|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
After snapping a two-game skid last Sunday against the Jets, the Patriots will try to start a winning streak when they face the 4-5 Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
The Chiefs will be without starting quarterback Matt Cassel due to a hand injury that will require the former Patriot clipboard-holder to undergo surgery.
Pittsburgh graduate Tyler Palko will get the start for KC, the first of his two-year NFL career.
The game will still be a homecoming for former Patriot executive Scott Pioli, who is currently Kansas City’s General Manager.
This will be the 31st contest between the Patriots and the Chiefs; The Chiefs hold a 16-12 edge with three ties mixed in. These two teams last played in Week 1 of 2008, a game in which Tom Brady tore his ACL.
Here is what to look for while watching the game this week:
Let’s face it: The Patriots have been absolutely terrible at running the football this season, especially since their bye week. They managed only 60 rushing yards against the Jets last week despite being in run-down-the-clock mode for the entire fourth quarter.
While running the ball well is not essential for the Patriots to win this one, it would be nice to know that Coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien can rely on the run to set up the pass and to protect leads if they need to.
This will not be easy, as Danny Woodhead has not seemed to be 100 percent healthy since injuring his left ankle against Oakland in Week 4 and appeared to re-injure his leg against the Giants two weeks ago.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is always reliable, but Stevan Ridley must show that he can contribute on a regular basis. Until then, Brady will be left to win games by himself.
The Patriots’ defense has vastly improved since allowing 504 yards of offense in Oakland last month. The nameless wonders allowed only 14 points last week and forced three turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown, against the rival New York Jets, despite both LB Jeff Tarpinian and CB Sterling Moore making their first career NFL starts.
Andre Carter, the man the Washington Redskins left for dead, tied the franchise record with four sacks of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Even wide receiver Julian Edelman got in on the action, making a tackle late in the fourth quarter.
Playing at home against a second-year quarterback who is making his first career start should give the injured and inexperienced Patriots defense confidence heading into the home stretch of the season.