Patriots vs. Chiefs: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

Ryan Hannable
December 07, 2019 - 12:01 pm
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While still a big game, this game isn’t as big as many anticipated going into the year.

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Many expected this Patriots and Chiefs matchup late in the year to potentially determine who would get homefield in the AFC playoffs, but now it is a battle between No. 2 and 3 seeds, who are more worried about wrapping up their divisions rather than playoff seeding.

The Patriots are coming off a loss to the Texans, while the Chiefs are playing their best football of the season with Patrick Mahomes back and getting closer to where he wants to be from a health perspective.

New England beat Kansas City twice last year — once at Gillette Stadium, 43-40, and then in the AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium, 37-31 in overtime.

Chiefs vs. Patriots
Sunday, Dec. 8. 2019
4:25 p.m., CBS
Patriots -3, over/under 49

3 keys to the game

Somehow get offense going

The Patriots are not going to go far in January unless the offense figures something out and gets better than it has been in recent weeks. It feels like that is going to have to come from the running game since it is hard to imagine Tom Brady all of a sudden clicking with N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers overnight. As a team, it finished with 145 yards rushing last week against Houston, which was the most of the year. That, combined with Kansas City being ranked 30th against the run, could mean a big day on the ground for Sony Michel and Co.

Limit big plays

Facing Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, etc. the biggest thing for the Patriots defense is to limit the big plays. Given Kansas City’s speed, you almost have to expect them to get a couple big ones, and it is more of limiting them to no more than one or two. Another thing to keep in mind is if the defense can limit the big play touchdowns, Kansas City is 19th overall in red-zone offense.

Force a turnover or two

It is hard to imagine the Patriots being able to win this game without forcing a turnover or two, but it will be easier said than done. While the Patriots have forced 29 turnovers, the second-most in the league, the Chiefs have only turned the ball over 11 times all year, the fourth-fewest in the league. They have also cut down on them of late, turning it over just four times in six games. It feels like the turnover battle will ultimately decide the outcome.

Fun facts

1. Starting quarterbacks under the age of 25 are 0-41 against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium since 2001 in the regular season. Mahomes is 24 years old.

2. If the Patriots win, it will be their 22nd straight at Gillette Stadium (including playoffs), which would set a new franchise record and third-longest in NFL history.

3. Prior to last week, the Patriots had won 20 straight games in the regular season when rushing for 100 yards or more as a team.

4. If Jake Bailey lands a punt inside the 20-yard line, it will be his 32nd of the season and will break a franchise record (Ryan Allen and Lee Johnson have each recorded 31).

5. New England has scored a touchdown in just two of its last eight goal-to-go situations.

Prediction

Patriots 24, Chiefs 23

We really don’t have any other reason for this pick other than just a gut and past history, mostly last year. The Patriots want to avoid shootouts like last season at all costs and it will be up to the defense to limit the Chiefs’ scoring and keep it so the Patriots offense can keep up. Given where the team are in the standings and what we’ve seen so far, this has the potential to come down to the last drive or even the final play.

Related: Patriots reportedly make corresponding roster move for Nick Folk