Pats vs. Chiefs Preview and Keys to the Game
Everyone knows about the recent struggles of the New England Patriots. Tom Brady is “deteriorating”, his receivers struggle to get open, and the run game is inconsistent at best.
Despite the national narrative that the Pats are out-manned, untalented, and stand no chance against the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, there is just cause for optimism.
Where would one find this optimism you ask? Well simply press the home button on your dopamine delivery device, I mean your phone, and open up the calendar.
It should say December 7. Key word here being December. Historically, the Patriots dominate in December. And yes, they lost last week on December 1 to the Texans, but it was only the first day of the month so it wasn’t really December yet. Plus with half the team battling the flu, I’ll give them a pass for that ugly loss, but that’s a conversation for another day.
In all seriousness though, the month of December has been good for Patriots fans (and so have a lot of other months -ie. early February). Since Tom Brady became the Patriots starter in 2001, the team is 54-10 in the month of December. Sure, this doesn’t really mean much for the X’s and O’s of tomorrow’s game, but it’s important to remember that the Patriots of years past really started to get it together during this month.
Cause number two for optimism is where the Pats will play this game. Foxborough, Massachusetts to be exact. The Pats undoubtedly play better at home, the defense and the offense are more comfortable, and Gillette stadium has not been kind to young QBs. During the Belichick era, QBs under the age of 25 have never won on the road in New England.
Similarly to my first point, this has nothing to do with the game plan tomorrow. I just hope you can think about these facts as you wake up from your nightmare of Tyreek hill streaking down the sideline for a 75 yard touchdown.
Keys to the game:
This season has been a defensively driven year for the Pats, so I’ll start there.
Containing Patrick Mahomes
Obviously, Mahomes is a generational talent and nobody has quite cracked the code to slowing him down. His numbers have slowed down a bit in his return from his knee injury (less than 200 yards passing in his last two games) but I’m sure Mr. Mahomes has had this one circled on his calendar for awhile and is itching to upend the whole “young QB’s don’t win in New England” narrative. I think the Pats need to put pressure on Mahomes, but on top of that they need to do their best to not allow him to scramble. When number 15 is outside of the pocket, there’s arguably nobody as good at extending plays and improvising. With the Ferrari level speed of the Chiefs receivers, Mahomes can afford to run around and wait for someone to get open. So, put pressure on Mahomes, but keep him in the pocket.
Pats DBs vs. Chiefs WRs
Last week against the Texans I think the Pats secondary had one of its worst games. Aside from Stephon Gilmore (Gilmore for DPOY), the Texan’s WRs, TEs and Deshaun Watson had a good day. They were effective down the field, especially in the middle, and had a long touchdown pass against one on one coverage with Johnathan Jones. Jones has been a top ten DB this year so I’ve got nothing against him, but what I’m hoping for is the return of Jason McCourty. Out the past couple weeks with a groin injury, his absence has left the Pats with a bit less depth, versatility, and speed. If McCourty is able to go this Sunday, he’ll play an instrumental role in containing Mecole Hardman and some of the other Chiefs WRs.
Brady’s trust and communication with his WRs
It’s been a revolving door at the position of wide receiver for the Pats this year. At week two it looked like they’d assembled a QB’s dream of pass catchers. Now in week thirteen, we’ve got two rookies playing substantial snaps, and a banged up veteran in only his 5th game with the team. Last week the receivers struggled to create separation, and seemed to miss some audible signals from Brady. It may take more than a week to iron out these issues, so I’m expecting to see a healthy dose of Sony Michel in this one. But, you never know what you’re gonna see when it comes to the genius in the hoodie.
If the Pats are going to succeed in the air this week, it’s going to be from the slot. The Chiefs D has not been good against slot receivers this year, and that lends itself well to a Pats offense who loves some speedy slot guys. Obviously, Julian Edelman will be a focal point of the passing attack, but that means he’ll also be a focal point of the defensive game-plan. I expect to him doubled for much of the game until somebody else can step up. Hopefully, Sanu is healthy enough to take the next step in his development with Brady (maybe get some new receiver gloves as well) and Dorsett doesn’t miss anymore signals from 12.
This is a big week for the AFC playoff picture. If both the Pats and Bills pull out wins, the Pats will be back in first place for the AFC, and retain the top spot in the division.
Pats 31 – Chiefs 24