The New England Patriots will head to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs later tonight. The game, which was originally supposed to be played on Sunday, October 4th, has been moved to Monday, October 5th. However, despite being on Monday, it will still be broadcast on CBS. This game will be difficult for New England. Furthermore, it will be the hardest game on their schedule in almost 20 years.
The Most Difficult Game for the New England Patriots in 20 Years
Defeating Patrick Mahomes Is Difficult
It took six games for an NFL team to finally beat Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. In Week 6 of the 2018 NFL season, the Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 behind an incredible performance from Tom Brady. After the Patriots pounced early and led 24-9 at halftime, the Chiefs came storming back and tied the game at 40-40 before Brady led a drive that ended in an easy game-winning field goal.
It is not easy to defeat Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Rams, who made the Super Bowl that year, managed to beat them off of a decent 54 point performance in Week 9 of the 2018 season. The Chargers and Seahawks managed to sneak incredibly close wins off of the Chiefs later that year. In the playoffs, the Chiefs easily handled the Colts before having to take on Brady and the Patriots yet again. The game followed a similar script to their previous matchup. The Patriots jumped to a 14-0 halftime lead before the Chiefs stormed back. The game was tied at 31 heading into overtime before Brady led a legendary drive in which the Patriots converted three third and long situations in order to score the game-winning touchdown.
All of these losses are similar. They were facing legitimately elite teams and all of the games were incredibly close. The defense also performed incredibly poorly. The next season, Mahomes lost just three games. Kansas City’s 19-13 loss against the Indianapolis Colts was probably the one game in which the Mahomes offense was actually bad. They followed that up with another poor performance against the Texans, and Mahomes would proceed to hurt his knee against the Broncos a week later. He would return in a 35-32 loss against the Tennessee Titans. Ever since that Week 10 loss, the Chiefs are undefeated.
Hoyer the Destroyer
Before the Patriots signed Cam Newton, there was almost no shot that they would be able to compete. Their two options at quarterback were Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham. Not very inspiring. Combine that with one of the league’s worst receiving corps and you get an offense that will struggle to even score at all. Fortunately, they were able to sign Newton, and their offense has heavily benefitted.
While a lot of their performance is still unsustainable, the Patriots offense is 6th in the NFL in EPA per play. This is heavily influenced by their run game, which is first in the NFL in EPA by a large margin. The Patriots offensive line has been a huge part of their rushing success, but a lot of credit can also be given to Newton, who is an extra runner that defenses have to account for on every rush. For the upcoming Chiefs game, however, all of their offensive success can be thrown out the window.
Newton tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss tonight’s game against Kansas City. Brian Hoyer will start in his place. Since 2016, Hoyer is 1-11 and has averaged -0.047 EPA per dropback. His most recent start was as bad of a start as a quarterback can have. As the quarterback of the Colts, he lost 16-12 against the 1-7 Miami Dolphins. Hoyer went 18-39 for 204 yards, one touchdown, and three picks. He averaged -0.51 EPA per dropback. It is important to note that this Colts roster is pretty good. They have a really good offensive line, solid running backs, and some decent receivers. They were facing the worst secondary in the NFL. This is who the Patriots will start against arguably the best team in football.
The New England Patriots have been dominant for a very long time. It is incredibly uncommon for this franchise to enter a game with almost no chance of winning. The last time the Patriots outlook was worse heading into a game was arguably Week 3 of the 2001 season. Coming off of a 5-11 season, the Patriots were not expected to do much in 2001. To make things worse, they immediately started 0-2 and their star quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured. Some random quarterback named Tom Brady would start in his place against the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning, the Colts quarterback, was the best quarterback in the NFL. The Colts were 2-0, coming off back-to-back blowout wins. They were the consensus pick to win the AFC East that year, and their early-season performance just confirmed their high expectations.
In hindsight, the Patriots were a little better than expected. That Brady guy performed pretty well, and two Manning interceptions were returned for touchdowns. The Patriots won 44-13 and ended up winning the Super Bowl that year. There are a few subtle differences between that 2001 game and tonight’s game against the Chiefs. For one, it is very unlikely that Brian Hoyer is as good as Tom Brady. Theoretically possible? Maybe. Likely? Probably not. The Colts game was Brady’s first start. There is a lot of uncertainty with a quarterback who hasn’t made his debut, so there is more of a chance of a breakout. Hoyer is 35 and has started 38 games, and is yet to breakout. The Colts were a very good team. However, they were not reigning Super Bowl champions.
Plan for Success
There is almost no chance the New England Patriots will defeat the Chiefs. Ultimately, even when an elite team faces Patrick Mahomes, they have to execute perfectly in order to win. Unfortunately, the Patriots with Brian Hoyer at quarterback are not an elite team. It will require a perfect storm to claim victory. Mahomes will have to have the worst game of his career. The defense will need a big, game-changing turnover. Hoyer will have to play mistake-free football. The Patriots run game will have to exploit the Chiefs run defense, the latter ranking last in the NFL in EPA/rush since 2018. If all of that happens, they *might* be able to win. Otherwise, they stand no chance.