Championship Sunday is upon us as the New England Patriots (11-5) travel to west to take on the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) in the AFC East Championship Game.
This will be the 37th meeting between these two old AFL rivals with the Chiefs holding the all-time series lead 18-15-3. This includes the Week 6 Patriots victory when an undefeated Chiefs team travelled to Foxboro only to be handed their 1st loss of the season. In that game, New England jumped out to a 24-9 lead at half time only to have the Chiefs come storming back in the 2nd half. With the game tied at 40 late in the 4th Quarter, New England’s Tom Brady led a 3 minute clock killing drive ending in a 28 yard Steven Gostkowski field goal to give the Patriots a 43-40 victory.
The top seeded Kansas City Chiefs host the AFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history and it is the first Conference title game that they have reached since the 1993 season. Led by presumptive league MVP Patrick Mahomes, the high powered Kansas City offense looks to punch their ticket to their first Super Bowl appearance since Super Bowl IV.
The Patriots, on the other hand, are playing in their 8th consecutive AFC title game and 13th overall Conference Championship game in the Belichick/Brady era. While playing on Championship Sunday is nothing new for New England, they enter this game as the underdog and with plenty of questions surrounding their ability to remain a championship level contender.
A trip to Super Bowl LIII is on the line 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: There is very little doubt that Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes will be this year’s NFL MVP and that there certainly is a bright future ahead of him as one of the NFL’s premier passers. However, he is facing arguably one of the all-time greats in Tom Brady who is looking to add to his already impressive playoff legacy.
Running Backs – PATRIOTS: Over the last several seasons, Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt has killed the Patriots’ defense in both the running and passing game. However, since his love of beating women outweighed his common sense, he’s no longer on the Chiefs and has left a significant void on their roster. The Patriots’ running back group, however, is the healthiest they have been in quite a long time and, led by the dynamic duo of James White and Sony Michel, have emerged as the strength of New England’s offense.
Wide Receivers – CHIEFS: As versatile as New England’s wide receiver group is, their production doesn’t come close to the video game like numbers Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill is putting up. The only real concern for the Chiefs is their depth behind Hill. Their next leading receiver is Sammy Watkins who had barley 500 yards this season with only 40 catches.
Tight Ends – CHIEFS: While still the best blocking tight end in the NFL, the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski is not the pass catching threat he used to be thanks to injury and age. For the Chiefs, however, Travis Kelce has become a monster in their passing attack.
Offensive Line – PATRIOTS: From a statistical standpoint, the Patriots offensive line has pass blocked and run blocked better than their Chiefs’ counterparts.
Defensive Front Seven – CHIEFS: Interesting performance difference between the two teams: Kansas City was tied for the lead in sacks this year but couldn’t stop the run….New England became one of the better run stopping teams this year only to be near the bottom of the league in sacks. However, there are plenty of high profile players in the Chiefs’ front seven that can make some game changing plays.
Secondary – PATRIOTS: As ugly as the Patriots pass defense has looked at times, surprisingly they have been one of the better secondary units in the league in regards to yards allowed per attempt, opposing QB Rating, and intercepting the ball. The Chiefs, on the other hand are ranked near the bottom of league in most of the major pass defense categories.
Special Teams – PUSH: This game features two of the most explosive return men in the league in the Patriots Cordarrelle Patterson and the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill….You can almost bet that neither will touch the ball on special teams. From a kicking standpoint, neither teams’ place kickers have fared all that well with kicks over 40 yards this year.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: Sunday’s game will feature arguably the two most successful head coaches in the NFL right now in Andy Reid and Bill Belichick. While Reid’s record against Belichick is only 2-6, his offenses have had success against Belichick’s Patriots. Of the seven times that New England has given up 40 or more points under Belichick, three of them were against Andy Reid coached teams. While this certainly is a dubious stat, history has shown that in big games, especially in the playoffs, Reid’s in game decisions 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: Chiefs -3
Keys to a Patriots Victory:
1) Play to Your Strength: Like it or not, the Patriots have become a two back power running team. While Kansas City’s secondary begs to be thrown on, their defense also has not been great against the run. If the running game is working, New England needs to stick with it to control the clock and limit the number of Kansas City’s possessions.
2) Dare Kansas City to Run: Andy Reid is Andy Reid which means his game plan will be pass heavy and, at some point, he will forget that his running backs can run the ball. The Patriots did a masterful job disguising their defense in the Week 6 meeting so a similar strategy with extra defensive backs may be the key to confuse Patrick Mahomes, get more speed on the field to cover Tyreek Hill / Travis Kelce combo, and to test Andy Reid’s patience.
3) Defensive Discipline: While this sounds easier said than done, the Patriots need to show defensive discipline both with the pass rush and with their coverage. Patrick Mahomes is very good at getting out of the pocket and extending plays, the Patriots defensive line needs to do a better job at containing Mahomes in the pocket and not over pursue on the defensive edges. Additionally, if the Patriots are playing zone coverage, they can’t let their zones drift too far out of position when Mahomes is rolling out of the pocket. If playing man coverage, STAY WITH YOUR GUY!
This game has the potential of being a high scoring shootout that will want to make fans of defensive football want to vomit…..Look for a high scoring game where a trip to the Super Bowl could very well rest on which team has the ball last.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 36 – Chiefs 34
THANK YOU CK! for a dedicated weekly article, we all appreciate you!
This article will run until Monday, and it will be our Sunday GameDay
Luciano’s weekly predictions
So far in the playoffs 6-2
Rams have had a good season, one that started like they were totally unbeatable, then the Saints happened, and they slipped back down to reality.
The Saints in New Orleans are not easy to beat, and the Rams are not going to erase that 45-35 lynching. Breese and company are going to the SB!
I actually predicted this game to be played in NO in hooded’s page https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18PfrZRwkHtt_dlbcCVczvN3QOUIIyr1I7vVFkH6qKEQ/edit#gid=8
This is not easy to do, picking against the Patriots, I mean they have been so dominating this century, it is scary. However, there is a reason you play for that #1 seed, and both #1 seeds will win. The Pats have little to regret, frankly this maybe BB’s best coaching job yet, because this is not a great team. I have been to Arrowhead a few times, and I have never walked out without a headache, it is that loud. The Chiefs not only have the home crowd, but one of the most explosive O’s in recent memory. What I said about BB also applies to Reed, this maybe his best coaching year ever. Chiefs will not be affected by weather, as KC weather is usually bitter, windy and although not as snowy as Foxboro, the cold actually feel worst. This will be a fun game to watch, but our APFs will be left disappointed.