The Patriots head to Arrowhead Stadium tomorrow to take on the Kansas City Chiefs (13-4) for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII. The Patriots will undoubtedly face their toughest task of the season, as the Chiefs usually take it up a notch when they’re in front of their rabid fans at Arrowhead Stadium, which will test the Pats on both sides of the ball.
Here are a few things to consider entering the AFC Championship Game.
1. Will Brady, Michel & the offense deliver?
The last time the Pats met the Chiefs, Tom Brady and Sony Michel were both remarkable, as Brady threw for more than 300 yards, and Michel ran for more than 100 yards. To have any chance of keeping up with the explosive offense fielded by Andy Reid, Brady and Michel will need to be at their absolute best. Bill Belichick and his staff will definitely be looking at the Divisional Round game played between the Chiefs and the Colts, where Kansas City’s defensive line dominated Indianapolis’ previously impervious offensive line. This resulted in Andrew Luck and Marlon Mack being stifled by a Chiefs defense that had been dreadful throughout the season. Hence, I believe that for the Patriots to have offensive success, their offensive line will need to have an assertive performance at the line of scrimmage, as this would allow Brady to have time to deliver the ball in a clean pocket. Rob Gronkowski and James Develin will also need to be at their a-game, as their blocking would enable Michel to have the space required to gash the Chiefs on the ground. Julian Edelman and the rest of the receivers will also need to be as efficient as they were in Week 6 against Kansas City, because they’ll permit the Pats to stretch the field with play action.
I believe that the key for victory will be a dominant performance on the ground, as this will allow the Pats to control the time of possession and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. Also, starting hot will be especially important, because it will be hard to play from behind against a lethal team like Kansas City.
2. Can the defense stifle the high-powered Chiefs?
The last time the Pats faced off against Patrick Mahomes, he torched them for 352 yards and 4 passing touchdowns. Mahomes maintained his explosive performance throughout the season, as he ended up throwing 50 touchdowns, and is considered to be the 2018-19 MVP. Coach Belichick and Brian Flores will have to craft another impressive game plan this week, because the way to defeat Mahomes is to force him to make mistakes in situations when he would normally be unflappable. The reason why the Patriots emerged victorious in Week 6 is because they were able to cause two turnovers in the first half, which allowed them to jump out to an early lead. It is important to understand that the Pats will not be able to stop Mahomes, due to the potency of his abilities, so their strategy for victory will be to slow him down. The way to do this is to get after him with constant and consistent pressure, and to confuse him with their coverages.
The next thing to consider about the Chiefs’ offense is their receivers. The Pats will need to be focused on the big play ability of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, who can burn the Pats for explosive plays if given the opportunity. In my opinion, the Pats will need to double Hill with either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson, and Devin McCourty helping out over the top. Kelce would likely be covered by Patrick Chung, which is not a matchup that would be very favorable for the Pats. However, if I was Bill Belichick, I would rather be burned by Kelce than Hill. Stephon Gilmore would most probably matchup against his old teammate Sammy Watkins, who he limited to 18 yards in Week 6.
Luckily for the Patriots, they will not have to face off against their kryptonite, Kareem Hunt, who has over 400 yards of total scrimmage yards in 2 career games against them. Damien Williams has been quite efficient in replacing Hunt, as he has had over 100 rushing yards in 2 of the last 3 games he’s played in. Stopping the run will allow them to focus in on Mahomes and the passing attack.
Making enough stops and forcing turnovers will give the Patriots a good chance of advancing to Super Bowl LIII.
- No players listed
- Dorian O’Daniel (ankle) – Out
Prediction: Patriots 35, Chiefs 31
Here is my pick for the NFC Championship Game.
Last week: 3-1
Rams at Saints: Rams