INSIDE SLANT: The Pats matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday Night has many thinking this Kansas City Chiefs team couldn't possibly be beaten. Bill Belichick dismissed the idea this this game is anything special - saying we are playing Kansas City. In their last two regular season meetings, the Chiefs have blown out the Pats. The problem for the Kansas City Chiefs is that it is October now and they are likely getting nervous. The Chiefs started 5-0 last year - only to finish 10-6 and lose in the Wild Card Round in the playoffs. The Chiefs have an excellent offense - the Pats, though, should be able to score on the Chiefs defense.
The Chiefs offense has two great pass catchers in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. If the Pats limit these two players, they will likely win Sunday Night. Sammy Watkins and Chris Conley are good receivers, but Belichick's game plan will likely focus on Hill and Kelce. Kareem Hunt also poses a strong threat in the running game. It will be challenging for the Pats to simulate the Chiefs offense in practice this week.
"It's hard to simulate Mahomes' arm strength. It's hard to simulate Kelce. Where do you want to start? You can go right down the line. [Chris] Conley, Sammy Watkins, [De'Anthony] Thomas – they've got a bunch of them," Bill Belichick said Wednesday.
SERIES HISTORY: 35th meeting, Chiefs lead series 18-13 (three ties). The Chiefs and Pats are two of the original AFL franchises. Lamar Hunt, whose son Clark now owns the Chiefs, was the founding owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and Billy Sullivan was the founding owner of the Pats. The two teams first played on November 18th 1960 at Boston University. The Pats won 42-14. The Pats beat the Chiefs in the 2015 playoffs 27-20. Tom Brady is 4-3 against Kansas City - having lost his last two regular season games. Brady lost on the road to Kansas City in 2014 when the Chiefs won 41-14 and last year on opening night at Gillette 42-27.
Jason McCourty has played well since replacing Eric Rowe in the second game as No. 2 corner against Jacksonville Jaguars. Rowe has been inactive the past three games. Good decision by the Pats to keep Jason McCourty at the end of training camp.
"I love Jason more than Devin," Dont'a Hightower joked Wednesday. "He's a really smart dude. Obviously, he is a lot like his brother as far as athletic ability. He just brings a lot of knowledge - its definitely a lot smoother having his knowledge when we communicate and talk. I am just glad to have a guy like that, besides Stephon (Gilmore), Jonathan (Jones), and Patrick (Chung)."
RB James White has 32 catches so far this season and is on pace to catch more than 100 balls this season. Few pay more attention to the details than White.
"It's a lot of preparation and for me, football has always come sort of naturally to me but at the same time, the things that I don't know, I just try to sharpen up on them and take all the little coaching points, the little minor details and just remember those because those are the things that make a difference whether it's a route detail, blocking detail or what I should be looking for in a specific run read. I just try to pay attention to everything because those little things really matter," White said.
BY THE NUMBERS:
3 - The number of night games the Pats have in the next four weeks. Sunday Night home against the Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs, a Monday Night Game at Buffalo in two weeks, and a Sunday Night Game home against the Green Bay Packers. Given the Pats popularity, it is no surprise that the Pats have five night games - the league maximum.
0 - The number of sacks that Adrian Clayborn has this season. At this point, Clayborn is unlikely to return next season.
2.5 - the number of sacks from DE Deatrich Wise - the team leader. Trey Flowers has two sacks.
21 - the number of tackles by Lawrence Guy - some might say he is just a Guy. But he might be a little better than that. Guy has become a reliable run stuffer in New England.
0 - The number of interceptions from free safeties Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL: Malcom Brown: Brown, who injured his knee against Indianapolis, is practicing this week. He has only 10 tackles this year. It would be nice for the Pats to get more production out of him.
Chris Hogan: Hogan appears to be falling out of favor with Tom Brady. He has only 11 catches this season. At this point, he is likely Brady's sixth option at receiver after Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and James White.
Rob Gronkowski: Former Cowboys TE (currently ESPN Monday Night Football analyst) Jason Witten said Travis Kelce is the best tight end in football. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes echoed that sentiment Wednesday.
"Yeah, I mean, on my list, I would rank Kelce the best tight end in football. I know Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] has been a great tight end for a long time. But, I mean, I haven't gotten to play with Gronk. I've gotten to play with Kelce, and I've never seen anyone be able to do the things that he's done," Mahomes said
Gronkowski can remind fans that he is the best tight end in football Sunday Night. Kelce has 335 career catches and Gronkowski has 497 career catches. Even though, the two are the same age (both born in 1989) - Gronkowski was drafted in 2010 whereas Kelce was drafted in 2013. Gronkowski entered the league at 20 and Kelce at 24.
"I didn't even know we were the same age," Gronkowski said. "I try to do my best and do my job every single week. I leave the rankings up to you guys. "
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Sony Michel. The Pats rookie running back, who missed all of the preseason, has progressed nicely since first playing in Week Two against Jacksonville. Michel struggled in his first two games, but has played better the last weeks with 210 combined yards. Michel has averaged around four yards per carry.
"He's a guy who's willing to learn. He's working extremely hard. Like you said, he missed preseason so he missed those live reps but I've been saying the more he gets out there, the more confident he'll be and the more comfortable he'll be out there learning the plays, getting the feel for how defenses are going to play him and what not. I'm trying to help him as much as I can, not throw too much at him, but allow him to go out there and play with confidence. He's a good football player so he'll continue to get better and better," James White said about Sony Michel.
GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Pats should have little trouble scoring against a Kansas City Defense that has given up a lot of yards this season. The Chiefs have the best third down defense in the league so the Pats offense must be productive on first and second down. If the Pats run a hurry-up tempo offense, the Chiefs lack the depth at cornerback to stay with Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Josh Gordon.
Defensively, the Pats must prevent Tyreek Hill from creating big plays - either with his ability to catch the ball deep or his ability to catch screen passes and go 80 yards. The Pats must also stop Kansas City's jet sweep - given the speed of Hill.
"Our job is to keep everything inside so if we do miss it we can chase it down," Deatrich Wise said. "It's two a way trust. They trust me to stop it and I trust them to help me out if I don't."
QUOTES ON GAME: Bill Belichick on the speed of Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill.
"Whoever the fastest player on anybody's team probably isn’t as fast as Hill," Belichick said.
Belichick added ”you hope it’s only 10 yards“ in reference to Hill‘s ability to create big plays either with a slip screen, deep catch or jet sweep.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: WR Tyreek Hill v. CB Stephon Gilmore/Jason McCourty (The Pats must prevent big plays from Hill. The Pats could have Gilmore cover Sammy Watkins and have Jason McCourty cover Tyreek Hill with Devin McCourty over the top. The Pats could also have Gilmore cover Hill with McCourty over the top - or they could keep their corners on the same side with the Chiefs movement on offense).
TE Travis Kelce v. Patrick Chung (The Pats will need Chung to play down in the box and prevent Kelce from getting free releases at the line of scrimmage).