Did you hear that New England? Julian Edelman says “I’m going to go full throttle regardless,”If it goes it goes”. Edelman, of course, is talking about his foot that was broken in a game earlier this season against the Giants. With Edelman back the Patriots are a better team. Why wouldn’t they be?
What makes the Patriots offense move is a good quick receiver. Think Troy Brown, Wes Welker and Edelman. We think of them as slot receivers, which they often line up as, but in two receiver sets, it’s the “Z” wide receiver position they are in. (see below)
The “Z” position is off the line of scrimmage allowing the wide out to motion because the tight end (Y) is covering the tackle. This is huge for the Patriots offense as it allows Tom Brady to get his mismatches by reading the defense pre-snap. While Danny Amendola has had a very good season, he does not possess the pure quickness of Edelman and is used mostly as a slot receiver.
Former New England Patriots Safety Rodney Harrison took some criticism for saying that Edelman was more important to the Patriots offense than Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is the best tight end in football, but Edelman makes the offense go. Sure it is up for debate, but a closer look at the regular season win/loss record tells a certain story. The Patriots have played 16 games without Gronkowski in the lineup and they have gone 11-5. In 2012, Gronk missed five games and the Patriots were 4-1. In 2013, he missed nine games and the Patriots were 7-2. The last two season he has missed a game and the Patriots have lost both. Compare that to Brown, Welker and Edelman. In 2002 Troy Brown was the “Z” receiver for the Patriots and missed 2 games, the Patriots lost both scoring 14 points and 13 points respectively. The previous three-game the team averaged 38 points per game. When Wes Welker became a member of the Patriots in 2007, the offense set then-NFL records. Welker missed his first two games with the Patriots in 2009. The Patriots went 1-1 in those two games. In 2010, he missed one game, that the Patriots won. In the three games that Welker missed in 2009 and 2010, the Patriots scored an average of 24.33 points per game. In the 29 games, he played in over that two years stretch the team averaged 30 points per game. Edelman misses two games in 2014 and seven this season. In those games, the Patriots are 4-5 as compared to 20-3 with Edelman in the lineup. What is more concerning is with Edelman in the line up the last two seasons the Patriots have averaged 32.39 points, without Jules, the teams points per game drop to 20.88 points. While Gronk and Edelman together compliment each other, its seems to be easier to win without Gronk.
It’s onto Kansas City.
The playoffs kick off for the New England Patriots Saturday at 4:25 pm and this has been the hardest game to pick a winner all year. The Chiefs are on an 11 game win streak and dominated the Texans last week 30-0. However in that time, they have not played the cream of the crop as far as opponents go. The Chiefs played a Steelers team that started Landry Jones and destroyed the Broncos in Denver, in a game in which Peyton Manning was clearly injured and ultimately replaced by Brock Osweiler. It is true you can only play who is on your schedule. The Chiefs did and won. Now they will play a seasoned NFL team in the Patriots. The Pats come into this game losers of four of their last six. Normally the Patriots are playing their best ball heading into the playoffs, not this season. It seems to be clear the way the Patriots played the final two weeks of the season that getting a bye and getting healthy was priority number one.
How the Patriots can beat the Chiefs
This is a pretty simple formula for the Patriots. Protect Tom Brady. Get a lead. Protect the lead. First and foremost keeping Tom Brady upright is priority number one. Brady, since Edelman went down, has been beaten up as he hasn’t had his number one receiver to throw the ball to quickly. With Edelman back the Patriots should be able to move the ball quickly on the Chiefs. Edelman may not be 100% right now, but what NFL player is? Perhaps he could be the healthiest guy on the team once the rust is knocked off. The Patriots game plan will be to spread the field out, and try and neutralize the KC 3-4 defense. The Patriots have had luck in the past, most notably against Pittsburgh 3-4 defense by spreading them out. Expect a quick pass game plan, that will help set up the run. Steven Jackson should have more chances in this game as he will have been with the team for almost four weeks come kick off. On defense, it all comes down to whether Jeremy Maclin plays. Maclin changes the Pats game plan should he play after sustaining a high ankle sprain last week. If Maclin is not on the field the Pats can bracket cover tight end Travis Kelce. Taking Kelce out of the game will be the most important aspect for the Patriots. The Patriots will also look to limit the Kansas City running attack. The Pats should be able to limit the running game with their defensive line rotation. The Patriots rush defense has been good for most of the season. The Chiefs have a hard time if they have to play from behind, so it is up to the offense to get a lead, and then put the Jackson hammer down and run out the clock.
How the Chiefs can win.
The Chiefs are great on defense. If they can get after Brady like they did in their 40-14 victory last year they can win this game. The Chiefs can win this game by creating turnovers. As Tom Brady said earlier this week on WEEI the Chiefs “force you into playing bad football”. Bad football is turning the ball over. On offense the Chiefs need to get the running game going, opening up the play-action passing game for Alex Smith. Smith is much more dangerous when his team can run. Smith can run the ball, the Patriots must be ready for him to take off and run on third down.
And the winner is???
This has been a game that I have gone back and forth on at least a dozen times. Are the Chiefs as good as their 11 game win streak suggests? Will the Patriots be able to shake off the stank and the rust of losing four of six games? In the end, I am giving this game to the Patriots. Here is why. The Patriots are one of the most resilient teams in the NFL. They are playing a home game in January against a wild card team. The Pats have the better coach and better quarterback. They have a good defense that should be able to limit the Chiefs offensively. The only questions will be how healthy is Rob Gronkowski after landing on the injury report with knee and back issues. How much rust will Edelman have? Will the offensive line be ready for an aggressive front? The answers will be, Gronk will be fine, Edelman will be full tilt, full time, and Yes the O-line is ready. As Tom Brady said “He didn’t come this far, to just come this far” Patriots 27 Chiefs 23.
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