The New England Patriots showed the world last Sunday night why they are still the team to beat in the AFC East. Now, they have a great opportunity after their win against the Jets Sunday night to finish the year with the best record in the conference. Nobody has less than 3 losses in the AFC and the Patriots finish the year with the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL. It all starts Monday night as the 6-3 Patriots take on the 4-5 Chiefs at Gillette Stadium.
This year has been an up and down year for Kansas City and head coach Todd Haley. After losing their first three games, they went on a four game win streak and made people think they were contenders in a wide open AFC West. Now, they are without their dynamic running back Jamaal Charles and former Patriot fan favorite Matt Cassel at quarterback and the team has had back-to-back losses to the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos. This is a team though that knows the Patriots with Scott Pioli as the GM and Romeo Crennel as their defensive coordinator.
Here are three keys to the game in Foxboro Monday:
Win the Battle, Win The War: With the Chiefs starting Tyler Palko at quarterback, Kansas City will have to rely on their new standout running back. His name is Jackie Battle and he has become the 2011 version of Arian Foster. Battle has 87 carries for 403 yards and a touchdown this year. However he has only touched the ball 42 times in the last three games. I look for him to get at least 20-+ carries in this game. Battle will need all the ammo against the Patriots, who have the 9th best run defense in the NFL.
Crennel’s Know-How: Romeo Crennel knows the Patriots’ system inside and out because he was one of the reasons why New England won three Super Bowls in four years with the great coaching trio of himself, Belichick, and Charlie Weis. Now, a young Chiefs’ defense will look to make plays against Tom Brady. Derrick Johnson is still a force to be reckoned with in the middle of field at linebacker and Tamba Hali has six sacks as their lead pass rusher. However, keep an eye on two guys in Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis at cornerback who have seven interceptions between them. If Brady has some throws tipped, those guys can change the game with one interception.
Put A Bowe On Him: We all know that the Patriots struggle to stop the pass. They took some great strides last week, but now they have to continue that progress likely without second year cornerback Devin McCourty who has a shoulder injury. The main downfield threat for KC is Dwayne Bowe. With Steve Breaston underachieving in his first season at Arrowhead Stadium, Bowe is going to be Palko’s security blanket in this game. In his fifth season, the former LSU grad has 41 catches for 663 yards and four touchdowns. It hurts if they do not have Pat Chung at safety as well, but the Patriots can use Kyle Arrington on Bowe and keep him somewhat in check.
PREDICTION: You all know how I love to pick close games. I can’t do that here. After watching last week, the Patriots seem to be out for a 2nd half push to gather some momentum for the postseason. The division is opening up to them with a loss by the Jets on Thursday and two straight losses from the Bills heading into Sunday. If Cassel was playing for KC, I would give them a shot, but it is tough to se Tyler Palko beat Tom Brady on the road in his first career start. Look for New England to get out to a comfortable lead and then pound it with the Law Firm against the league’s 26th ranked run defense.
PATRIOTS 34 CHIEFS 14