AFC Championship Preview
THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - IT'S PATRIOTS VS. CHIEFS WITH SUPER BOWL 53 STARING AT 'EM STRAIGHT AHEAD
If you're the New England Patriots, then this AFC Championship Game has become a well-travelled stop in your yearly schedule
Eight in a row. Thirteen of 'em since the QB Tom Brady / head coach Bill Belichick alliance was formed way back in the 2001 season. Old news, if you will. Yet still amazing.
But, ahh, if you're the Kansas City Chiefs then this is really something special. Your first AFC Championship Game since the 1993 season when a dude named Joe Montana quarterbacked your team.
Your first home title tilt in a glorious history that's included so many playoff heartbreaks.
Is this the year? That's what everyone in/around the wonderful area surrounding Kansas City wants to know.
To be fair, it's the Chiefs - not the Patriots - that have captivated the NFL this year with second-year gunslinger QB Patrick Mahomes (5,097 yards passing / 50 TDs) the toast of the pro football world ... now we'll see if he and his KayCee buddies can "close the deal" and get the Chiefs back into the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly half a century.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - NEW ENGLAND (12-5) at KANSAS CITY (13-4) - 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS
The weather forecasters have been having a real "field day" analyzing what could be the wind chill factors, actual temps, etc. for this early-evening bash at historic Arrowhead Stadium ... but who knows? And, while we're at it, who knows how these teams will perform when the cold is hitting their bones - what we do know is that Chiefs' head coach Andy Reid doesn't figure to alter his offensive game plan all that much for an attack that ranks first in the league and one that scored 30-or-more points on some 13 different occasions (note Kansas City's a tasty 9-3-1 against the odds whenever scoring 30+ points ... hmmm).
In other words, the aforementioned Mahomes is gonna chuck it 40-or-so times - he completed 27-of-41 for 278 yards in last weekend's 31-13 blowout win against Indianapolis and the Chiefs were leading that game 14-0 before your coffee had cooled - but whether he's gonna be able to connect with all-world TE Travis Kelce (7 catches for 108 yards against the Colts) whenever he wants is another question as that starry Patriots secondary would love to douse Kelce and/or speedy WR Tyreek Hill ASAP.
Go over to the other side of the ball, the Patriots will be rocking that short pass game with RB James White (15 receptions in last weekend's 41-28 win/cover against the Los Angeles Chargers) on the other end of Brady flings but the $64,000 question is can New England - the league's fifth-best rush squad this year - power up between the tackles against a Chiefs' defense that ranks a lowly 27th against the rush? Stack the box to stop the run and the always-clever Brady will throw it over the top; don't put enough defenders near the line of scrimmage and the likes of rookie RB Sony Michel (129 yards rushing / 3 TDs versus the Bolts) will chew up KC.
Spread Notes - Kansas City has managed just two pointspread wins in six tries when it comes to post-season play since 2010 and note the Chiefs are just 16-18 ATS as hosts since the start of the 2015 season. Meanwhile, New England has failed to cover four of its five head-to-head showdowns against the KC Chiefs since the 2008 campaign and the Patriots are a mediocre 11-10 spreadwise in their last 21 post-season tilts.
Notes: New England's 10-7 ATS (against the spread) overall this season including last week's blowout 41-28 win/cover against 3.5-point road pup Los Angeles Chargers ... The Patriots have not been an underdog side yet this year but go back to the start of the 2014 season and you'll see this AFC East squad is an electric 6-1 against the odds as point-grabbers.
Notes: Kansas City's 10-6-1 ATS overall this season including last Saturday's rollicking 31-13 win/cover against 4.5-point dog Indianapolis ... As you can see, the Chiefs stormed out of the 2018 starting gate on a seven-game spread winning streak but have gone 3-6-1 ATS ever since and note KC is a modest 5-4 vig-wise as home betting favorites.