The New England Patriots will face their toughest challenge of the year as the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Foxboro for the divisional round. This game will not resemble Dan Shaunessey’s annual tomato can game. The Chiefs are the hottest team in the game and have the personnel to beat the Patriots.
First of all, both teams are beat up pretty badly. The injury that nobody is talking about is Tom Brady’s high ankle sprain. With a depleted offensive line (which then leads to a few more injuries I need to mention), one bad hit could really kill the Patriots season. On the offensive line, we all know Nate Solder is done for the year. Tre’ Jackson is already out for today’s game. Sebastian Vollmer is coming back from an ankle injury. The guys that the offensive line has to limit are Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, both of whom are questionable for the game. See what I mean when I say every single aspect of this game involves key injuries?
For Tom Brady to beat the pass rush of the Chiefs, they need a healthy Julian Edelman. Edelman can get open very quickly and offset most offensive line problems. He is coming off a broken foot. This offense, we found out, runs through Edelman. With him out, the Patriots were 3-4 and averaged 23.1 points per game. With him in the lineup, the team was 9-0 with 33.7 points per game. Rob Gronkowski will also be limited in this game.
The way the Chiefs can beat the Patriots is by rushing four and getting to Brady. If they can do that, it will be difficult for the Patriots to win. However, if Brady can get rid of the ball in time, you have to like the Patriots’ chances. While the Chiefs have a very good secondary, I trust Brady to beat just about any secondary in football. It is the pass rush that would hurt him.
That just about covers the Patriots’ offense versus the Chiefs’ defense. Now for the Patriots defensively. Their front seven, while they do not have the individual talents of Hali and Houston, they are one of the best in the game. Jabaal Sheard is playing like one of the best in the game, though. The big question mark is if we will see Chandler Jones in the lineup. I believe he will play. Worst case, he suffers the same punishment as Wes Welker did when he talked about how the team needs to put their best foot forward to beat Rex Ryan’s Jets.
Jeremy Maclin being hurt could be serious. He is their biggest threat. Travis Kelce is a great tight end, but the Patriots should be able to limit him with linebackers and safeties. If Maclin is available, I expect Malcolm Butler to be on him. I would hope that Devin McCourty however, who is also suffering from a high ankle sprain, shades that direction, because Maclin has break away speed.
I expect Belichick to try to take away the Chiefs best weapon, and that may be Kelce. However, he also does everything he can to limit rushing quarterbacks. Smith, while not considered a running quarterback like Cam Newton or Russell Wilson, has been very effective with his legs. I expect Bill to take that away, or at least gameplan to do so.
This is no easy game. They must defend the wall. And the best part, as I type this, it is snowing in Foxboro. Winter is coming. Go Patriots.