AFC Championship Game
Here's a strange-but-true factoid when it comes to the NFL Championship Games: As is the case in the NFC - the last time an AFC Championship Game road team advanced to a Super Bowl was way back in the 2012 season (see Baltimore 28, New England 13).
For the last five years in a row, AFC title tilt hosts not only have moved on to the SB, but in four of the last five, the home teams have covered the Las Vegas price tags as you can witness for yourself when checking out our accompanying chart below. The lone time in the last handful of years that we've had a non-cover win for an AFC Championship Game home team was just last year ... New England (- 7.5) roared from behind to best Jacksonville 24-20.
It's rather odd how both the NFC and AFC Championship Games have been so similar in that regard: Both conferences have seen home teams experience clean sweeps SU (straight-up) the past five years with home sides covering four-of-five of these games.
And there's been one other similarity: In each of the conferences, there's been one home dog winner in championship game play with 3-point pup Philadelphia beating Minnesota last year in the NFC and back in 2015 there was Denver (+ 3) downing New England on the AFC side.
We already know that it's "same-old / same-old" when it comes to the AFC Championship Game with the New England Patriots now in the title tilt mix for an eighth consecutive year but Sunday's host - the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs - haven't been on this stage since 1993 (lost in Buffalo) and never/ever have hosted an AFC Championship Game.
LAST 5 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
(Home teams in CAPS below)
|2016||NEW ENGLAND||- 5.5||Pittsburgh||36-17|
|2015||DENVER||+ 3||New England||20-18|
|2014||NEW ENGLAND||- 7||Indianapolis||45-7|
|2013||DENVER||- 5||New England||26-16|
Here's some other key numbers as we head towards Patriots-Chiefs this Sunday ...New England's uber-dominant 41-28 win/cover against the 3.5-point underdog Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday in the AFC Divisional Playoffs featured eight passes deflected by that always-active Patriots defense (the Chargers' defense was credited with one deflection) and it's quite likely the star-studded secondary of the Pats will hold the key to this Sunday's game at Arrowhead Stadium. Consider that S Devin McCourty contributed two of those deflections to go along with seven total tackles and Pro Bowl CB Stephon Gilmore added two deflections. On the offensive side, the Pats averaged a whopping 6.4 yards per offensive play - QB Tom Brady threw for 343 yards and the ground game starring RB Sony Michel (129 yards rushing / 3 TDs) contributed 155 ground yards.
On the flip side, Kansas City averaged a nifty 5.85 yards an offensive play in last weekend's never-in-doubt 31-13 win/cover against 4.5-point dog Indianapolis in the other AFC Divisional Playoff game. The Chiefs - who scored four rushing touchdowns and averaged 5.5 yards a rush in that wintry tilt - are gearing up for what could be absolutely frigid weather conditions for Sunday's game and it won't shock us if they run it more than throw it here (last week QB Patrick Mahomes threw 41 passes and was sacked four times)
THE COLLEGE ROUNDBALL REPORT
Here's some of what we'll be watching here on this Thursday night ...
#6 MICHIGAN STATE (15-2, 6-0) at NEBRASKA (13-4, 3-3) - 8 p.m. ET, FS1
Say this for Sparty: Tom Izzo's team places major emphasis on winning league games inside the Big 10 and here's Michigan State heading into this prime-time bash in Lincoln riding an 18-game SU (straight-up) Big 10 winning streak while dating back to last season. No G Joshua Langford (ankle) for a fifth straight game here for M-State but G Cassius Winston (team-leading 17.6 ppg) could get carte blanche to shoot it 25 times here ... if the host 'Huskers get a stat-sheet stuffing game here from G James Palmer, Jr. (19 ppg / 4.3 rpg / 3.3 apg) then the Spartans could get upended. Spread notes: Michigan State's 13-4 ATS this year; Nebraska is 11-4-1 against the odds overall.
In other Thursday night spread notes ...
California is at Washington State - The visiting Golden Bears are a rotten 5-11 ATS this year including seven-of-eight spread setbacks since mid-December.
Santa Clara at Saint Mary's - Here's two teams from the West Coast Conference that have banked major profits this year as they're a combined 23-12 versus the vig.