Divisional Round Tale: Kansas City Chiefs At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThe Chiefs continue their hot roll, winning their 11th consecutive game when they routed the Houston Texans 30-0 in the Wild-Card game. Alex Smith has provided the Chiefs with steady leadership this year, and he is still athletic enough to make key plays with his running ability. While he’s not a major downfield threat, he is an accurate short- and medium range passer.Tom Brady started the season as if he would be an MVP candidate, but he slowed down in the final weeks of the season after injuries robbed the Patriots of several key players. Brady reads defenses as well as any quarterback in the league and he also has the arm strength and guts to wait an extra split second before letting go of the ball. Perhaps the best leader in the NFL.
- OffenseThe Chiefs continue to get contributions from their running game, even without All-Pro Jamaal Charles. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have split the running back duties effectively. Jeremy Maclin has helped balance the Kansas City offense, but he suffered a knee injury against Houston and he may not be available here. Tight end Travis Kelce has excellent run after the catch ability.The Patriots have been working with a limited offensive team in recent weeks, but they should get top wideout Julian Edelman back for this game. If Edelman (foot) is back at full speed – or at least close to it – the Patriots will be dangerous with Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell and Edelman catching Brady’s passes. The running game has been torn apart by injuries.
- DefenseThe Chiefs turned their season around when their defense started getting healthy. After simply an awful start, the Chiefs have improved each week on defense and they came up with their best game in the shutout of the Texans. Cornerback Marcus Peters has had a remarkable season with eight interceptions and 34 passes defensed, while middle linebacker Derrick Johnson had a team-high 116 tackles.The Patriots have a number of game-changing players on defense, and their ability to make big plays has been vastly underrated. Chandler Jones has excellent quickness and moves and he led the team with 12.5 sacks. Jamie Collins led the team with 80 tackles and also had 5.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich tends to rise to the occasion in the biggest games.
- Special TeamsThe Chiefs set the tone for their win over the Texans when Knile Davis ran 106 yards untouched into the endzone with the opening kickoff. Placekicker Cairo Santo has a strong leg, and he made 30-of-37 FG attempts during the regular season. P Dustin Colquitt is effective at changing field position.The Patriots suffered through several special-teams lapses in the second half of the year, but this has been one of their strengths for years. Matthew Slater excels in punt and kickoff coverage, while the Pats can also block kicks at key moments. Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best placekickers in the NFL.
As well as the Chiefs have played, they have used a vanilla, make-no-mistakes offense to turn their season around. They may have to show they can do more to stay with Bill Belichick and the Patriots. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports