t listed after being questionable for last week.
On the Chiefs side, there is a big name on their report as the only player with a status in doubt. Stud defensive lineman Chris Jones is questionable with a groin injury. Jones is one of the best interior rushers in the game and would be a major loss for the Chiefs if he wasn’t able to go.
Look for the Patriots to attack the interior should Jones be unable to go.
Second Down: Delving into the rushing attack it is important to note the impressive depth the Patriots have at the position. Right now New England has Sony Michel, the versatile Rex Burkhead, and the undrafted but impressive rookie J.J. Taylor. That group was responsible for the lights-out performance last week.
However, this week they get a big boost with James White back in the fold. White has dealt with unspeakable tragedy within his family. (he and his family continue to be in all our thoughts and prayers) White will no doubt boost the passing game and no one would be surprised if he posted over 100 total yards.
One other important thing though is the potential return of second-year back Damien Harris. Harris has the potential to dethrone Sony Michel as the lead back. He can also do it all and has much more breakaway speed than Michel.
When Harris gets back I think he gets at least 10 touches per game. After that his production will likely warrant more. Simply put, Harris is a stud. His presence, whenever he gets activated off IR, will be huge.
Third Down: As mentioned above the Patriots rushing attack will be their best friend on Sunday. Similar to how they controlled the first half of their playoff game during the Patriots last Super Bowl run, they need that effort again.
Luckily for the Pats, they have a number of things in their favor. One is the deep stable of runners they have. The other is their offensive line is among the best in the league with studs all over the place.
On top of those things though, the Chiefs also possess the sixth worst rushing defense. Currently they are allowing 153 rushing yards per game. They have also allowed 115 yards or more in every game this season, meaning it wasn’t one fluke rushing game that inflated that total.
Simply put the Patriots can run on this team, and need to if they want to win.
Fourth Down: With the shortened window to practice and no real preseason, one would expect there to be more penalties. With New England though, that is not the case. The Patriots have yet to commit an offensive penalty this year. They have also committed a league-low seven penalties in three games. The next lowest total is 12 with the Raiders, Giants, and Rams all tied at that number.
Moreover, the Pats have only committed two types of fouls: defensive holding and defensive pass interference. Funny enough as well, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore, is the leader in the clubhouse with three penalties.
On top of that the Patriots are second in the NFL at +4 in turnover margin. (Tennessee is first at +5)
To no one’s surprise New England is once again one of the most disciplined teams in the NFL.
Prediction: Chiefs 34, Patriots 23
The Patriots have the players in the defensive backfield to matchup with the Chiefs loaded offense, but sometimes great players make great plays. Patrick Mahomes can do similar things to Russell Wilson. That spells bad news for the Patriots, who I am not sure will be able to contain the Chiefs attack. Look for the Patriots to hang around for a while, but the Chiefs to separate with a late touchdown to put the game out of reach. Don’t be surprised if James White has a big game. He is a huge piece of this team.
-David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter at @david_albiani