While their hot start to the season made it seem otherwise, the Patriots’ road to a fourth consecutive Super Bowl won’t be a cakewalk.

The Baltimore Ravens made as much clear this past Sunday night when they flattened New England in prime time. Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans also appear to be formidable, and one of Tom Brady’s former understudies, Jacoby Brissett, has impressively led a tough Indianapolis Colts squad.

There are a handful of teams that conceivably could give the Patriots fits in January, but former linebacker Tedy Bruschi believes New England’s stiffest challenge will be the same as last season.

“The easy answer is Baltimore based on what you saw, but I will talk about Kansas City based on what they have been through now,” Bruschi said Thursday on “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria,” as transcribed by WEEI. “What I thought when Patrick Mahomes went down was, it’s still early but this may just be what the Chiefs need because they need to learn to win football games and have confidence in the other units in terms of, ‘Yeah, we don’t need the quarterback. We have a unit defensively that can still make plays.’ And for them to get that victory last week, that confidence boost for that defensive front and the special teams and the running game knowing they can get a victory without that all-world quarterback makes them even better of a team.

“Understand what I am trying to say because now it is like, ‘We don’t need that 30 points that Patrick Mahomes can generate because we know we can stop people and still make plays to win without him.’ Just that type of mentality when you have it, you become a better team, a better team to win championships because now you’re not just looking at a quarterback to carry you the whole way. It is going to be a Kansas City-Baltimore type of thing.”

Bruschi makes a fair point. It’s important for a team to be battle-tested ahead of the postseason, and it’s safe to say the Chiefs were thoroughly challenged the last two weeks without Mahomes as they had to up against two of the NFC’s best in the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Kansas City managed to split the pair of contests, and Week 10 is shaping up to mark the return of Mahomes, who was a full participant in practice Wednesday.

The most dangerous teams in the playoffs often are the ones that hit their stride later in the regular season. If the reigning MVP can pick up where he left off and the Chiefs find their groove, they’ll certainly be a team no one wants to run into this winter.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images