New England Patriots (2-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
At one point it looked like this game might not go on as scheduled, with Patriots quarterback Cam Newton testing positive for coronavirus on Saturday, at the same time a Chiefs practice squad player tested positive. However, after re-testing both teams, it appears to be isolated to the two players and this game will go on as scheduled, with the obvious difference being that the Patriots will have to start to veteran backup Brian Hoyer rather than Cam Newton.
That’s clearly an impactful absence, as Newton has been one of the more effective quarterbacks in the league this season, leading an offense that ranks 2nd in the league with a 45.77% first down rate. More so than the passing game, the Patriots’ run game figures to be significantly affected by the switch to Hoyer, as the threat of Newton taking off and running has helped propel this running game to 5.09 yards per carry (5th in the NFL), as opposed to a 25th ranked 3.81 yards per carry last season, when they ranked 21st in first down rate even with Tom Brady under center.
The Patriots’ offensive line is better this season, but their wide receivers aren’t and their defense has taken a big step back, ranking 22nd in first down rate allowed after leading the league in that metric by a wide margin in 2019. Because of how many teams around the league have been plagued with injuries, the Patriots still rank 21st in my roster rankings even without Cam Newton and they do still have a solid supporting cast, but it’s hard to see this being a competitive game anymore.
Of course, the line has shifted to compensate, with the Patriots opening up as 10.5-point underdogs when the line was re-posted, after being 7-point underdogs earlier in the week. I was originally leaning towards New England, possibly for a bet, with my calculated line being -4.5, but without Newton, that calculated line shifts up to 9.5 points. We’re still getting a little bit of line value with the Patriots, who may be better prepared for the abrupt shift because they are going to a quarterback who has been in the system for years, while the Chiefs spent all week game planning for a very different kind of quarterback, but there’s way too much uncertainty for this to be worth betting.
Kansas City Chiefs 27 New England Patriots 17
Pick against the spread: New England +10.5