The New England Patriots received their Christmas gift from Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos a little bit early.
The Broncos defeated the New York Jets Thursday night behind a stunning 95-yard drive, culminating in a 20-yard, game-winning touchdown run for Tebow. A Patriots victory against a short-handed Chiefs team Monday night could give New England a 2-game division lead over the Jets.
Things to consider for Monday Night Football
The Patriots and Chiefs have plenty of ties to one another, as the Chiefs have signed former New England executive Scott Pioli as their general manager, former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in the same position in Kansas City, and traded for former Tom Brady backup Matt Cassell. The Chiefs haven’t been able to turn those ingredients into the same winning formula that New England enjoys annually, though.
Not that too much happens in the Northeastern sports world without us hearing plenty about it, but did you realize Tom Brady is on pace to break Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards mark (5,084 yards in 1984)? Aaron Rodgers has (deservedly) dominated many of the headlines concerning spectacular quarterback play, but Brady keeps churning out yards and touchdowns, leading a unit with a mediocre running game and below-average defense to another division lead.
Wes Welker is leading the league in receptions (72) and receiving yards (1,006), but it is the emergence of young tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez that has driven opposing defenses crazy of late. The two have combined for 1,083 yards and 13 touchdowns, and they have given the already potent Patriots offense even more options, especially as big, strong red-zone targets and safety valves against strong pass rushers.
The big weakness for New England, however, is their defensive secondary. Top cornerback Devin McCourty is out with an injured shoulder, and starting safety Patrick Chung is questionable with a foot injury. The Patriots remain vulnerable every week due to their inability to shut down opposing passing offenses.
Kansas City comes in to this game wounded. As if losing running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki early this season to injuries weren’t enough, last week starting quarterback Cassell went down with a hand injury that may sideline him for the rest of the season.
Tyler Palko will take over the offense against the Patriots, and his first order of business will be trying to get star receiver Dwayne Bowe involved as much as possible. Bowe hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in the last 4 games, but he is still one of the most lethal receiving threats in the NFL. The Chiefs figure to have plenty of opportunities to throw, as they are heavy underdogs and since the best chance of taking down the Patriots is by attacking their depleted secondary.
Defensively, the Chiefs have relied heavily on the pass rush of Tamba Hali. Hali has looked superhuman at times and has a team high 6 sacks on the year (the entire Chiefs defense only has 9 total, including Hali’s 6), but he can’t do it all by himself.
What Kansas City must do to win
Kansas City faces a very tough challenge in this one. On the road in a hostile environment, without key starters and facing one of the best offenses in the NFL, the Chiefs have to execute perfectly in order to even keep the game competitive.
Part of that execution needs to be exploiting the Patriots weak defensive backs with Bowe. In order for the Chiefs to win, Bowe should see double-digit targets in this game. If the threat of going down the field is there, the Patriots will have to drop extra men in coverage and won’t be able to attack with blitzes the way they did in their last game against the Jets.
Running back Jackie Battle will need to run through a stacked line early. I would imagine the Patriots will try to put 7 or 8 in the box and force Palko to beat them. If Battle can be effective, this will also cause New England to change up their game plan and lead to scoring opportunities.
On defense, the Chiefs have to at least try to make it difficult on Brady. Against the Raiders (granted, Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer with 2 days of practice under his belt were the QBs), they were able to jump routes and create a boatload of turnovers. Obviously, Brady won’t make some of the terrible decisions that the Raiders did, but he does have 10 interceptions this year (including 4 in a loss to Buffalo).
This one doesn’t take too much to explain. The Patriots must play like the Patriots.
Brady will need to be his typical cool, calculated self and pick apart the Chiefs. Welker, Gronkowski, and Hernandez will need to continue their high level of play and break off some big plays. The running game, which consists of Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk and rookie Stevan Ridley will need to chew up the clock and not fumble the ball.
On defense, the Patriots will need to pressure the inexperienced Palko into making mistakes. As mentioned, the corners aren’t good enough to totally shut down receivers, especially those of Dwayne Bowe’s caliber, so it will be necessary to bring the heat on blitzes to limit Palko’s time to make a decision and go through his reads.
When the Chiefs lose, they tend to lose big, and I expect this game to go along those lines. I just don’t see any way they will be able to slow down Brady, and I don’t think Palko will be good enough to put any pressure on the Patriots defense.
Look for Brady and his stable of pass-catchers to all have big games en route to a Patriots blowout.
Final Score: Patriots 41, Chiefs 13
What do you think?
Chiefs-Patriots Game Info
- Chiefs-Patriots Date: Monday, November 21
- Chiefs-Patriots Kickoff Time: 8:30 PM EST
- Chiefs-Patriots TV: ESPN
- Chiefs-Patriots Point Spread: Patriots -16
- Chiefs-Patriots Over/Under: 46