Boston Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Karen Guregian Twit­ter: @kgure­gian


FOXBORO — Usu­ally, the much-bal­ly­hooed, cir­cle the cal­en­dar­type games are re­served for later in the sea­son. Only, this one ar­rived Week 6. Sure, there was a mini-event Week 4 against the Dol­phins when the Pa­tri­ots were 1-2, and the Fins came to town at 3-0.

But this epic show­down with the Chiefs tonight in prime time is bet­ter, and much more mean­ing­ful. Un­like the Dol­phins, the Chiefs are le­git­i­mate, of­fen­sively any­way. They ar­rive at Gil­lette Sta­dium, 5-0, and are clearly the best team in the AFC, and per­haps the NFL, al­though there’s an ar­gu­ment to be made for the LA Rams, who are also un­beaten.

What makes the game so spe­cial? The stars and the stakes.

Let’s start with the lat­ter. The im­pli­ca­tions are far-reach­ing. With the Pa­tri­ots at 3-2, the Chiefs have two wins in hand. While it’s too early for seeds to be de­cided, a win would def­i­nitely put the Chiefs in the driver’s seat for the top seed and home field for the post­sea­son. It’s a spot the Pa­tri­ots covet, be­cause his­tor­i­cally, it’s got­ten them to the Su­per Bowl. Lose, and it’s a long road to get back in con­tention for the prime spot atop the AFC, a spot the Pa­tri­ots have owned in re­cent years.

Think the Pa­tri­ots want to travel to Ar­row­head Sta­dium for the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game? The­o­ret­i­cally, that’s what we’re talk­ing about.

The play­ers aren’t go­ing to talk about play­off seed­ing at this stage, but they un­der­stand the enor­mity of the pro­ceed­ings.

“It’s two good teams, go­ing at it, bat­tling on “Sun­day Night Foot­ball.” It’s go­ing to be a great at­mos­phere, it’s go­ing to be an op­por­tu­nity for us to see what we’re made of, go­ing up against a good foot­ball team, a great foot­ball team who’s play­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well, un­de­feated,” said safety Duron Har­mon. “We’re go­ing to have to have our best ef­fort to make this an ex­tremely good game.”

Wide re­ceiver Phillip Dorsett didn’t mince words.

“We all know what it is. They’re ar­guably the best team in foot­ball right now. They’re un­de­feated,” said Dorsett. “It’s go­ing to be a great game. It’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing. We gotta make it tough on them. We know what their of­fense is ca­pa­ble of.”

The Chiefs of­fense has been one of the ma­jor sto­ry­lines of the NFL to this point. First-year starter Pa­trick Ma­homes hasn’t met a de­fense he hasn’t de­stroyed, and that in­cludes Jack­sonville.

A year ago on ban­ner rais­ing night, the Chiefs with Alex Smith at quar­ter­back, em­bar­rassed the Pa­tri­ots. Now they have Ma­homes, an MVP front-run­ner, at the con­trols.

The 23-year-old broke the NFL record for most touch­down passes through the first three games of the sea­son, while his six TD strikes against the Steel­ers in Week 2 made him the youngest quar­ter­back to ever do that.

Five games in, he’s the talk of the league, pre­par­ing for his first go-round against the Pats and Bill Belichick, who usu­ally feasts on young quar­ter­backs.

“They’re go­ing to have a great game plan. They’re go­ing to have ways to take away the stuff that we’ve had suc­cess with so far this sea­son, and I ex­pect them to throw some stuff out there that’s un­scouted,” Ma­homes said Wed­nes­day dur­ing a con­fer­ence call. “But, at the same time, we’re go­ing to keep work­ing on our game plan and keep do­ing things that we do well in or­der to have suc­cess.”

With two de­fenses that have strug­gled keep­ing op­po­nents from scor­ing, with KC al­low­ing the most yards per game, it fig­ures to be a high-scor­ing af­fair.

The Pa­tri­ots of­fense, which had strug­gled to score in a few games, busted out the past two, scor­ing 38 against both the Dol­phins and Colts. Tom Brady and Co. got a boost last game with the re­turn of Ju­lian Edel­man, and as Josh Gor­don con­tin­ues to get more fa­mil­iar with the of­fense, even bet­ter things will hap­pen.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is in a bit of a scor­ing slump, not hav­ing got­ten into the end zone since open­ing week, said there wasn’t any added pres­sure on the Pa­tri­ots of­fense to match scores with the Chiefs.

“As an of­fense, we al­ways want to go out there and we al­ways want to put up points,” said Gronk. “That’s our job, that’s our mis­sion every week and how­ever the game goes, we’re just try­ing to put up as many points as we pos­si­bly can and we’ll see how it plays out Sun­day. But as an of­fense, we’re try­ing to score every sin­gle time we have the ball.”

Many ex­perts are pre­dict­ing an old-fash­ioned shootout.

“Bill’s prob­a­bly go­ing to give Ma­homes some­thing he hasn’t seen be­fore, but the kid can make plays. He’s got play­mak­ers around him,” said SiriusXM NFL an­a­lyst Solomon Wil­cots. “So I can see this be­ing a real shootout, a high scor­ing game. It’s hard to go against the Pa­tri­ots at home, against a very young quar­ter­back.”

Dur­ing the week, the Pa­tri­ots were qui­etly con­fi­dent. The play­ers on de­fense, in par­tic­u­lar, were al­ready buy­ing into what Belichick had in store for Ma­homes, Tyreek Hill, Ka­reem Hunt, Travis Kelce, et al.

“Coach has a good game plan for us,” said cor­ner­back Stephon Gilmore. “We just have to read our keys . . . they have great speed, so we just have to know where they’re at, and lock in. Coach is go­ing to put us in po­si­tion to make plays. I’m look­ing for­ward to it. They’ve got a good foot­ball team. Their quar­ter­back’s play­ing great. It’s go­ing to be fun.”

Added Edel­man: “We’re play­ing an un­de­feated team that looks un­be­liev­able . . . so we’ve gotta bat­tle. If you love foot­ball, this is why you play, for games like this.” PRE­DIC­TION:

Pa­tri­ots 31, Chiefs 28

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xxxxxxx xxxxxx TOM BRADY

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