A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship is in store on Sunday afternoon as the Kansas City Chiefs travel north to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. This will be the 38th meeting between these two old AFL rivals with the Chiefs holding the all-time series lead 18-16-3. This includes the afore mentioned AFC Championship game last year when New England took a commanding early lead only to have Kansas City come roaring back in the 4th quarter sending the game into Overtime. The Patriots ended up scoring on the opening kickoff and went on to win Super Bowl LIII.
Kansas City (8-4) enters this game leading the AFC West and have won 3 of their last 4 games including a beatdown of the Raiders last week to the tune of 40-9. For all intents and purposes, Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes seems fully recovered from a dislocated knee cap which caused him to miss several games in late October/early November.
The Patriots (10-2) are coming off a bad loss at the hands of the Houston Texans in Week 13. In that game, the Patriots’ Offense looked downright abysmal for most of the night. While New England was able to score late in the 4th Quarter, the final score of 28-22 did not reflect how ineffective the Patriots’ offense really was for most of the game.
A major AFC showdown looms so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PUSH: Clearly Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is one of the NFL’s premier stars and his return from a horrific looking knee cap dislocation is truly amazing. However, he is facing arguably one of the all-time greats in Tom Brady who is looking to rebound after a few weeks of sub-par performances.
Running Backs – PATRIOTS: New England does not have the big-name recognition in the backfield like Kansas City does but the Patriots’ group is producing more yards from scrimmage and are healthier than their Chiefs counterparts currently.
Wide Receivers – CHIEFS: While the gap in production between the Patriots receivers and the Chiefs receivers is not as great as one would think but the gap is still there is no doubt that Kansas City does have a significant advantage in this area.
Tight Ends – CHIEFS: The Chiefs will be fielding the best tight end in the league in Travis Kelce while the Patriots are just fielding bodies at this point.
Offensive Line – PUSH: From a statistical standpoint, both lines have been relatively even in pass protection and run blocking…. Which is surprising considering the amount of injuries New England has suffered up front.
Defensive Front Seven – PATRIOTS: While both defensive fronts can pressure opposing QBs (NE with 40 sacks and KC with 34 sacks), the biggest difference has been in stopping the run. The Patriots are currently ranked 5th against the run while the Chiefs are ranked 30th.
Secondary – PATRIOTS: New England’s secondary is at the top of the league in several key statistical stats including yards allowed, TD passes allowed, and opposing QB rating…. The Chiefs, on the other hand, are not.
Special Teams – CHIEFS: New England’s Special Teams unit is one of the best in the NFL. They have made timely plays in punting game and overall have been a solid unit. Their only and biggest issue, up to this point, has been with the place kicker. This week the Patriots cut kicker Kai Forbath and, as of mid-week, had not signed a replacement making this a major liability going into Sunday’s game.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: Sunday’s game will feature arguably the two most successful head coaches in last two decades in in Andy Reid and Bill Belichick. While Reid’s record against Belichick is only 2-7, his offenses have had success against Belichick’s Patriots. However, history has shown that in big games, especially in the playoffs, Reid’s in game decisions, play selection, and clock management have been his undoing.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Betting Line: Patriots -2 ½
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
1) More James White: Patriots have become very predictable with their personnel packages: When Sony Michel is in, there is a high percentage of runs – When James White is in, there is a high percentage of passes. If there are any positives that came from last week’s loss to Houston is that everyone should have been reminded that James White is a good runner as well. The Patriots need to break their tendencies and keep James White in the lineup more and allow him to run the ball….at the very least he can force Kansas City to have to adjust their personnel groupings on defense.
2) Let Andy Reid be Andy Reid: Everyone knows that Andy Reid’s game plan will be pass heavy and, like always, he will forget that his running backs can run the ball. The Patriots did a masterful job last season using extra defensive backs and dared the Chiefs to run the ball which, of course, they didn’t. While New England should anticipate Kansas City to adjust, a similar strategy could yield success.
3) Defensive Discipline: Patrick Mahomes’ ability of getting out of the pocket to extend plays has been a staple of his game. The Patriots defensive line needs to contain Mahomes in the pocket and not over pursue on the defensive edges…. Easier said than done.
There have been few regular season “Must Win” games during the Belichick/Brady era and Sunday may very well be one of them. The mix of talent on the field, Brady’s advancing age, and the offensive play calling certainly has caught up to the Patriots this season, but this doesn’t mean, by any stretch, that the Patriots still can not make a run at a fourth straight Super Bowl. However, with only four regular season games left, time is running out to right the ship.
Patriots fans get to look forward to another nail-biting stress filled afternoon.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 23 – Chiefs 22