Everything you need to know for Chiefs-Patriots

Bryson Vesnaver identifies key players, matchups and paths to victory for both New England and Kansas City.

| 9 months ago
(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

Everything you need to know for Chiefs-Patriots

The Kansas City Chiefs coasted to a Wild Card Round victory over the overmatched Houston Texans, thanks to a shutout defensive effort that included three sacks, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles. But not everything was positive, as top WR Jeremy Maclin went down with an ankle injury, which may keep him out for this upcoming week.

The New England Patriots enjoyed their bye week this week, and are hopeful that they will have key players returning from injury come next Saturday. The Patriots started the season 10-0, but their offense struggled with injuries towards the end of the season and the team won just two of their final six games.

The last time these two teams met was the infamous Kansas City blowout last season that sparked many premature speculations of the Patriots’ demise. Will the results be the same this time? Let’s take a look at both teams.

Kansas City Chiefs

The good

Despite losing HB Jamaal Charles in Week 5, the Chiefs continue to have a strong run game. Against the Texans, the Chiefs rushed for 143 yards on 35 carries, including 105 after first contact. QB Alex Smith (91.9 run grade) continues to find success on option runs and scrambles, while HB Spencer Ware’s 86.9 Elusive Rating since Week 11 is the second-best in the league.

The Chiefs secondary has been a strong point all season, and it was on display against the Texans. S Eric Berry (87.4 player grade) had an interception and a team-high +2.1 coverage grade in the game, while CB Ron Parker (76.2) was targeted just three times and allowed only one catch for five yards. Overall the Chiefs defense held Texans’ QB Brian Hoyer to a 44 percent completion rate, 4.0 YPA and had four interceptions.

The bad

While they did a good job of it against the Texans, pass blocking has been an issue for the Chiefs offensive line this season. As a unit they have a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 75.2, eighth-lowest in the NFL. Despite J.J. Watt missing half of the game, the Chiefs allowed pressure on 30 percent of Alex Smith’s dropbacks. LT Eric Fisher (50.8 player grade) allowed a sack and two hurries, for a team-low -2.3 pass block grade.

The Chiefs pass rush needs to hope that they have OLB’s Justin Houston and Tamba Hali at full-strength, because aside from those two they’ve had issues there. Houston and Hali combined for a ridiculous 39 percent of all Kansas City’s QB pressures this season. Not one other front-seven player finished with a pass rush grade above +1.0 this season.

Key player

TE Travis Kelce (73.3): With either a limited or not present Maclin, the Chiefs’ passing offense will need to rely a lot more on Kelce and his 85.2 receiving grade this game. His 1.83 yards per route run ranked fifth among TE’s this season.

New England Patriots

The good

QB Tom Brady (92.9 player grade). TE Rob Gronkowski (96.4). Pretty obvious, but these two continue to dominate the league. Brady was our second-highest graded QB in the league this season, and his 77.7 accuracy percentage was a top-five number. Gronkowski, as usual, was our highest graded tight end and had the second-highest yards per route run at 2.31.

The Patriots secondary has been a strong point this season, particularly in pass coverage. Everyone talks about CB Malcolm Butler (81.3) and his top-15 coverage grade, and rightfully so. But it’s the safety trio of Patrick Chung (85.3), Devin McCourty (83.6) and Duron Harmon (78.0) that deserves much of the credit. All three of them have coverage grades greater than 82, which puts them all in the top-12 among safeties in coverage.

The bad

This is a no-brainer. The Patriots’ offensive line has been abysmal at times this season, thanks to both injuries and poor play. Only G Josh Kline (79.9) finished with an above average grade. Every single other lineman on their team has a grade of back-up level or lower (69.0 or below). Their overall pass blocking efficiency of 74.5 is the seventh-lowest in the NFL, and only one team has allowed more pressures than their 221 against.

There are not a lot of big weaknesses on the Patriots defense, but one of them would be their pass rush on non-passing downs. They get lots of pressure when they put in their pass rush specialists, but in their base defense only DE Chandler Jones (76.4 pass rush grade) is a real threat as a pass rusher. DE Rob Ninkovich has struggled this year (47.4) and DT’s Alan Branch (71.2) and Malcolm Brown (63.2) have been average or below.

Key player

WR Julian Edelman (86.9): Before his injury, Edelman ranked in the top 10 among receivers in overall grade (+11.5), receptions (61), touchdowns (7), missed tackles forced (15) and yards after catch (315). When he’s healthy, he changes the Patriots’ offense like nobody other than Brady and Gronkowski.

