BOSTON (CBS) — For the second time in three weeks, the Patriots find themselves in one of the NFL’s marquee matchups of the weekend. This time, they’re paying a visit to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Update: Sunday’s game was postponed after both teams had positive COVID-19 tests, and the NFL hopes to play the game on Monday or Tuesday.
It’s going to be quite the test for the Patriots, with the Chiefs at 3-0 and picking up right where they left off last season, continuing their sheer domination of the game of football. Andy Reid’s offense continues to find new ways to put up points, with Patrick Mahomes leading an aerial assault that is as dangerous as ever.
But the Patriots are no slouches, and with Cam Newton now leading the charge, this should be another exciting entry into the growing Patriots-Chiefs rivalry. Here’s what we’ll be watching for when an extremely important AFC clash kicks off Sunday afternoon on WBZ:
Struggling Pats Secondary Vs. The Mahomes Air Show
It’s really kind of silly how many weapons the Chiefs have on offense. They’re led by Mahomes, the best quarterback in the game today, whose rocket arm has no issues finding the likes of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman or Sammy Watkins downfield. All three are burners who are fluid and fast with the stride of a gazelle. For good measure, Mahomes has an All Pro tight end in Travis Kelce who can barrel his way for first downs and into the end zone. And we won’t mention Kansas City’s new running back just yet, because that gentleman has been so good he’s getting his own section in this post.
Andy Reid didn’t spend his offseason bathing in a tub of BBQ sauce like many expected. Well maybe he did, but as he soaked he also came up with plenty of new plays for his already dangerous offense. On Monday night, Mahomes threw a touchdown to left tackle Eric Fisher in a goal line situation, which is just unfair. But it was also welcomed here in New England, because we all know how much Ravens head coach John Harbaugh loves it when offensive linemen are eligible receivers.
That’s a long way of saying that the New England secondary is going to have its hands full on Sunday, and for a unit that hasn’t been as pristine as they were the past few years, it’s going to be a challenge. The seven passing touchdowns allowed by the New England D so far this season is the fifth-most in the NFL. Stephon Gilmore hasn’t looked like the game’s best corner just yet, and he’s already been whistled for three DPIs on the season.
One thing the Patriots defense has done well is limiting big plays, but that will likely change this weekend against the league’s most dangerous offense.
KC’s Do-Everything Back
The reward for winning the Super Bowl includes a giant parade, some fancy rings, and the final pick in the first round. Teams don’t usually find such a game-changing talent at No. 32, or at least one that can make an immediate impact, but the Chiefs struck gold with Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Kansas City added to its embarrassment of offensive riches in late April, taking the LSU running back with the final pick on Day 1. It helps that the rookie is surrounded with loads of talent, but Edwards-Helaire has made the most out of his 66 touches (55 catches, 11 receptions) in his first three NFL games, racking up 342 total yards. That’s at least five yards for the every time the rookie has gotten his mitts on the ball. He’s averaging over nine yards for his 11 catches.
Edwards-Helaire was a great security net for Mahomes on Monday night against Baltimore’s pass rush, with the QB hitting his new weapon with quick routes when the Ravens sent a blitz. The rookie had five receptions for 70 yards in the KC win.
If a healthy stable of talented receivers wasn’t enough, now the Chiefs have a talented running back that can catch passes out of the backfield. Look out.
More Ground-And-Pound From Patriots
The Patriots offense has been a joy to watch, showing that they can beat teams through the air or on the ground. They did a little bit of both last weekend against the Raiders, which likely made life difficult for KC defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as he prepared for this week’s matchup.
But given Kansas City’s issues against the run, and given the Patriots are the best running team in the NFL, we’re in for another ground-heavy attack from New England. The Ravens rushed for 7.5 yards per carry against the Chiefs defense on Monday night, amassing 158 rushing yards. Two weeks ago, the Chargers ran wild for 183 yards in their overtime loss to KC, though their yards per carry was a much more modest 4.2. Even the Texans had a successful day on the ground on opening night, rushing for 5.4 yards per carry and a pair of touchdowns, led by 77 yards on 11 carries by David Johnson.
Sony Michel is coming off his best game of the season, breaking a handful of big runs against the Raiders for 117 yards on just nine carries — averaging 13 yards per carry. Rex Burkhead found the end zone nearly every way possible last Sunday, whether it was by way of crowd surfing or pretending to be a bowling ball.
Running on offense keeps the ball out of Mahomes’ hands, which is a big part of keeping pace with the Chiefs. Get ready to watch Cam and Crew (updated to Brian Hoyer and Crew) do some damage on the ground again.
Third Down Battles
The Chiefs are the best team in football when it comes to converting on third down, getting a fresh set of downs 58.5 percent of the time. The Patriots defense is the second-best team in the AFC when it comes to getting off the field on third down, allowing opponents to convert on just 37 percent of the time.
Yeah, this is going to be one heck of a football game. It’s a shame that it’s happening in Week 4, but perhaps we’ll get another one a little further down the road.
Tune in to Patriots-Chiefs on WBZ-TV — the home of the New England Patriots! Pregame coverage kicks off Sunday at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay, the Pats and the Chiefs kick off at 4:25 p.m., and after the game switch over to TV38 for full postgame reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!