Sunday Night Football brings us the game of the year thus far when the 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs visit the 3-2 New England Patriots in this Week 6 showdown. While Patrick Mahomes has been the talk of the NFL this season, Tom Brady and the Pats have hit their stride the last two weeks. So how will things play out on Sunday evening?
Here are three things to watch for Sunday in Foxborough:
Will the Patriots offense continue to grow?
The Patriots have put up 38 points in consecutive games now, and it’s no coincidence with the way they’ve been adding pieces to their offense. After beggining his career with two duds, first-round pick Sony Michel has been much improved in his last two outings, topping 100 total yards and scoring a touchdown in each game.
Josh Gordon was quiet in his debut two weeks ago against the Dolphins, but caught both his targets for 32 yards while playing on 18 snaps. While Gordon played just 18 snaps again in Week 5, Tom Brady was clearly more comfortable with his new weapon, targeting Gordon four times. Gordon caught two passes again, this time for 50 yards, but the highlight was a 34-yard score on a broken play. TB12 and the former all-pro receiver showed terrific chemistry on the play, and Gordon’s freakish athletic ability to locate the ball and fight for it through double coverage was on display. With 10 days of work between games, this could be the matchup we see Gordon unveiled in a larger role.
Julian Edelman returned from his four-game suspension in Week 5, and it looked like he and Brady hadn’t missed a beat. The slot receiver played on 48-of-69 snaps (70 percent), and hauled in 7-of-9 targets for 57 yards. It wasn’t a jaw-dropping performance, but it was vintage Edelman, which was comforting to see.
If all three of these weapons continue to trend upwards with Rob Gronkowski, James White, Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan playing their roles, this offense could shred a Chiefs defense that ranks dead last in yards allowed and is surrendering over 25 points per game.
Who will the Patriots defense allow to hurt them?
As bad as the Chiefs defense is, their offense is that much better, averaging 35 points per game — as you’d imagine from their undefeated record. Mahomes has taken the league by storm, and has proven he doesn't get rattled on the road — 11 touchdowns with zero interceptions through three games away from home.
The gun-slinger’s play is only enhanced by all the talent around him in the passing game. Tyreek Hill might be the most dangerous big-play threat in the NFL, and while he’s remained relatively quiet since Week 1, he’s stilled averaging over 15 yards per catch and over five yards per carry. Travis Kelce is the best tight end in the NFL not named Gronk, and is as consistent as they come — 78-plus yards in each of his last four games.
The “lesser” weapons are just as scary when you consider they're third and fourth options in this offense. Sammy Watkins is a former first-rounder who’s compiled at least 78 yards or a touchdown in each of his three healthy games this season, while running back Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rushing yards as a rookie last season.
The bottom line is that someone in this offense is going to have a big game, even if the Patriots are going to emerge victorious. Bill Belichick’s style of coaching has always been dictating which players he’ll let hurt him, and which ones he feels the need to blanket. We’ll find out how he schemes this one up come Sunday.
Which defense can make a play late in the game?
The over/under in this game is set at 59 points, which is the highest projected total of the NFL season. The over has hit in six of the last seven matchups between Belichick and Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid, so this game has me thinking it could be a lot like Super Bowl LII — in which the Eagles topped the Pats by a score of 41-33.
What made the difference in that game? Brandon Graham’s strip sack of Brady with just about two minutes left that got the Eagles the ball back with the lead. This has the potential to be the type of shootout where neither offense can be stopped all game. Whichever team digs deep for a late play on defense could earn the win.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow