Jeez. What a wacky week in Foxboro. Belichick shows up with a black eye Tuesday and boxing gloves Wednesday, Gronk mysteriously missing practices, Chandler Jones potentially getting “Robert Nkemdiche baked” on Sunday night before a playoff game. What in the name of Brady is going on here?
Don’t ask me. No clue. Good news is, I don’t care either…as long as they’re ready to go on Saturday afternoon at 4:25. This is no cakewalk, and the Kansas City Chiefs are no tomato cans, as much as their coach may resemble one. The bad: KC has won 11 straight, don’t turn the ball over, are star studded at every level of the defense, and have a dependable Coach and quarterback combo, which only a half dozen teams can say. The good: the Pats are getting healthy at the right time, are at home, and let’s just say have a more than dependable coach and QB combo.
I like our chances. All hands on deck. Playoff football.
“I didn’t come this far, to only come this far.”- Tom Brady
Pray for the Chiefs.
Let’s go around the table and see what the BBS Staff thinks…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 300 yards passing?
Niko: Stop pounding the rock. Time to let it fly. I’ll take Brady. OVER.
Pete: I think that the Patriots will return to the team that we saw earlier in the season: dump passes, slant routes, play action over the middle. No more running it 30 times a game. Its go time. OVER.
Jordan: Okay, we made it to the playoffs without any more injuries to our wide receivers, our tight end, and the GOAT. Plus, we've got Jules coming back and I must say his beard is quite miraculous. The boys are back, I'm going OVER.
Steven Jackson: Over/Under 39 rushing yards?
Niko: One of the only bright spots from the final regular season game against Miami was the confirmation that SJAX could help down the stretch. He may not be as shifty as Blount is in the open field, but I’d argue he hits the hole harder and is more likely to get something out of a nothing play. Unfortunately, the offensive line won’t get any push on Saturday and I can’t see the run being established at all. UNDER.
Pete: To be perfectly, I'm extremely intrigued at the prospect of Steven Jackson. Once upon a time, he was one of the best running backs in the NFL. Can he channel that and become the St. Louis(NOT LA) Ram version of Steven Jackson? Probably not. However, he doesn't have to be. If he can plow ahead for 50 yards, the Pats will be in great shape. And I think he does it. OVER.
Jordan: The pass frees up the run and vice versa. If Brady is able to get the ball out of his hands to his receivers with regularity, I'll go over for Jackson. However, the line just isn't fully capable of giving Jackson the time he needs to hit the holes and get yards. He'll get involved, but not much. UNDER.
James White: Over/Under 55 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: It’s obvious McDaniels does not trust White to run the ball (season high is 3 carries in a game), but it seems every week James makes at least one big play catching the ball out of the backfield (or spread out wide). This week should be no different, as he will be leaned on to exploit depth and linebacker coverage mismatches in the Chiefs’ formidable defense. OVER.
Pete: I just don't understand the way that Belichick and McDaniels are choosing to use James White. Throughout the season, his progression has been tremendous. He started as a mediocre 3rd down back, who could really only catch behind the line of scrimmage, but has turned into a 2, or perhaps even 3, down back that can go out wide and catch the football. If the Pats want to be rolling, I think White has to get his catches. OVER, I hope.
Jordan: James White has stepped huge and I honestly think he's exceeded a lot of people's expectations and has been a bright spot on the banged up offense. He's the Dion Lewis of the latter stages of the season, and I expect Saturday to be no different, OVER.
Rob Gronkowski: Over/Under 5.5 catches, 80 receiving yards?
Niko: UNDER on catches, OVER on yards. With (hopefully) Vollmer and Edelman back, Gronk won’t be asked to block as much and the seam should be open up the middle.
Pete: Gronk surprisingly popped up on the injury report in the past couple of days with a knee injury. Whether it is a nagging injury or something new, Gronk has to be ready to go come Saturday. While Brady, and perhaps even Edelman, are more important to this team than #87, fews guys can do what he does. Gronk changes the game, plain and simple. OVER on both.
Jordan: I have to agree with Niko, with Vollmer and Edelman back, the demand for Gronk to make big plays receiving and make key blocks won't be as high. But in the late stages, Gronk will be needed to move the sticks and make a big play or two. So I'll also go UNDER on catches and OVER on yards.
Julian Edelman: Over/Under 6.5 catches, 62 receiving yards?
Niko: “I’m going to go full throttle regardless. If it goes, it goes.”- Jules on his broken foot. OVER on both. Boy did we miss this guy.
Pete: I am so amped to get this guy back. HUGE day for Minitron. OVER.
Jordan: He's been ready for weeks. It's just about getting him going early, if he gets some targets on the first couple drives, he could have a HUGE return. OVER and OVER.