Matchups to watch

HB Spencer Ware (78.1) vs. LB Jamie Collins (91.3): Collins was our fourth-highest graded linebacker this season, and was very strong against the run (88.0 grade). He finished the year with a top-level run stop percentage of 9.7. Ware has forced 16 missed tackles since he started getting a starter’s share of carries in Week 11, and no back has averaged more yards after contact/attempt than his 3.91.

RT Marcus Cannon (40.1) vs. OLB Justin Houston (92.4): Even if Houston isn’t at full strength, there might not be a bigger on-paper mismatch than this one. Cannon is one of the lowest graded tackles in the NFL, and has allowed 31 pressures in only nine and a half games. Houston finished with 57 total pressures and a pass rushing productivity score of 15.3, second best among edge rushers.

Paths to Victory

Kansas City can win if: They can get their run game going with both Ware and Smith and open up the play action game to Kelce, and if their secondary can cover long enough for their pass rush to inevitably get to Brady

New England can win if: Their receivers can get open quickly enough for Brady to get the ball into their hands and take pressure off a struggling offensive line, and if they can shut down the run game and force Alex Smith to beat them with his arm.


Thanks to the support from the Ohio Film Office.

| Analyst

Bryson has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, and has also been a contributor to 120 Sports.

  • crosseyedlemon

    I’m really looking forward to this game because it should be a chess match between two very experienced and smart coaches. Reid and Belichick combined have over 600 career wins.

    • Dollar Flipper

      I think it has an opportunity to be one of the best all around games on both sides of the ball. Both teams match up well. It’s not going to be fireworks on offense but should be fun and nail biting. Go Chiefs!

      • crosseyedlemon

        65 Toss Power Trap….Go Chiefs!

  • Peter Fairley

    Dear Patriots, Pass block is the easiest block. Get in the way and stay. Keep more backs in to block with outlet passes to the backs if needed. Give Brady & Gronk a chance to win….do short frisbee passes to keep the KC pass rush on its heels. Make easy first downs. The touchdowns will come.

    • Jason Mauzey

      Well put, exactly how I would beat the Chiefs. Here’s hoping NE doesn’t go with this plan.

    • Tim Edell

      If McDaniels gets a HC job you may be next in line for the OC position.

    • larry mckinney

      Pass blocking is much more difficult than run blocking.

      Oh, sorry, you’re foolish young man. Brady and Gronk have a chance to win, but not due to their OL.

      This game will belong to the Chiefs. Not really close. I suspect Pats fans feel all those returning from injury will perform at 100%. Won’t happen.

      • Sheehab Zaman

        Peter is foolish for saying pass blocking is easy. But larry, you’re foolish for saying the game wont be close, and it will belong to the chiefs. Chiefs will give Brady a hard time if he holds the ball, but with a full disposal of weapons, you don’t think Patriots can score at least 2 or 3 TDs? Plus, Patriots defense is very good, and our run defense can stop the Chiefs running game. Our linebackers are great in coverage too, and our secondary has played well. This game will be tight and close, but stop being naive and acting like we won’t be able to score points at all. They said that last year before the Super Bowl.

        • larry mckinney

          Naive, at 66 years old? I would welcome it, friend. Wasn’t everyone healthy last year? Fourteen points against a team without All Pro Berry, ProBowler Johnson, stout DeVito and a kid named Peters? Anyway, this is this year. We shall see, tomorrow.

          • Sheehab Zaman

            Basically you are saying the Chiefs Defense this year is better than the Seahawks defense from last year. Our team completely changed, from OLine to the DLine after that game, and our current team is a lot different, but keep bringing up a loss that happened at KC 1 year and a half ago to make yourself feel more confident about yourselves coming into this game. Lets see how good you guys are when you have to come into our house and play.

          • Sheehab Zaman

            Im sorry sir, but as they say, never too old to learn, and at 66 years old, I think its about time you learned never to doubt Brady and Co.

          • larry mckinney

            So much for Brady and Co. Now it’s your turn in the classroom. Denver, mixing a very strong defensive front with a 20 points max offense, handles the Pats. KC, missing two Pro Bowl edge rushers, could not put the pressure on NE and so, lost their big game. Wags (Dan Patrick for one) are saying today that Denvers D made Brady and Co look as pathetic as they last did last year. When they were stomped by KC. All things must pass. Enjoy your off-season…

          • Sheehab Zaman

            Love how you don’t respond after the Chiefs game, but wait until the Patriots lose. Real cowardly move. That means you didn’t have anything else to do, but wait a week to go back to an article and respond. And I never said anything about Denver’s defense. That defense could go down as one of the greatest defense’s ever. Our argument was about CB Marcus Peters , Berry, Johnson, and the Chiefs defense, which obviously flopped, because it couldn’t stop us, while you knew that Houston and Hali were banged up, yet you said the game wouldn’t be close and Chiefs would win by a big margin. Plus, you shouldn’t even mention injuries, when Patriots have 2nd most players on IR in the league. But we’re not using that as an excuse, because we played terrible in Denver. We have higher expectations, which is Super Bowl or bust. Don’t put words in my mouth, because I never said anything about the Patriots beating the Broncos. Keep looking at highlights from Week 4 2014, cuz that’s the only “Super Bowl” Chiefs will win in a while. Enjoy your off-season…looking at your 2014 Week 4 Super Bowl Win highlights and listening to Dan Patrick. Broncos>Chiefs.

