The Patriots need to take advantage of some hobbled Chiefs players.
The Patriots proved in Week 2 against Seattle that they can compete with the NFL’s most proficient offenses and they will have another opportunity to do so, though it won’t be in primetime. On Sunday, they’ll travel to Arrowhead to take on the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
In terms of black and white matchups, this isn’t a great one for head coach Bill Belichick. The reigning champions are a pass-heavy offense with Patrick Mahomes under center. The Patriots, meanwhile, would prefer to control the tempo of games by establishing the run.
As we learned in Week 3, Baltimore, which has arguably the most run-oriented offense in the NFL, trying to force the running game with Lamar Jackson improvisation played right into the Chiefs’ defensive game plan. However, KC’s latest injury report suggests the Patriots could enjoy much more success on the ground against their AFC rivals.
Per the official document, Kansas City stud defensive lineman Chris Jones was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday with a groin injury. Defensive end Alex Okafor was also limited with a hamstring issue.
Is it possible the Chiefs are simply giving their Pro Bowl pass rusher some mid-week rest leading up to a huge game? Absolutely, but it’s worth noting that the groin ailment limited Jones to just 37 snaps (70%) versus the Ravens on Monday night, so he’s clearly bothered by it.
What really speaks to Jones’ greatness, however, was he played as if he were fully healthy, tallying five tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in limited snaps. With the Chiefs establishing a two-score lead by the end of the first quarter, they afforded themselves the luxury of playing the former second-round pick less for the remainder of the game.
With that being said, Jones being hobbled still bodes well for the Patriots’ run game, which is fresh off posting 250 yards on 36 carries (6.9 YPC) against a sneaky good Las Vegas defense.
The Chiefs’ front seven is obviously more daunting than that of the Raiders, but Belichick should (emphasis on should) be able to contain Jones, assuming he plays, with a week’s worth of preparation in practice and dissecting film of Baltimore’s flawed approach.
The Patriots have just as many weapons as the Ravens to throw at KC, so don’t expect them to ask quarterback Cam Newton to drop back to pass over 40 times. He’ll certainly need to have a productive day through the air for the reigning AFC East champs to come out on top in this one, but it wouldn’t be smart — especially in light of this update on Jones — for them to completely abandon their identity.
The Patriots’ bread and butter so far is running the ball, and executing that plan to control the clock and keep Mahomes off the field will be key to winning this one.