The 2-1 New England Patriots travel to Kansas City to face the 1-2 Chiefs in primetime Monday night. In Week Three, the Patriots won ugly, 16-9, over the lowly Oakland Raiders to appease the Foxboro faithful in their 2014 home opener. Week Four presents a whole new set of challenges for a Patriots team that is struggling offensively but very sound on defense, specifically in the red zone. Let’s answer the weekly five and determine how the Patriots will fare in Week Four.
1. How will the Patriots move the ball? The Chiefs have major issues on defense. Injuries have really hurt the KC defense (Eric Berry is also out), but they still have edge rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to send after Tom Brady. The issues the Patriots have had at offensive line are real, specifically pass protection. It makes sense for the Patriots to attack the Chiefs on the ground before hitting them with some quick hitters, like slants, dump offs to the backs, and also incorporating the screen game into the offense. The best way to beat an aggressive team is to use their aggressiveness against them. If McDaniels doesn’t run at least three screens this week, he’s making a mistake.
2. Can the Chiefs score against the New England defense? There has been a theme this week that I hear over and over; “If Jamaal Charles plays, the Patriots are in trouble.” Well, I disagree 100%. Charles is coming off a high ankle sprain and will not be at the top of his game. The Patriots always, ALWAYS find a way to take away the opponents best offensive weapon, so why would this week be any different? If anything, I see a defense that is brilliant in the red zone and getting better every series. Expect to see more man-to-man coverage this week so they can use the safeties to help more in the run game. The Chiefs will score some points, but not as many as some think.
3. Who has the edge in the coaching match up? Bill Belichick and Andy Reid are friends, but when it comes to head to head matchups, Belichick has been anything but friendly. Reid is 0-4 versus his draft day trading buddy and although he does have the home field advantage Monday night, it will take a perfect game for his team to finally come out on top. The Patriots coaching staff has the clear edge in this matchup- 0-4 is impossible to ignore.
4. Will the Chiefs find a way to give Brady fits? Yes, I think they will. Hali and Houston are a tough duo to block, and with an offensive line in transition, Brady may find himself running for his life. The Patriots will most likely max protect, at least to start the game, and try to get Brady some looks against a banged up Chief secondary and linebacker core. I don’t see the Chiefs having the same rush the Raiders had last week for one reason- they don’t have Justin Tuck. Tuck sees Patriots uniforms and plays like Superman. Brady will probably get sacked once or twice, but if they game plan right, he should overcome the pressure and make some plays.
5. Who wins the game? New England will find a way to win this game in the hostile environment of Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City would be able to beat New England if they were fully healthy, but losing Eric Berry and having a running back returning from a high ankle sprain to face is a recipe for disaster. Alex Smith is going to have a hard time finding open targets and the New England defense will give the offense plenty of opportunities to mount scoring drives. It won’t be pretty, but they’ll come out on top.
Patriots 21, Chiefs 13
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