Two teams remain in the race to win the AFC Championship and it’s not a surprise that either of them have gotten this far. Both the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, who will play for the right to advance to the Super Bowl today (6:40 PM ET Sunday on CBS), have shown this season why they deserve to be on this stage.
In many ways, the AFC Championship between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs mirrors the NFC Championship between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. That’s because in week six of the NFL season, an undefeated Chiefs team headed into Gillette Stadium where the Patriots gave them their first loss.
Much like when the Saints handed the undefeated Rams their first loss on the road, the Patriots did the same thing to Chiefs and both games had similar tones.
Kansas City was the AFC’s best team in 2018, finishing with a 12-4 record including a 7-1 mark at Arrowhead Stadium, where the game will be played today. The Chiefs had made what some saw as a risky move, parting with Alex Smith in order to start the sophomore QB Patrick Mahomes. It was a risk that more than paid off as Mahomes stormed out of the gate with 14 touchdowns in his first five games and just two interceptions. His biggest challenge of course, was still yet to come though, against one of the greatest of all-time in Tom Brady.
Now 40 years old, Brady has been at the center of retirement rumors and speculation for several years now. He still wants to play however and if last year was any indication, his level of play is still good enough that he can. By Brady standards, 2018 was a bit of a disappointment but he still ranked among the top-half of the league in QB play. That being said, the Patriots season opened up with a 1-2 record including back-to-back losses on the road for the first time in years. Something just wasn’t clicking as it seemed age was finally catching up to the veteran QB. Then New England strung off six straight victories including against Kansas City.
The two teams met in week six of the NFL season at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots were a perfect 8-0 this year. The final score was 43-40 with both Mahomes and Brady playing great games. They didn’t do it alone however as in addition to the near 700 yards passing the two offenses put up, they added another almost 300 rushing yards. That was actually a big part as to why the Patriots won as their running game recorded 173 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. It’s also worth noting that this was Rob Gronkowski’s third best game of the year in a season that had its fair share of duds for the NFL’s former best tight end.
New England needed to do everything right and operate on all cylinders just to win at home. They won’t have that luxury today as they will be on the road. As 2018 showed, the Patriots are a vastly different team when playing outside of New England.
On the Road Again
Last week, the Patriots showed the Los Angeles Chargers, who were the road team despite having the better record due to New England winning their division, just how out of their depth they were. But they did so at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots have won all nine games they have played at home this year but on the road, that story has gone differently. Away from New England, the Patriots are just 3-5 this season, marking the first time since 2009 that the team lost five or more road games in a single season. Not only were they road losses though, but they were road losses to teams that didn’t even make the playoffs.
If New England couldn’t beat the league’s bottom feeders and average teams on the road, it makes their chances against the AFC’s best team seem all that more slim. At the same time, the Patriots are also a different team in the playoffs, which is evidenced by the three conference championships they have won in the last four years and two Super Bowls they have won in that same span. In addition, the team is 8-4 in their last 12 AFC Championship games.
Bill Belichick vs Andy Reid or is it Andy Reid vs Andy Reid?
One of the reasons why you tend to throw out that pesky road record of the Patriots this year is because of the playoff pedigree I mentioned above. Another reason is because Bill Belichick is one of the best coaches in the NFL period and especially in the postseason. He will be going up against someone in Andy Reid, who has certainly had his struggles and had tended to come up small in the biggest of games.
So in some ways, this is a coaching matchup that is as much about Belichick vs Reid as it is about Reid and his internal struggles and reminders of his inability to advance out of the championship round of the postseason. He is just 2-6 against Belichick all time and the Chiefs are just 3-7 in their last 10 meetings with New England.
Reid has never had a QB like he has in Mahomes, so it is worth noting that if ever there was a time for his luck to turn around, it would be now.
Our Preview’s New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
The Patriots are underdogs and as strange as that seems, the team has embraced that mentality heading into this game. They are being counted out because of how good Kansas City has been and how poor New England has been on the road.
This is Brady and Belichick, two guys who just led their team into the Super Bowl only a year prior. Does postseason experience discount the team’s road failures? It’s an excellent question but one that historically seems to suggest New England will get this done. These are the New England Patriots vs Kansas City Chiefs predictions, for betting purposes, of this preview:
- The first of the picks is to bet the Patriots +3pts on the spread @ best odds of +105 with Bookmaker, en route to reaching yet another Super Bowl. The odds with the other top US-facing bookies range from -110 to +100.
- As for the total points for this AFC Championship game, look for the over on 56.5pts if last time’s shootout is any indication of how efficient these offenses can be @ -110 with BetOnline, Intertops or Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.