An injured Kansas City Chiefs offense could find it difficult to put up points against a New England Patriots team that is strong on both sides of the ball.
The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs start off the divisional round on Saturday, and there is a lot of uncertainty heading into the game. The last time these two teams faced off, Tom Brady‘s career was deemed over, and the golden era of Belichick’s Patriots also had supposedly come to a close. Of course, the Patriots went on to only lose two more games and win last years Super Bowl, but the 41-14 loss is still fresh in a lot of Pats fans’ memories. Many experts think that this Chiefs are the toughest draw the Patriots could have gotten, but that is not so.
The Chiefs lost Jeremy Maclin this past Saturday due to a high-ankle sprain, and the chances of him playing are up-in-the-air. This would be a huge a blow to a Chiefs offense, as Maclin leads the Chiefs receivers in every single statistic (except for yards after catch) and has been a major reason for the amount of success the Chiefs have had over their 11-game winning streak. Albert Wilson would be put into the No. 1 receiver role and Chris Conley would be bumped into a starting role as well.
Without their top receiver, the Chiefs group of receivers would suddenly look like one of the worst groups in the league, with tight end Travis Kelce being the only real threat through the air. The Patriots will likely have Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan play man-to-man without too much help and that should be enough to neutralize the Chiefs wide receivers for most of the night. This would allow the Pats focus on Kelce and the running game
If the Patriots can shut down the Chiefs wide receivers, it will force Alex Smith to hold on to the football for a longer period of time giving the Patriots great pass rush a better chance of getting to him. The Chiefs O-line has struggled this year giving up 46 sacks which ranks sixth worst in the NFL. The Pats on the other hand have gotten the second most sacks in the NFL this year, so Alex Smith might be in for a rough day. Former No.1 overall pick Eric Fisher will be a key factor for the Chiefs as he will have his hands full facing Chandler Jones all day.
I expect Kelce to see a low of double coverage for most of the night. Jaime Collins and Devin McCourty will likely be major factors in stopping the Chiefs best offensive weapon. Despite beginning the season as one of the worst teams when it comes to playing the run and then seemingly always being without either Dont’a Hightower or Collins, the Pats have managed to hold opponents to 4.0 yards per carry. Their defense will seemingly be completely healthy on Saturday and therefore I expect the Pats to be able to shut down the rushing attack as well.
The only way I see the Chiefs having even decent success is if Alex Smith can create a lot of plays with his legs. This means running the ball himself, employing read-option plays and buying time for his wide receivers to get open, otherwise this game might be similar to last weeks game against the Texans, just with the Chiefs ending up on the other side. I think Belichick will have his team prepared and ready and the defense will lead the Patriots to a victory and advance to the conference championship once again.