With Rob Gronkowski hobbled, with a rusty Julian Edelman returning, and with a banged-up offensive line, the New England Patriots, who have lost four of six, could be in big trouble this Saturday against Kansas City.
“You look at the Patriots and the injuries they’ve sustained, for me, it starts upfront,” Westwood One NFL analyst Tony Boselli said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “It’s an offensive line that’s had 22 different starting combinations. They’ve got guys all over the place that are really young on the interior, and they’ve struggled as of late protecting Tom Brady, who was sacked the third-most times in his career this year. If you can’t protect Tom – listen, the Giants won a Super Bowl by knocking Tom around a couple times. That, with the combination of Edelman coming back off the foot injury, it’ll be interesting to see how he is in and out of cuts. He’s a guy who’s a start-stop receiver underneath out of the slot. If Gronkowski is limited, it’s going to be really difficult for the Patriots to move the ball against the Chiefs, who are really good defensively.”
The Chiefs, meanwhile, could be without Jeremy Maclin (ankle) and linebacker Justin Houston (knee), who are game-time decisions. Running back Spencer Ware, linebacker Tamba Ali and wideout Albert Wilson are also listed as questionable.
Maclin, who led the Chiefs in catches (87), yards (1,088) and touchdowns (eight), would be a big loss for the Chiefs, but Boselli thinks they could overcome it.
“It’s going to hurt them (if he can’t play),” Boselli said, “but it’s not like the Chiefs were this explosive passing team anyway. They’re more of a complete game: control the ball, run it, good decisions by Alex Smith and then play great defense.”
Brandon Tierney disagreed. If Maclin doesn’t play, the Patriots will be able to double-team Travis Kelce. Maclin is also the Chiefs’ only real deep threat. Without him, safeties will be able to cheat up toward the line of scrimmage to stop the run game.
If Maclin doesn’t play, Tierney said, the Chiefs are going to struggle to score 10 or 13 points.
“I agree with you that it’s going to be difficult,” Boselli said, “but I worry about Tom Brady being upright after the first quarter. If you go back and watch the Miami game – and Miami cannot rush the passer like the Chiefs can – Tom Brady is lucky he’s playing this week (given) the shots he was taking. If you hit Tom Brady, they don’t have a great running game because of all the injuries they’ve had in their backfield, and you can’t protect and Gronkowski is limited, tell me where the points are gong to come on either side. I still give a sight edge to the Patriots because they’re playing at home and they’re so good at Gillette Stadium, but it’s going to be difficult for both teams. I just look at the Chiefs and the way they’re built and they’re not dependent on one guy. It’s a more balanced approach. I think they have a little bit better of a defense, especially when it comes to rushing the passer.”