Patriots vs. Chiefs Preview
Sep 3, 2017
by Kevin A. Hulett
This Thursday night marks the return of the National Football League. After a long off-season, we finally have some regular season NFL action. The first game of the season features the reigning Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots and their AFC foes, the Kansas City Chiefs. There are several narratives going into this game and it will be interesting to see how each of them play out.
How will the Patriots’ receptions be distributed?
The Patriots have always possessed a plethora of pass-catching options, but they will be without one of their offensive centerpieces, Julian Edelman (ACL), for the entire 2017 season. With Edelman’s absence in the middle of the field, it begs the question: How will the offense adjust?
Coming into the season more healthy than he has in recent history, Rob Gronkowski will see his fair share of targets between the numbers. Gronk has been and will continue to be a monster, especially in the red zone.
Between the 20s, Danny Amendola should see an uptick in targets over the middle of the field. He and James White should make up most of the lost production from Edelman in the short passing game.
The deep passing game will mainly be made up of off-season acquisition Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan. Cooks isn’t the prototypical, big-bodied wideout, but he possesses game-changing speed that can take the top off of a defense. Hogan has also proven that he has chemistry with Tom Brady that makes him a threat to take a long ball to the house on any given play.
Thursday night should give some insight into to how Tom Brady will utilize his large number of receiving options.
What will the Chiefs’ offense look like?
The Chiefs aren’t known as a particularly high-powered offense, relying mainly on efficiency and a strong defense.
The team saw their lead running back, Spencer Ware suffer a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3 of the preseason, so now they will turn to rookie Kareem Hunt (Toledo) to handle the majority of the running game. It will be interesting to see how Hunt fares behind KC’s middle-of-the-pack offensive line.
The Chiefs parted ways with WR Jeremy Maclin this offseason, so now they will turn to Tyreek Hill and Chris Conley to handle the outside passing responsibility. Hill, in his second year, must prove that he can be a legit WR1 for his team after a large chunk of his production last year came from special teams.
Of course, KC will be able to rely on athletic tight end Travis Kelce to be a force in the middle of the field, and we’ll see if he’ll see an increase in red zone work after being relatively underutilized last season near the goal line.
It’ll be fun to see how the Chiefs’ rookie running back and offense, as a whole, stacks up against New England’s stout defense.
Will the Patriots’ defense continue their stellar play from last year?
Last season, the Pats allowed just 15.6 points per game, which was best in the league, and were especially stout against the run, allowing an average of 88.6 yards on the ground.
Led by SS Patrick Chung, DT Malcolm Brown, and DE Trey Flowers, New England will look to neutralize the Chiefs’ offense and take the pressure off of their own offense. Things to watch on the defensive side of the ball for the Patriots is how the new faces will incorporate into the defense. Last year’s team’s leading tackler, Logan Ryan, is now on the Titans, which leaves a hole at cornerback. Keep an eye on the new cornerbacks: rookie Adam Butler (Vanderbilt) and former Bills’ veteran Stephon Gilmore.
Can the Chiefs’ defense slow down the reigning champs?
Last year, the Chiefs allowed 19.4 points per game, which was seventh best in the league but were in the bottom half in terms of yards allowed per game.
While KC’s defense is always respectable, it will be a tall task to defend the Patriots led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. They’re returning most of their key contributors from last year, and continuity should never be overlooked. The veteran defense is led by LB Derrick Johnson, LB Justin Houston, and SS Eric Berry. Tune in to see if they can slow down the Pats enough to give their offense a chance.
What will be the final result?
New England is favored by 9 points at home in their opening game of the season. They’re expected to be as strong, if not stronger, on offense this year than they were last year when they scored 26.7 points per game (3rd best). The best chance Kansas City will have to keep up with the scoring pace will be to force some turnovers, something they led the league in last year, with 33 takeaways.
No matter the result, football is back! And all eyes will be watching.
Interesting 2016 Stat Nuggets:
- NE converted 45.8% of their 3rd Downs, KC converted only 38.0%
- Average attendance at KC home games was 73,328, while NE averaged 66,829 at home
- Tom Brady’s Passer Rating was actually lower in the postseason (97.7) than during the regular season (112.2)
- NE’s defense allowed opponents to convert on 36.9% of 3rd Downs (7th best), KC allowed 3rd Down conversions 43.2% of the time (6th worst)
- Both teams had great turnover differentials (KC: +16 [best], NE: +12 [3rd best]), but NE’s was more a result of offensive security (11 giveaways) and KC’s was more thanks to the defense (33 takeaways)