          • larry mckinney

            Don’t get get your shorts all twisted. Just note that the Broncos beat your team with a strategy that the Chiefs could have been expected to use. But KC’s edge rushers – Houston went from 48 snaps the week before to 8 snaps vs the Pats and Hali likewise suffered a loss of PT while both were on the road to recovery??? This enabled the Pats to double up on Poe and Bailey, and the attack was thwarted. Rest up this off-season, your Pats will need it. Brady is human, and older and older every year. Rest on your laurels whenever possible. I can look forward to the 4th youngest team in the league getting better and better. BTW, KC handled Denver easily. This year. In Denver. How’d your Pats do this year? In Denver? Twice? Keep drinkin’ till drunk. The pain will be more manageable.

          • Sheehab Zaman

            Of course Brady is human, but still has to show any decline. KC beat Denver. KC didn’t beat NE. Don’t make excuses for Hali and Houston injuries, because our LT Nate Solder got hurt, everyone on O-Line missed some time, RB Dion Lewis, Blount, etc… Brady was only player on offense that played 16 games. But we don’t make excuses. You know how you’re saying if Hali and Houston played Chiefs would’ve won? That’s like saying Pats would’ve won if Edelman, Amendola, Gronk didn’t get injured/miss Denver game Week 12. Football is week to week. Injuries are part of the game. So you’re saying KC is better then NE because KC beat Denver? Even though NE beat KC? That’s just plain ignorant. We don’t need to drink. We got a QB who is still at the top of his game, and our average age of our team is 25, so we are young too. We don’t have any crucial FAs to resign in offseason. Plus, we won AFC East every year Tom was our QB, except for 2002, so we know as long as we have Tom and Bill, we have a chance. If you were a Denver fan and beat us, you could be talking, but being a KC fan and saying how KC beat Denver so KC is better than NE when KC lost to NE is just you being salty. Plus, Denver and KC are divisional rivals. Denver defense has more speed than KC. KC primarily plays man, while Denver played multiple zones such as Cover-3 or Zone Blitzes. Patriots lose to Jets, Dolphins, and Bills occasionally. Seahawks lose to Rams. Denver loses to Chiefs. You’re 66, you should know every week any given team can win any given week. Talk to me about Chiefs being better if they beat us next time we play each other. Until then, good luck to Chiefs, but at the time being, Panther and Broncos>Patriots and Cardinals>Chiefs, Steelers, Packers, and Seahawks. Which means Patriots>Chiefs.

          • larry mckinney

            Blah, blah, blah. Tired of our back and forth. I’ll just leave you with this: “…these Patriots are something of a myth. They are forever the fortunate champs of the hideous AFC East, but they cannot win a road playoff game. They have not won a road game in over 9 years. Besting the pathetic Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets ensures the Pats a first round bye and second round round home game every year…”

            Or this: “The Pats are the greatest team in NFL history, overcoming severe injuries that no other team experiences because of the greatest QB and greatest coach and the wisest fans on the planet!”

            The first quote was from Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe. The second was me, hoping just shut you up.

          • larry mckinney

            I’ll put my bets on the young team that wins 11 of 12, losing its last game, rather than the team that loses 4 of 6, skidding into the playoffs, then makes it 5 losses of 8 to finish up. Why would I not look forward? Chiefs indicators are up! Pats? Well, we’ll see, won’t we? How old is Brady? What’s Belichick’s HC record without Brady? Thought so.

    • Dollar Flipper

      Definitely tough. Chiefs LBs are good in coverage, and the team doesn’t miss a lot of tackles. Chiefs are looking at the exact same game plan, but at least we have an existent run game to supplement with believable play action.

  • James Divirgilio

    Kc has many blueprints to learn from starting from their 40 point beat down of last years superbowl winners! [email protected], jets, dolphins have showed how to do the “impossible”

  • childress

    NE fans, to put you in the mood: The Patriot Way
    The revenge of the unknown, the discarded and the underestimated.

    • Brit

      Is this a link about cheating, murdering, and taking illegal drugs? The Patriot way?

      • Swinefloo

        Whine much?