It’s bold to ever count out Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
There have only been 3 times in the last 18 seasons that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have been seven-point underdogs. Week 17 of 2009, a game where the Patriots had already clinched a playoff berth. Week 1 of 2016, where the Tom Brady-less Patriots took on the Arizona Cardinals, coming off a 13-3 season. After the shocking news of Patriots’ star quarterback Cam Newton being diagnosed with COVID-19, New England has since moved to double-digit underdogs.
And now, this Monday, the Patriots face all odds as presumed starter Brian Hoyer leads the team to take on the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road.
In those first two games playing as underdogs, the Patriots are 1-1, beating the Cardinals against all odds in their first game of the season. The trends continue to swing in Belichick’s favor, as he has an overall record of 7-3 against Andy Reid coached teams, including a 2-1 record in the Patrick Mahomes era.
So with all the numbers saying never count out the Patriots, do they have a shot to win Week 4?
The only answer should be absolutely. Other writers can get into the big picture of if the Patriots and Chiefs should be playing with both teams having a positive COVID-19 case, but I’m going to outline how the Patriots can win this game. Even without Newton.
While the Chiefs were impressive in dismantling the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, they’re coming off a short week and still have areas in their defense that can be attacked.
In Week 2, one area the Chiefs defense really struggled against the Los Angeles Chargers in was the quick passing game from Justin Herbert in his first career NFL start and heavy usage from Austin Ekeler. This Anthony Lynn gameplan is exactly how New England should approach this game, especially with a change at quarterback.
Ekeler was a killer for the Chargers against Kansas City in finding success on the ground and short passing game. He caught all four of his targets, and did a great job of providing an outlet for Herbert. This allowed Los Angeles to nearly pull off a big upset.
The defensive line for Kansas City does a great job of generating pressure, led by Chris Jones and Frank Clark, two Pro-Bowlers at the position, and the ball needs to come out of Brian Hoyer’s hand quickly to find success. This front four for the Chiefs did an incredible job of slowing down Lamar Jackson and limiting his athleticism. They are a force.
James White, returning for the Patriots, fills that role perfectly. His ability in the passing game is among the best in the league for a running back, and adding him into that backfield allows New England to have another weapon for the Chiefs to account for. The 3-0 Chiefs have struggled against running backs this season.
Kansas City currently ranks 27th in the league, allowing 153 rushing yards per game. Baltimore had a lackluster performance against the Chiefs, and still ran the ball for 158 yards. They even gave up on running the ball a little too early. Kansas City’s defensive line has great talent, and they get caught upfield with bad linebackers behind them, which leaves room for the Patriots rushing attack.
Speaking of that rushing attack, did I mention who has the best one in the league through three games? Newton, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, White and more have all contributed to this rushing attack, which currently leads the NFL with 534 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. They’ve done a great job on that end.
With Hoyer playing quarterback, it’s even more imperative that the running backs step up and have a big game. Michel will need to set the tone and grind out yards between the tackles. He’ll be running behind a talented Patriots offensive line, who have ranked among the best in the league. They held up strong against the Las Vegas Raiders last week even without David Andrews, as Joe Thuney moved over to center.
Last week was their best to date, as the team rushed for 250 rushing yards, including two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown from Burkhead. Michel also had his best performance of the season, rushing for over 100 yards on only nine carries. He also had arguably the two best runs of his Patriot career.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
None of this even includes the emergence of undrafted rookie JJ Taylor and the activation of Damien Harris. Both players could also suit up and provide further depth to a deep room. Taylor has been a spark plug for the Patriots offense in two of their first three games, while Harris drew a lot of hype in the offseason before getting injured.
You throw in Newton, who is one of the best running quarterbacks in the history of the NFL and led New England in rushing the first two weeks, and the Patriots have all the keys to dominate Kansas City on the ground. Jackson struggled mightily through the air last week, but had 83 rushing yards on over eight yards per carry on the ground. Newton is going to have room to move in this one.
The game plan against the Chiefs has always been to control time of possession and keep Mahomes off the field. Nobody in the NFL uses his running back room better than Bill Belichick, as he uses his depth at the position to his advantage. With five running backs and a suspect Kansas City run defense, he’ll use all five of them in their strengths to attack his opponents.
(Photo: Shawn Palmer – Guy Boston Sports Illustration x SP Designs)