Who should be more nervous heading into this game? The Chiefs having to face Tom Brady in the playoffs, or the Patriots facing a Kansas City team who has won 11 straight games?
The Chiefs over their last 11 games are outscoring opponents by an average score of 28-12. They are hot at the right time, and will face Tom Brady and the Patriots who lost four of their final six games of the season.
With this past weekend off, the Patriots were able to avoid any more injuries and get some of their players healthy. They'll get back one of the most important offensive pieces, as Julian Edelman will make his return from a broken foot. Brady will definitely need him as he'll go up against a very tough Chiefs secondary. Kansas City picked Brian Hoyer off four times on Saturday night, and the front seven forced a fumble on one of their 3 sacks. Rookie Marcus Peters had one of the four interceptions, and he led the NFL in interceptions this season with eight.
New England needs to figure out a way to get their run game going, as they are without LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. That leaves them with veteran Steven Jackson, James White and Brandon Bolden. The Chiefs defense ranked 8th in the NFL against the run and held the Texans in check most of the night on the ground, aside from a 49 yard run by Alfred Blue. Making the Patriots one dimensional (even if it is Brady throwing 80% of the time) will make things a whole lot easier for the Chiefs defense. Expect to see Brady throw a ton of short passes over the middle to Edelman, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski. It would be surprising to see Brady take some shots down the field to Brandon LaFell.
Jeremy Maclin is still a question mark for this game, as he is recovering from a high ankle sprain. If he cannot go, then the Patriots need to make Travis Kelce a non factor and force Alex Smith to throw the ball to guys like Albert Wilson and Chris Conley. Also the Patriots will have to keep Smith in the pocket because of his ability to run, and they cannot afford to let Smith hurt them on the ground.
Speaking of the ground, the Chiefs ran for 141 yards against the Texans and that'll be their game plan heading into Foxboro Saturday night. The Chiefs will look to establish the run, kill some clock and keep Brady on the sidelines. Spencer Ware earned himself 16 carries against Houston and had the lone rushing touchdown for Kansas City. Expect a pretty even share of carries between Ware and Charcandrick West. New England ranked right behind the Chiefs in run defense, so it will not be an easy task for Kansas City either.
If Kansas City wants to win this game, they'll need to score first. They cannot let the Patriots jump out to a lead because that will force them to throw early and often, changing their entire game plan. The Chiefs need the lead and control the clock with their ground game. However even if they are leading, stopping Tom Brady will be tough. Justin Houston will have to lead a strong pass rush and keep Brady off balance and constantly on the ground to make him uncomfortable.
As much as I want to take the Chiefs, I just can't go against Brady and Belichick.
Give me the Patriots 23-17.
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