Danny Amendola: Over/Under 5.5 catches, 52 receiving yards?
Niko: I think Danny will be involved, contributing a clutch third down play or two, but with the return of Edelman, I don’t see him hitting these marks. UNDER.
Pete: Danny Amendola was able to step in for Edelman, even while he was banged up, and be the guy that we thought the Pats were getting from the Rams when they let Wes Welker go. I am going to go just a shade UNDER blindly because of the return of Edelman.
Jordan: I'll go OVER on catches and UNDER for yards. I see Dola making some key catches on 3rd and 6's and shorter to help keep drives moving. Especially with Edelman back, Danny's production will likely dip a bit. But hey, if it means he can be the guy returning punts because he isn't asked for too heavily in the offense, so be it. Special teams have sucked lately.
Brandon LaFell: Over/Under 3.5 catches, 39 receiving yards?
Niko: Going to blindly go OVER on both here for JoJo. We know he’s underachieved all season. Everyone was down on Amendola before the playoff run last season though, no?
Pete: UNDER. I am beyond done with this guy. Hopefully it will be his last couple of games in a Patriots uniform. It just seems like this guy has a tendency to quit on a play if things break down, and thats not the Patriot Way.
Jordan: Tough to tell. JoJo has given me no reason to believe he's making a huge impact in any game in the near future. But he came up huge last year in the playoffs, like Amendola did. So I can see him going OVER on both, but we'll see.
Alex Smith: Over/Under 220 passing yards?
Niko: Yes, Kansas City is hot, and yes, Smith doesn’t make many mistakes. But, he also doesn’t throw for many yards. Smith hasn’t hit this mark since November 29, and Jeremy Maclin caught for 160 of that respective 255. UNDER.
Pete: These are the type of quarterbacks that always hurt the Patriots: smart, mistake-free football players. However, I don't think that he is going to torch the Patriots. The Patriots' defensive line, and secondary for that matter, has played so well this entire season that no team left in the playoffs, short of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals, really scares me. UNDER.
Jordan: I was talking with one of my friends about Alex Smith and what to expect from him Saturday, and it's really hard to tell. We still aren't sure what % Maclin is at heading into Saturday's matchup, and Smith is almost unwilling to take chances down the field. While the Chiefs are the hottest team in the league, the primary concern is their defense. I see Smith unable to take the pressure of playing New England in Foxboro in the playoffs. UNDER.
Spencer Ware: Over/Under 39 rushing yards?
Niko: Ware has been the hot hand and out carried West 16 to 8 against the Texans. Over the last two games, he’s played over 50% of the snaps while West has been in the low 40s. I’ll go OVER here in an inefficient outing against a strong Pats’ run defense.
Pete: Running the rock is not winning football. OVER, because the Pats are a SMART football team.
Jordan: I like Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West. They're both really effective, scrappy backs. But the only reason I'm going OVER here for Ware is because of the injuries to Hightower. Collins has also had a hard time bringing guys down lately in my opinion. I could be totally missing something but I still don't think he's 100% up to strength from before his illness.
Charcandrick West: Over/Under 65 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: West has played pretty well for the most part in the absence of pro bowl running back Jamaal Charles, but as mentioned above, has recently ceded early down work to Ware. He’ll be involved in both the running game and passing game, but I don’t think he hits this mark. UNDER.
Pete: It sounds crazy, but almost everyone has benefited from Jamaal Charles' injury. The team is doing better, and the offense specifically has had it rolling. I think West will get his, but 65 yards from the line of scrimmage is a REALLY good day for most backs. I don't think the Pats will allow that. UNDER.
Jordan: Spencer Ware has been the go-to guy recently and has been riding the hot hand as Niko said. I see aware getting most of the touches, West will also get in on the act, but not enough to eclipse the mark. UNDER.
Travis Kelce: Over/Under 5.5 catches, 70 receiving yards?
Niko: Kelce played very well last season against the Pats (8 catches, 93 yards, 1 TD), and will be Smith’s main target on Saturday. I think he’ll hit the catches number based on pure volume, but don’t know if he’ll hit this yards mark. Belichick and Patricia have done an excellent job this season taking away opposing offenses’ top options this season. OVER on catches, UNDER on yards.
Pete: Against almost every other team, Kelce would have a field day just because he is just a physical mismatch. However, the Pats are lucky enough to go against Rob Gronkowski every day in practice. They watch, practice, and gameplay for and against a physical specimen. UNDER on both, but barely.
Jordan: OVER and OVER. Travis Kelce is the kind of guy that can give you problems and kind of intimidate you and take you out of your comfort zone. Being Smith's prime target, he's going to get his.
Albert Wilson: Over/Under 4.5 catches, 45 receiving yards?
Niko: The diminutive Wilson has only hit the yards mark here 3 times all season and hasn’t had over 4 catches once. With the expected nonattendance of Maclin however, his targets should be up. It’ll be close, but I’ll still go UNDER on both.
Pete: With Jeremy Maclin being a game-time decision, all the Chiefs' wide receivers are going to have to step up. But do they have the personnel to do it? I don't think so. UNDER.
Jordan: I'm actually not too familiar with this guy. Jeremy Maclin and Kelce are just the guys that can steal the spotlight away from the other Smith targets. But since Maclin is going to not be a factor, I obviously see him getting more targets, therefore I'll go OVER on catches. However, I don't see him getting many yards after the catch, so I'll go OVER and UNDER.
Chris Conley: Over/Under 4.5 catches, 45 receiving yards?
Niko: Maclin’s replacement and primary beneficiary, the 6’3 205 pound 3rd round rookie out of Georgia has the physical attributes to contribute at a high level in the NFL. He’s raw yes, but Smith will have to trust him on Saturday. I’ll go UNDER on catches, but OVER on yards.
Pete: Read above. UNDER.
Jordan: Like Niko said, Smith is going to have to trust this guy on Saturday if he wants to move on from Gillette. So Conley will get some more targets and, with fresher legs, will get more yards. So I'll go OVER on both.
Niko: The key matchup(s) and ones that makes me lose sleep at night are KC outside linebackers Justin Houston/Tamba Hali against Pats’ tackles Marcus Cannon/Sebastian Vollmer/even LaAdrian Waddle. While Cannon and Waddle have some (a little…?) success against bigger power tackle/ends, they often find themselves offering a hand to help the quarterback/running back up from the turf when they get matched up with quicker edge guys. Unfortunately, Houston and Hali have it all. Bothered by injuries all season, Houston dropped from 22 sacks in 2014 to 7.5 this year, but after shaking off the rust last week, he’ll presumably bring the heat on Saturday. Hali is not the player he once was, but is certainly no slouch off the edge either. It doesn’t help that based on a few videos from practice, Vollmer is still really struggling with his ankle. If the Chiefs can consistently get to Brady, it could be a long day for the Pats’ offense.
Pete: I was going to go O-line vs. D-line, but with the return of Julian Edelman, Brady should be releasing the ball so quickly that it won't even matter. I am going to go the Chiefs wide receivers vs. the Pats secondary. If the Patriots can shut down these mediocre wide receivers, this game could get out of hand quickly. Make no mistake about it, the Chiefs are a damn good team. However, who are they going to throw the ball to if Maclin is out?
Jordan: I'm curious to see who's covering Edelman. I see that as a big matchup because, if Sean Smith is on him, that could free up other guys like Dola and JoJo and get them more involved. And if Smith isn't covering Jules, Edelman could have a big game. I'll go Edelman's matchup.
Niko: Without Alex Smith’s top weapon Jeremy Maclin in the lineup (or significantly hobbled), I expect the KC wide outs to have trouble beating the Patriots’ cover men. With more time, I think Chandler Jones (uhh…hopefully????), Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard and the boys up front (plus Hightower/Collins) get home. 5 team sacks for the Pats.
Pete: I am going to say that the Pats blow the doors off of the Chiefs. The Patriots are a pissed off football team and it is going to show on the scoreboard.
Jordan: Considering the fact that our line hasn't had consistency in terms of the alignment due to injuries and other reasons, it's been hard for Brady to make throws downfield and sustain drives. It's certainly bold, but I say Brady doesn't get knocked down more than 5 times.
Game Total: Over/Under 42.5?
Niko: Just barely UNDER. I’d be shocked if this was a shoot out. KC’s pass rush, no Maclin, and a mostly healthy New England D is a recipe for a slugfest.
Pete: OVER. The Pats are going to have those juices flowing.
Jordan: UNDER by a significant margin. The Pats are certainly going to have their problems on offense, but Alex Smith isn't willing to throw downfield much. Unless his backs have huge games, Chiefs may not score 14 points.
Niko: Kansas City is unquestionably hot and their defense is for real. Their offense does not scare me though, and I can’t see them moving the ball effectively enough to keep up with a wholesome Patriots aerial attack. Pats 24, Chiefs 13.
Pete: The Chiefs offense simply can't keep up with the boys from Foxboro. 35-13 in a surprising blowout.
Jordan: The Chiefs are the biggest threat to the Pats in the AFC in my opinion. This should be a great game. But, in the end, the Pats are going to pull away, 21-10 Pats.