5 Things to Know About the Patriots' Week 14 Opponent: The Kansas City Chiefs
This Kansas City Chiefs team is different from last year's version that the New England Patriots faced in the regular season and in the AFC championship game.
Kansas City's defense has undergone some major revamping. Defensive end Dee Ford is no longer there to jump offsides, Steve Spagnuolo is now the defensive coordinator, and safety Tyrann Mathieu, who signed with the Chiefs last offseason, is paying off well for the AFC contenders. Meanwhile, the offense is more or less the same, with key pieces like Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins all still intact.
But for those who have not been keeping up with New England's Week 14 opponent, let's review five things you should know about the Chiefs before they kickoff at Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon.
1) Spagnuolo and the Patriots have Super Bowl history
The Chiefs' defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, who grew up in Grafton, has won some and lost some against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. He first lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots was as the Philadelphia Eagles' linebackers coach in 2004 (which he later accused the Patriots of stealing signals in that game).
A few years later, Spagnuolo would get his revenge. This time he was the New York Giants' defensive coordinator in 2007, when the Giants defeated the Patriots and shut down one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history.
While Spagnuolo may be 1-1 in Super Bowls against New England, he is 0-2 in regular season games as a defensive coordinator versus the Patriots.
This Sunday, he will not have to stop an offense like the one he stopped in '07, which will have a good opportunity to pick up his first regular season win as a defensive coordinator versus the Patriots.
2) The Chiefs defense is at two different ends of the spectrum
Football Outsiders ranks the Chiefs' defense as 15th overall. They stand middle of the pack in the NFL. However, while they have the 6th best pass defense, they also have the 30th ranked run defense.
Through this stat, it should be pretty clear what the Patriots need to do to win Sunday. If Sony Michel and James White can have good days against the Chiefs' putrid run defense and expose their weakness, the Patriots' offense will have great opportunities to put up points and own the time of possession.
3) Darrel Williams out, Spencer Ware in
The question this week was whether the Chiefs would bring in another runningback with both Darrel Williams and Damien Williams on the injury report.
It was announced Thursday that Darrel Williams will be placed on IR, ending his season. He served as a solid change of pace back in the Chiefs' runningback committee. Now, familiar face Spencer Ware has re-signed with the team in reaction to the Williams news. He will likely suit up for Sunday's matchup and share time with LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson.
The other Williams, Damien, who is really the team's main back, has now been ruled out for Sunday. Williams has struggled through injuries this season and had a stretch of games where he looked to be coming back to full health, until this recent rib injury. His absence will be a blow to their offense, which should help the Patriots key in on some of the Chiefs' offensive weapons a bit more aggressively.
4) The Chiefs are coming off a blowout win against the Raiders
Last week, the Chiefs beat a Raiders team trying to squeeze into the final playoff seed in the AFC. A Raiders loss last week and a Patriots win would have clinched a playoff birth for New England. Only one of those things happened.
The Chiefs walloped the Raiders, beating them 40-9. The Chiefs intercepted Derek Carr twice. Patrick Mahomes threw for a touchdown and ran for another.
The Chiefs' defense really impressed. They did not allow any points till the fourth quarter and the extra point attempt on the Raiders' only touchdown was blocked and run back for two by Chavarius Ward.
5) Chiefs' offensive line is also at opposite ends of the spectrum
Much like the Chiefs' defense, their offensive line clearly has its strengths and weaknesses. The group is currently 29th in run blocking and 4th in pass blocking, per Football Outsiders.
The Chiefs might stray away from running the football a little more than usual. Being down two runningbacks, with bad run blocking and going up against a very stout defense, it would make sense for them to air it out a bit more than they already do.
The only downside to avoiding the run is their offense will become one dimensional against arguably the best secondary in the league.
Andy Reid will certainly have some gameplan decisions to make for Sunday's game.