ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!??!?!?
Finally after a LONG off season of transactions and blog hate we can finally get down to fighting over real NFL football. A lot has happened over the offseason: The Patriots’ 5th Super Bowl celebration didn’t last long as they reloaded for another Super Bowl Run….The Jets and Bills decided that they were going to battle over who can decorate the division basement the best, and the Dolphins….Well….all that can be said is that the Jay Cutler Era has begun.
The Patriots kickoff the 2017 season by hosting the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxboro this Thursday in a matchup of the top 2 AFC Playoff seeds from 2016. While the Chiefs fell in their opening game to Pittsburgh, the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl and will be unveiling their 5th Super Bowl Banner. Since the inception of the AFL, these two franchises have met 34 times with the Chiefs leading the all-time series 17-14-3.
While there has not been a storied rivalry between these two teams, not many Patriots fans will forget opening day in 2008 when cheap shot artist Bernard Pollard “fell” into Tom Brady’s knee ending his year less than 1 quarter into the season….Nor will they forget the “Monday Night Massacre” in Arrowhead in Week 4 of the 2014 season when the Chiefs handed the Patriots a 41-14 beat down in one of the worst regular season losses of the Belichick/Brady era.
However, with a new season brings new hope (unless you’re a Jets fan or buying yourself a Jay Cutler jersey) so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams are broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – [PATRIOTS]: As good as Alex Smith has been as a game manager, it’s difficult to believe he would be able to keep up with Tom Brady if this game becomes a high scoring affair.
Running Backs – [PATRIOTS]: The loss of Spencer Ware has Chiefs to go with 3rd Round Rookie Kareem Hunt as their starter while the Patriots spent the offseason collecting a stable of running backs to replace the departed LeGarrette Blount. However with familiar faces like James White and Dion Lewis, New England should have the right type of running back for whatever offensive need they have.
Wide Receiver – [PATRIOTS]: The loss of Julian Edelman is a significant blow to the Patriots’ chances to repeat as Super Bowl Champions but the addition of Brandin Cooks to a receiver gives the Patriots much more firepower at that position than the Chiefs.
Tight Ends – [PUSH]: The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce has developed into one of the more productive tight ends in the league while the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski is returning to the lineup after missing much of last season with back injury.
Offensive Line – [PATRIOTS]: Under the careful guidance of Dante Scarnecchia, the Patriots Offensive Line became a formidable group that should continue to improve under his tutelage.
Front Seven – [PUSH]: While Kansas City has had issues with stopping the run last season they have had some success getting to the passer. New England, on the other hand, has experienced their usual annual high turnover in the Front Seven and are a bit of an unknown coming into the season.
Secondary – [PATRIOTS]: While the Chiefs feature S Eric Berry and CB Marcus Peters in their defensive backfield, the Patriots may have one of the better secondary units in the NFL featuring Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty, and Patrick Chung.
Special Teams – [CHIEFS]: Kansas City gets the edge in this matchup solely because of all world returner Tyreek Hill’s ability to make a game changing play at any moment. The Patriots, on the other hand, traded for WR Phillip Dorsett hoping to find some stop-gap for the loss of Julian Edelman and Cyrus Jones in the punt return area.
Coaching – [PATRIOTS]: Andy Reid and Bill Belichick are two of the longest tenured coaches in the NFL. In all of their matchups, which included meeting in Super Bowl XXXIX, Reid’s only victory against Belichick was the “Monday Night Massacre” in 2014 when the Chiefs beat the Patriots 41-14. Outside of that lone victory, Reid is 0-4 against Belichick.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
KEYS TO VICTORY:
1) Containing Tyreek Hill’s Big Play Ability: In one play Tyreek Hill can turn a game around. The Patriots must stay disciplined in their return game coverage to prevent Hill from getting large gains (or scores) on special teams.
2) Finding the “Go to Guy”: Due to the Patriots ability to overcome so many injuries over the years, the loss of Julian Edelman has not caused the panic in Patriots nation that it should have. The loss of Edelman effects the Patriots on both Offense and Special Teams. The Patriots have added Brandin Cooks to the mix this off season but the combination of Cooks, Amendola, Hogan, and Gronkowski will have very big shoes to fill when the Patriots are on offense.
3) Mistake Free Punt Returns: Punt returns have been the Achilles’ Heal of the Patriots for a few seasons now. Though New England traded with the Colts to acquire former 1st Round pick Phillip Dorsett to take this role, it is way too early to tell if this will pan out for the Patriots or not.
While both teams were playoff participants last season, this year’s opening day matchup appears to be one sided on paper. The Patriots were very aggressive during the off season reloading their roster for another potential Super Bowl run while the Chiefs appeared to have spent their resources building for their future rather than for immediate returns.
While the Chiefs still have a formidable team that should compete in the AFC West this year, the Patriots may have too many skilled positions on offense for the Chiefs to match up against.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 27 – Chiefs 21