Week 4 Prime Time Picks: Patriots (+450) vs Chiefs (-10.5) O/U 49.5 – All lines via DraftKings.
In news that took the football world by storm, Patriots QB Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19, which led to the Chiefs/Patriots game being moved to Monday night instead of Sunday afternoon. Newton will not be playing, and Brian Hoyer is expected to get the start as the 2-1 Patriots travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the 3-0 Chiefs. Let’s take a look at the matchup:
Patrick (Not Pat) Mahomes
Don’t call Patrick Mahomes Pat unless you want his mom angrily tweeting at you mid-game. Mahomes is coming off of an exceptional Monday night game last week against the Ravens where he threw for 385 yards and 4 TD’s, and had a rating of 133.5. Mahomes is off to yet another great start this season with 9 TD’s and zero interceptions. His dominance in the month of September has continued as well. For this career, in the month of September Mahomes is 10-0 and has 32 passing TD’s and zero interceptions. That is just crazy. However, the calendar has now switched to October, where for his career, he is 5-3 with 18 TD’s and 7 interceptions. Will Mahomes be able to continue his dominance into October?
Brian Hoyer Gets the Nod
With Cam Newton testing positive for COVID-19, he is not available for this game. Newton has been very successful with the Patriots revamped offense, as his rushing attack brings a dynamic that has never been seen before in New England. Brian Hoyer is most likely going to be the starter in place of Cam, and he is not a running threat at all. However, he is a formidable back-up. Hoyer has been in the NFL since 2009, and this is his third stint with the Patriots. It will be his first start for Bill Belichick, and Hoyer will be looking to lead the charge for a Patriots offense that is 7th in yards per game right now. A lot of those yards have come on the ground, as the Patriots are 2nd in rushing yards per game at 178. Expect the Patriots to be very run-heavy again this week, but when they throw, Hoyer can make some plays. Having a go-to target in Julian Edelman certainly helps. For his career, Hoyer has 52 TD’s and 34 interceptions for a rating of 82.5. Not the best numbers out there, but it is interesting to note that October has been Hoyer’s best month throughout his career. In October, he has 21 TD’s against just 5 interceptions, for a rating of 91.4–the best in his career.
Run, Run, Run
One element to the Patriots offense that will not have to change without Cam Newton is the run-first approach. The Patriots are 2nd in the league in rushing yards per game at 178. They have a tremendous offense line along with a versatile set of running backs in James White and Rex Burkhead. Sony Michel has been ruled out with a quad injury, so expect White and Burkhead to get a lot of action, along with rookie J.J. Taylor. The good news is that Burkhead looked tremendous last week against the Raiders, as he ran the ball six time for 49 yards (over 8 yards a carry) and had 2 TD’s. He also caught 7 passes for 49 yards and another touchdown. Expect these backs to split time as the Pats will run early and often. They will be going against a Chiefs run defense that is surrendering 5.3 yards a carry, good for 30th in the league. Screens and short passes to White and Burkhead may also be a factor as Hoyer gets comfortable in his first start with the Patriots. James White is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, so having him as well as Burkhead to throw to is a solid combination.
Chiefs Offensive Attack
As the Patriots will likely run the ball and try to control the clock, the Chiefs are pretty much the exact opposite offensive attack. They are gonna let it fly, and they are putting up over 30 points a game so far this season. Mahomes has been Mahomes, and receivers like Travis Kelce (21 catches, 227 yards, 2 TD’s), Tyreek Hill (15 catches, 222 yards, 3 TD’s), Sammy Watkins (15 catches, 155 yards, 1 TD), and Mecole Hardman (7 catches, 117 yards, 1 TD) have been great as well. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been a nice addition, as he is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and is also a receiving threat as he has 11 catches for 102 yards on the season. The matchup against the Patriots defense is an interesting one, as they have been a little middle-of-the-road thus far. They are 13th in yards per game, 24th in opposing passer rating, 17th in rushing defense, and 13th in interceptions. Stephon Gilmore is bound to make some plays, but the variety in which the Chiefs can strike really present a lot of problems to any defense. Trying to slow them down is an extremely difficult task.
The best way to beat Patrick Mahomes is to keep him off of the field. Run the ball, eat up clock, and keep Mahomes and the Chiefs explosive offense on the sidelines. Running the ball is the Patriots strength, even with Newton and Michel out. Expect the Pats to run the ball early and often behind their great offensive line, and against a weak Chiefs rushing defense that is 30th in the league. On top of their running abilities, White and Burkhead are great pass-catchers and can be utilized in the passing game. I think Hoyer will look to them a lot for shorter passes as he gets comfortable with the offense in his first start. Don’t get me wrong, having Cam Newton out is a huge loss, but I think Hoyer will be more of a game-manager in this one, as the Patriots will be very run-heavy. I think Belichick will have a great game plan on both sides of the ball. Fun fact: The Patriots have held Patrick Mahomes to his second-lowest total quarterback rating of any opponent he’s faced multiple times, with a QBR of 68.8. The Pats D has stymied Mahomes before, and I think Belichick will find a way to give Mahomes some more problems. I think the Patriots will hang around and keep it close, so I’ll take the 10.5 points.
Title Photo: Credit: Winslow Townson – USA TODAY Sports