1. Kansas City Chiefs
Without a doubt, the Kansas City Chiefs represent the biggest threat to the New England Patriots this season on a number of levels. These two AFC heavyweights met twice last season, once in Week 6 in New England and once in the conference championship in Kansas City. The first contest came down to a field goal; the second went into overtime.
There’s good news and bad news this season for Patriots fans when it comes to K.C. The good news is that this 2019 version of the Chiefs might have an even weaker defense than the subpar 2018 unit. The bad news is that this 2019 version of the Patriots absolutely has a weaker offense than the 2018 unit… one that still had Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and – most importantly – a very healthy offensive line.
Of course, the Chiefs might have some offensive kinks of their own to work out before they travel to Foxborough in Week 14 this year. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes is dealing with an ankle injury, Tyreek Hill has missed almost all of this season with a broken clavicle, and now Sammy Watkins is doubtful to play in Week 6 because of a bad hamstring.
Kansas City’s offense was exposed a bit last week in their first loss of the season, but more than anything, it was their defense that let them down against the Indianapolis Colts and their clock-control rushing offense. Hill should make his way back well before the New England game, and both Mahomes and Watkins should also be healthy come December unless they encounter new injuries between now and then.
New England’s defense didn’t necessarily play poorly against Kansas City’s offense in both of their meetings last year… they just didn’t play for a full 60 minutes.
In the regular season meeting, Bill Belichick’s D held Andy Reid’s O to just three field goals and nine points in the first half. But after halftime, Mahomes and Hill got hot, and the Chiefs put up 31 points on four touchdowns and a field goal.
Similarly, in the AFC Championship Game three months later, the Patriots kept the Chiefs in check and blanked them in the first half. New England remained strong in the third quarter as well, allowing just seven points on a 12-yard Travis Kelce touchdown reception. But then in the fourth quarter the dam finally burst, with Mahomes, Damien Williams, and Harrison Butker combining for 24 points on three touchdowns and a field goal.
If the Patriots can maintain discipline and carry their momentum from the first half of games into the second half and particularly the fourth quarter against these Chiefs, New England should win three straight in this burgeoning conference rivalry.
It should come as no surprise that Kansas City leads the league in big plays this season with 21, so the Pats defense will surely have their hands full come Sunday, December 8. The Chiefs are almost certain to present the biggest challenge this dominant New England defense sees in the 2019 regular season.