Another week of hectic NFL action is almost in the books, as Monday Night Football brings us the capper to a week of crazy upsets and some unlikely blowouts. The odds balls in this week were the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers just to name a few, while the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens handed in surprise blowout wins.

The way this week went, we really can’t know what to expect when the New England Patriots head to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs tonight. All we know so far is that the Patriots are 2-1 and have the league’s top-ranked pass defense, but can’t really pass the ball. And for the Chiefs, we know their defense has been inconsistent and they probably need Jamaal Charles to be 100% to win. With that, let’s prepare for tonight’s big game by breaking down the main keys to this contest:

Alex Smith the Game Loser

Always known as an accurate, decisive game-manager, Smith has been the exact opposite overall for the first three weeks, as he’s already thrown three picks and lost a fumble after committing just 10 turnovers in all of 2013. With that being said, Smith has looked pretty good the last two games and even torched a solid Dolphins pass defense for three scores in week three. Topping New England’s top ranked pass defense is another story, however. This is a classic example of where Smith needs to do a good job of taking what the defense gives him and not giving points away with turnovers. If he can’t do that, the Chiefs could be in serious trouble.

Jamaal Charles 100%?

Charles looks to be back after participating in three practices last week, but doesn’t exactly have a cakewalk matchup against a Patriots run defense that is just outside the top-10. Bill Belichick also generally has tunnel vision in stopping his opponent’s best option, so Charles may have his work cut out for him. Needless to say, if he’s not 100%, he could have a rough outing. However, a truly healthy Charles could easily be the difference in this showdown.

Tom Brady in Decline?

Brady has been extremely pedestrian through three games, and his down field accuracy has been shaky. A lot of that has to do with shaky pass protection and  a lack of an elite deep threat on this team, but Brady also hasn’t been on top of his game. His matchups have actually been somewhat tough when you look at the numbers, but he needs to play better. While he has zero interceptions on the year, he’s only completing 58% of his passes for a sorry 5.5 yards per attempt. Brady needs to wake up in front of the nation tonight to help quell fears that the 37-year old is in steep decline.

Gronk to be Unleashed?

Possibly the biggest key to this game is Pats’ stud tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski has been “eh” so far through the first three weeks of the season, but has otherwise been more of a decoy than a true star impact player. That needs to start changing soon. This is a tough road game and the Pats haven’t been impressive through the air. If they’re going to get to 3-1 tonight, they may need Gronkowski to take it to ramming speed in this one.


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