FOXBOROUGH, MA – SEPTEMBER 30: James White #28 of the New England Patriots runs the ball against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After a long week of preparation coming off their second straight win against the Indianapolis Colts, the New England Patriots have turned their attention to the red-hot 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs who are coming to Gillette Stadium looking for a shootout. But how will the Chiefs defense – ranked dead last in the NFL – match up against Tom Brady and his merry band of misfit receivers? Will Kansas City be able to contain the dual-threat running back James White?

Sony Michel Continues Excellent Rookie Campaign

We’ve lamented New England’s running back woes in previous articles, but the hampered rushing group has found its footing since blowing out the Miami Dolphins in Week Four.

Sony Michel has made progress as the team’s workhorse rushing option. Once Michel finds a lane and gains momentum, both the Dolphins and the Colts have had trouble stopping him. After being absent through four preseason games, Michel saw limited use during the first two weeks of the regular season. He racked up just 84 total rushing yards and zero touchdowns between two games. Since then, the rust has begun to fall away and the rookie running back has rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns (one in each of the last two outings).

To date, Kansas City has allowed six rushing touchdowns and an average of 118.8 rushing yards per game. Per the final injury report released prior to Sunday’s matchup, Kansas City could be out two linebackers come kickoff. Both Justin Houston and Tanoh Kpassagnon are questionable to play on Sunday, and Houston is looking more and more unlikely as time passes. If neither player suits up, the Chiefs entire LOLB (left outside linebacker) depth is washed away – a weak spot that the New England rushing offense could exploit.

James White: Secret Weapon

Or maybe not so secret. By now, every team in the NFL should be on notice that when you play against the Patriots, they will use White to burn you. Since aiding the team’s epic comeback in Super Bowl LI, White has proven himself to be one of the team’s best offensive weapons. Why? He’s good at everything.

White’s only run for 541 yards in his career, and in that span of time, he’s also walked in 22 touchdowns. His low yardage is a reflection of his use. Where Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, and LeGarrette Blount once served as New England’s workhorse running backs, White was used as an elusive third-down threat. Where other backs have powered through defensive lines to eat up yardage, White’s ability to break ankles on the field has been invaluable to New England’s rushing offense. But White’s offensive capabilities aren’t just limited to his rushing talent.

The 5′ 10″ running-back-by-definition has also seen a lot of action as a wide receiver, racking up nearly 1,700 receiving yards since 2014. So far this season, White has reeled in 32 receptions for 270 yards and four touchdowns – an average of 8.4 yards per reception and one touchdown per game.

Imagine this: A dual rushing/receiving threat going up against a team whose linebacker depth on one whole side is completely depleted or, at the very least, seriously weakened. Now imagine the rest of that defense trying to cover White while also holding up the line against Michel. Now throw a handful of receivers into the mix – guys like Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Rob Gronkowski. Suddenly covering all of these options becomes a much more daunting task.

Last Word on Matchup Between New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes appears to be the real deal, and both Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill will prove their worth against a still-recovering Patriots defense. Let’s not forget someone has to cover Travis Kelce as well.

The Chiefs will struggle to contain a rolling Patriots offense. Even after a serious injury bug swept through the Patriots roster earlier this season, the team has found footing and won’t go down against Kansas City without one hell of a fight. On the receiving end, I expect Gordon and Gronkowski to excel in this matchup. On the rushing end, White is likely in for a feast.

Ultimately this game will come down to coaching. The Chiefs tend to perform admirably in New England, typically flying home with the win and a boosted ego. Will their lossless streak continue into next week? I think not. This is a statement game for both teams, and I think New England’s sheer will is enough to stun the naysayers and hand Kansas City their first loss of the season.

Prediction: Patriots 41, Chiefs 38

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