AFC Championship Breakdown

Well it’s Friday and that means it’s time to take a deeper dive into the Pats-Chiefs matchup.

First, here’s how my mood for this game has been all week:

Monday: Worried, we’re on the road against a machine of a team.

Tuesday: Confident, the temps in KC will be 4 degrees at kickoff, advantage Pats!

Wednesday: Less Confident, the weather changed to mid 20s… wtf weathermen.

Thursday: Nervous, the wait is killing me and I can’t take any more talk radio.

Friday: ANXIOUS, muting talk radio and distracting myself.

Let it be known that it’s a yearly tradition for me to be anxious/nervous the week leading up to the AFC Championship game or the Super Bowl. When the game kicks off is when the nerves go away for me, just give me football!!

So the Patriots are three point underdogs and blah blah blah we know the narrative going in at this point. Earlier this week I said this would be the greatest road win/the best AFC title in New England Patriots history, I firmly stand by that.

It’s a disappointment that this isn’t going to be an “ice bowl” as earlier forecasts called for temps under five degrees. That would have really created a level playing field, favoring the Pats. Now it appears we’re going to see temps in the mid 20s, nothing out of the ordinary at all but I guess it still favors New England.

I see this game going one of two ways. It could be like those recent AFC title games in Denver where the Pats struggled and couldn’t get out to a good start OR it could be like the 2004 AFC Championship where the Pats went into Pittsburgh and throttled the 15-1 Steelers, showing who the true kings were.

I don’t think this game will be a blowout at all so the latter option seems unlikely but if the Pats can get out to a fast start it could be quite more comfortable than expected.

In fact, I think a fast start is vital to New England winning this game. It will take the crowd out of it (somewhat, it’s still Arrowhead) and it will put Mahomes and the Chiefs on their heels a bit. Even with a dominant start, the Pats may not be out of the woods against KC. Earlier this season it looked like the Patriots were going to trounce the Chiefs but Mahomes clawed his team back into the game, a 43-40 loss for KC.

Let’s look at some matchups like we did last week:

Kansas City’s Offense against New England’s D: The Patriots just aren’t going to win this matchup overall but if they can cause just a few hiccups for Mahomes then that can be a win. New England has the better defense of the two teams so I think they have the better chance of creating some key turnovers. As good as Mahomes is, I can see him getting cocky or too aggressive and forcing a pick or two, especially with Belichick confusing him on the other side.

Kareem Hunt not being with the Chiefs anymore is HUGE for the Pats. He was a Patriot killer in the two games he played against New England as a rushing and receiving threat. With him out of the picture the Pats can put their main focus on Hill and Kelce.

The Pats have proved they can stop Travis Kelce over the years by smacking him at the line of scrimmage, I’m not too worried about him in this game but on third downs he’ll be Mahomes’ security blanket.

Tyreek Hill has given the Patriots fits, as well as the entire NFL, and he likely will again on Sunday. The key is to let him get his catches but TACKLE him. Don’t let him get any yards after the catch and don’t let him get to the endzone. It’s nearly impossible to cover the speedy WR but the Pats can limit him for sure.

Last week the Pats defensive line did a great job rushing the passer and also stopping the run. Stopping the run this week is crucial. You can’t let a couple of mediocre backs run on you. Getting to Mahomes and CONTAINING him will be a big test for the Pats but they sort of proved they could do it back in Week 6.

KC definitely has the edge in the matchup but the Pats just need to create some turnovers and not let up the home run plays to have a successful day on their end.

New England’s offense against Kansas City’s defense: If the Pats can do what they did last week they are going to dominate KC’s defense. The Chargers had a far better defense and New England was able to push them around like a bully on the playground.

As always, it all starts with the offensive line. These guys have been great all season and it seems they get better each week. It’ll be a test if they can do it on the road in a very loud environment but I think they have the crew to do it. Let’s not forget that the Chiefs have had one of the worst defenses in the league this year, they really only have on player who worries me- Chris Jones. Jones can be a wrecking ball for KC but when has just one guy ruined the Patriots day? It usually takes an army, not a soldier.

Another strong line performance should pave the way for Sony Michel and James White once again, just as it did last time against KC too. The Pats are undefeated when they rush for at least 100 yards this season and the Chiefs have let up 100 yards rushing 12 times this season.

Rushing isn’t going to win this game though, Tommy boy is going to have to sling it. Last week Brady looked like vintage playoff Brady and I don’t see that changing this week. His right hand man, Julian Edelman, looks as healthy as ever off of one of his top career performances and Phillip Dorsett looks to be well in sync with the offense. Don’t sleep on Dorsett, he has the ability to be a real x-factor, I’ve been saying it for a year.

Gronk has not been the true Gronk through the passing game that we’re used to seeing but boy was he effective with his blocking last week (maybe something Kelce could take notes on). He’s good for a few big grabs a game as his hands are still as good as ever but I don’t expect much from him on the receiving end anymore.

Overall, Brady and the offense are going to need to endure the deafening crowd noise and pass rush of the Chiefs to win this game and I think they will. The o-line is primed for a game like this and the rest of the offense will follow their lead. Just hold on tight with the ball boys.

 

Prediction: The noise may have an effect on the Pats and the cold may have a slight effect on the Chiefs and their passing game. This may sound boring but the game is going to come down to who’s tougher on both the offensive line and defensive line. I give the Pats the edge in both as they just scrape by in Kansas City to head to Super Bowl LIII.

Pats 31, Chiefs 29 

 

 

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