The Patriots will play host the Kansas City Chiefs and their 11 game winning streak in two days.
The Chiefs come into the divisional round hotter than any other current playoff team while the Patriots limp into the game, coming off of back-to-back losses.
The Patriots will have all of their key players back sans Dion Lewis, but how healthy are they will be the biggest factor and question to be answered in the game.
1. DE Chandler Jones:
What a week for the defensive end who ended up visiting the hospital after a bad reaction to synthetic weed on Sunday, to have a huge matchup this Saturday against Eric Fisher. Jones apologized for the mistake today, and said he’s focused on having the game of his life this weekend, well lets hope he does. Fisher stonewalled JJ Watt last week, and has played well all season. This guy is protecting Alex Smith’s blind side, so if Jones can beat Fisher routinely or on third downs, the defensive line should have a sack party in the backfield. He’s their best guy, so the Pats best guy has to win the matchup. Jones pass rushing ability will be big in this postseason for the defense, but with this QB Jones can’t over-run the QB either. Jones must keep Smith in front of him and not miss sacks.
2. LB Dont’a Hightower:
The Chiefs love to run the football and they do so effectively almost every single week. The Pats run defense without a healthy Hightower is wishy washy. Hightower and his health will have a huge impact on the game because he’s the most needed linebacker on the field for either team. He has to call the plays in, be a leader, be a run stuffer and pass rusher. He does everything and this weekend his run-stuffing ability will be sorely needed. Charcandrick West is very good and very slippery, so Hightower is needed and a huge key for the run defense and the overall success of the defense.
3. OL Marcus Cannon:
Houston, we have a problem! Justin Houston is coming to town to face an underwhelming offensive line, at least during the season they were underwhelming, so he’s the one to watch on defense and he most likely matches up with Cannon, the up and down Right Tackle. Cannon has to play the game of his life to keep Brady protected. They have to give Brady time to make plays, it doesn’t matter if Julio Jones is out there, if the QB can’t stand up to throw it the game will be over. Houston and Hali are headaches and so is the entire defensive line, keeping the pocket from collapsing is a must, and nobody will have a harder job than Cannon.