Tomorrow’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs will not be easy for the New England Patriots, but it is a must win game. It might just be the toughest game they will play all year but right now, it is also the biggest.
The Chiefs are on an 11 game winning streak after falling to 1-5 early on in. The Patriots, on the other hand, are on a two game losing streak and they have lost four of their last six games after starting the season off at a perfect 10-0.
Even though momentum is not on their side, not in the least bit, a clean game could give the Patriots the win. They are five point favorites over the Chiefs.
The Patriots injury report never gives much away but if it is any indication, quarterback Tom Brady looks to be OK headed into tomorrow. For him, taking advantage of the return of Julian Edelman will be key. With tight end Rob Gronkowski likely to play and Danny Amendola good to go, Brady will have options — in the short passing game. In Week 17, Brady tried going deep often when he just really does not have the personnel to do so. The Patriots’ top three targets are known for getting yards after the catch.
Tackle Sebastian Vollmer’s return will be key for New England — as will Marcus Cannon’s play at right tackle as he tries to stop Chiefs Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston — if he even plays. Houston is a gametime decision, as is Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Protecting Brady will be key for New England. The Chiefs have the fourth most sacks in the NFL this season.
The one hole on the Chiefs roster is quarterback. Alex Smith is nothing special, but he does not turn the ball over much. But in his past five games, he has thrown five interceptions.
The least the Patriots can do is put some pressure on Smith, and that will come down to defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones.
The Patriots had the second most sacks in the NFL during the regular season, and the Chiefs struggle in pass blocking.
It could come down to the kicking game and if that is the case, then the Patriots will have the edge. Drafting Stephen Gostowski in the fourth round may have been a head scratcher a decade ago, but it has since paid dividends — and it could again tomorrow.
On the other hand, Cairo Santos, the Chiefs kicker, ranked 29th among NFL kickers in field goal percentage this past regular season. Missed kicks can cost teams games. Just ask the Minnesota Vikings.