The NFL couldn’t have drawn the AFC Championship up any better. They got their wish in what has the potential to generate better ratings than any other AFC Championship matchup. The suspense is intense, as Tom Brady leads his troops into frigid Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
It’s the accomplished veteran against the accomplished rookie for the right to play for the Super Bowl in Atlanta. This isn’t anything new for the Patriots, with Brady hoping for a return trip to the championship falling to the Eagles last season. It was no fault of his own, as he put together a performance that got overlooked because of the play of Nick Foles.
The Patriots sprung to life last week like at the expense of the Los Angeles Chargers. Travelling to the east coast again after playing a physical Ravens team the week before was just too much for the Chargers to overcome. The defense looked nothing like the unit we seen all season. Brady did his homework, as he worked them for 343 yards and a touchdown.
The real secret assassin, though, was Sonny Michel in the backfield. Michel gashed the Chargers for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries. When Michel is healthy, he runs like one of the best running backs in the league. He started in only 8 games this season, though rushed for 931 yards with an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
He keeps his legs churning and his vision looks more like something of a three-year running back instead of a rookie. I think he’s the one guy that the Chiefs cannot ignore. Michel as the downhill runner and James White as the pass catcher has provided a nice combo for the Pats in the backfield. Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk come to mind. Also keep an eye on Rex Burkhead who may develop into a sleeper in this game.
The Patriots won a 43-40 shootout over the Chiefs in the first meeting. Belichick has been known as a savant of sorts at neutralizing rookie quarterbacks, but a guy like Mahomes can be impossible to prepare for. Getting pressure on him is difficult, because he either gets rid of the ball in a second or will scramble outside of the pocket where he feels just as comfortable.
With the array of weapons he has to target, it puts a lot of stress on a defense. No one could stop anyone in their first meeting this season, but both defenses have made strides since their October 14th matchup. Head below for our free Patriots vs. Chiefs pick in the AFC Championship. And, oh yeah, just a disclaimer, I don’t increase my bet size based on how important the game is.
New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs AFC Championship Betting Odds:
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Patriots vs. Chiefs Pick:
The Chargers’ defense committed sin No. 1 against Brady and the Patriots. If there is no pass rush to contain Brady in the pocket, he’s going to sit back and chew the defense up. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram were contained by the Patriots’ offensive line, which allowed Brady to do whatever he wanted.
The Chiefs didn’t get much of a pass rush on him in their first meeting this season and he chewed them up. Brady passed for 340 yards and Michel went about his business on the ground for 106 yards. Mahomes countered with a tremendous 352-yard effort, but the Chiefs came up just a bit short. Hunt played a huge role in that contest, but will of course be absent for the AFC Championship.
The New England defense should get some praise for their defensive play on Philip Rivers last week as well. The final score was closer than the actual game on the field. Up 35-7 at halftime, the Pats coasted in the second-half and allowed a couple of garbage time touchdowns in the 4th.
Without Melvin Gordon rolling, the Chargers struggled to move the ball. Gordon rushed for just 15 yards on 9 carries. Spencer Ware expects to be back for the AFC Championship to join Damien Williams. Williams found success immediately after Kareem Hunt was dumped. He owns an impressive 5.1-yard per carry and Ware will just him with his 4.8 yards per carry on Sunday. Eric Berry is expected back in the lineup as well, but reports do not have him at full strength.
The Pats had a sneaky good defense this season, which will have to bring their A+ game to contain Kansas City. They finished the regular season 7th in the NFL with 20.3 points allowed per game. It’s typical of the Patriots to employ a bend and not break defense, this is nothing new. The weather should assist the New England defense in this game. With temps expected to fall below freezing, it could be the coldest game Mahomes has played in his life. Brady is 24-4 when playing in temperatures below 30 degrees.
Kansas City is going to need to get a heck of a lot more pressure on Brady than in their regular season meeting. The Chiefs got to Brady just twice, opening up the field for Brady to go through all of his options on the field. Mahomes has an uncanny ability to buy time simply by rolling out. With both defenses getting routed in the regular season in October, who is going to be able to make the adjustments?
The Colts had success on the ground against the Chiefs last week, though didn’t utilize it enough. Expect Josh McDaniels to feed Michel often in this game. Playing the ball control game and keeping Mahomes off the field is how to beat the Chiefs. Michel is a guy who can accomplish just that.
The oddsmakers have inserted the Chiefs as 3-point favorites. In other words, on a neutral field the line would be at a pick. Going back to the question about adjustments. I trust Belichick more than Andy Reid in that regard. Reid is just 12-13 in the postseason and he’s come up short several times in big games in the past. Conversely, Belichick owns a record of 29-11 in the postseason. I don’t doubt Mahomes, but Brady in the AFC Championship against their defense leaves it awfully difficult to ignore 3 points. This is likely going to be a wildly entertaining matchup. A game decided by a point or two would not surprise anyone. With that said, give me Belichick, Brady, and the points for our AFC Championship pick on Sunday.