New England Patriots

Oct 14, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid meets New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after the game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated Kansas City 43-40. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

It’s time for the big one.

For the fourth time in the Patrick Mahomes era, the Patriots and Chiefs will square off in a game with immense national interest and playoff implication. Kansas City comes in 3-0, having just defeated the previously-red hot Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, the 2-1 Patriots enter the game with a new quarterback and new style of offense.

With so much talent on both sides of the ball, this game will be decided by the details. Where you you keep a close eye when things kick off on Sunday? Here’s who I’ll be watching as ‘key matchups.’

When New England has the ball: Joe Thuney vs. Chris Jones

Joe Thuney looked solid in his center debut, but this week presents a whole new test. Chris Jones is one of the most disruptive interior defensive linemen in the league – keeping him out of the backfield will be crucial to the Patriots moving the ball on the ground and in the air.

As Thuney described on Thursday, Jones is a “Very disruptive player. Strong, quick. Gets in the backfield on run and pass plays.”

What makes Jones so tough to game plan for and defend is it’s much more difficult to conventionally chip or double team an interior rusher. If he was coming off the edge, New England could add a tight end to that side of the line to help in the running game, and have running backs check and release in the passing game.

Because Jones likely won’t play beyond a three technique, Thuney will be, in some ways, alone on an island against the Chiefs best defensive chess piece. He’s held up well in that matchup in past years, but with the added responsibility of snapping the ball, will things change this time around? We’ll see Sunday.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 20: Chris Jones #95 of the Kansas City Chiefs gestures in the first half against the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

When Kansas City has the ball: Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. Adrian Phillips

First round draft pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire has added a new dangerous dynamic to the Chiefs already legendary passing game. As we’ve seen so far through three weeks, when teams stack the coverage deep, Patrick Mahomes now has no problem looking underneath and dumping the call off to CEH, who is effective at picking up yards after the catch.

Based on how the Patriots defense has schemed things so far this season, expect Adrian Phillips to handle Edwards-Helaire more often than not, especially when the Patriots are in man coverage. Countering the rookie with Phillips experience and physicality may get Mahomes thinking twice about looking his way often.

Sep 27, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Adrian Phillips (21) reacts during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Bonus: Bill Belichick vs. Andy Reid

There’s few coaches in the NFL that you can say have ‘regularly’ out-coached Bill Belichick, but Andy Reid is certainly on that list. From the 2014 “they’re not good anymore” game in 2014 to the 42-27 loss in the 2017 season opener, Reid has more than once handed Belichick his lunch.

Oddly enough, this trend has shifted since Reid got the ultimate chess piece in Patrick Mahomes. Since Mahomes became the starter in 2018, the Patriots have won two of three matchups, and in last year’s loss allowed just 23 points – the second-lowest total of Mahomes’ career.

So far this season, Reid has dug deeper into his bag than was previously imaginable. His offense is no longer just explosive – they can be methodical as well. It’s how Belichick counters that second part that could decide the game.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 20: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots shakes hands with head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs after the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. The New England Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

For more on the Patriots-Chiefs game, check out the Patriots Preview podcast below.

Click here for 98.5 The Sports Hub’s complete coverage of the Patriots

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.