I actually believe that the Patriots will win Saturday afternoon’s showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs by at least four, but the fact is they appear to be relatively healthy, and that’s the whole point. Allow me to explain.
First of all, I get that at this point, every team is tired and beat up, so that the term “healthy” is as I said, relative. As a matter of fact, it often seems that the teams who do the best in the post season are the ones that get a shot in the arm (literally, in some cases) from the return of rested and recovered key players. Most teams do not have the depth that the Pats posses, and would have likely not qualified for the playoffs, let alone earned a bye. But despite losing four of their last six games, and nearly forcing Tom Brady into the hospital if not retirement, the Pats could very well be poised to make a return to “The Show,” if they can get past a very difficult Chiefs team.
The return of several key people should make that possible. The most obvious returnee, who is the agreed upon key to their offense, is slot receiver Julian Edelman. Having him back will speed up the offense considerably, taking pressure off an “O” line which has struggled badly over the past six weeks or so. Speaking of the line, they will also be buoyed by the return of Sebastian Vollmer. Having the 6’8”, 320 lb pound tackle back should help against the very tough Kansas City 3-4 defense that was fourth in sacks (47) and fifth in creating turnovers (20). Now if running back Steven Jackson has anything left in the tank, that should help Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Edelman do their thing in the middle of the field, despite KC’s strength in defending that area.
The Patriots defense has also either been completely missing or playing at a reduced effectiveness, several important players. It appears that they too are ready to go at full speed. Although the most important of these is LB Dont’a Hightower, the return to health of safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung will also go a long way in stopping the Chiefs’ 11-game winning streak. Assuming that DE Chandler Jones has gotten over his sleep walking or whatever caused his medical emergency, he too should be ready to go. I’m also assuming that the freakishly athletic LB Jamie Collins has gotten over his mystery illness, and will be close to 100%. Last year’s Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler, who has been on the field in something like 99% of the defensive snaps, will likely deal with the Chiefs diminished wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, who is recovering from a high ankle sprain.
The Pats should be able to take advantage of the chilly, but dry weather conditions in getting by KC and start their preparations for the Conference Championship game. Although it looks like that may require some traveling, as I doubt the Steelers will get by Denver without a healthy (there’s that word again) “Big Ben.” But I get ahead of myself, as the Chiefs pose a serious threat to the Patriots, probably more so than either Denver or Pittsburgh. In that way, this reminds me of last year, when playing Baltimore was far more of a challenge than was Indianapolis. As I said though, I expect they will do it, with a final score in the neighborhood of 24-20.
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- The “Shaken, Not Stirred” Edition - January 17, 2017
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- A “Catching Up, Following Up, and Weighing In” Edition - December 31, 2016
- The “Cannon and Flowers” Edition - December 21, 2016
- The “Farm, for Sale” Edition - December 10, 2016
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- The “World, Serious” Edition - November 1, 2016
- The “Easy Come, Easy Go” Edition - October 18, 2016