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The AFC Championship game on Sunday between the Patriots and Chiefs is a contest of contrasting styles. New England is the standard and old guard that dinks and dunks their way down the field. Kansas City is the new kid on the block and is all about the big play. These teams met in week six at Foxboro and the Patriots won a thriller. The quarterbacks played well and canceled each other out. The difference was New England’s rushing attack gaining over 170 yards, which allowed them to control the pace and time of possession. This game will be different for one major reason: this time the game will be at Arrowhead Stadium.
Keys To The Game
The Patriots will try to be well, the Patriots. That means playing mistake free football and controlling the clock. They thrive in tough environments and high stake games. Not hard to do when you have legendary quarterback Tom Brady and genius coach Bill Belichick. They will get everyone involved and try to find mismatches. Keeping Brady clean and upright will help. They must get running backs Sony Michel and James White involved early and often. Controlling the pace of the game will be paramount. Kicker Stephon Gostkowski could have a say in the final result.
The Chiefs need to duplicate last week’s game plan and performance against the Colts. The offense was efficient and explosive. They did put up 40 points in their previous game against New England, so they should be confident. They must unleash their rushing attack to soften up the defense and search for big play opportunities. That means more of running back Damien Williams, who has paid huge dividends. He runs in a punishing style. The weather will definitely play a factor but how much depends on the snowfall. They bottled up Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense last week. They will try to apply the same pressure to Tom Brady. The Chiefs can’t afford to sit back in a zone.
The x-factor for New England will be their secondary of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore against Kansas City’s receivers of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. They must stay glued to these guys as long as it takes. It’s a huge task and they must implement a bend but don’t break mentality. Coach Belichick will try to confuse the less experienced Patrick Mahomes.
The x-factor for the Chiefs will be edge rushers, Dee Ford and Justin Houston against the Patriots tackles, Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon. Pressuring Tom Brady will be critical: any interruption to his timing spells trouble. That would be ideal for Kansas City. Whoever wins this battle will have a decided edge.
As much as I like the Chiefs playing at home, until someone in the AFC beats the Patriots, I’ll take New England in a nail bitter on the road. Quarterback Tom Brady will find a way to get it done. Look for tight end Rob Gronkowski to turn back the clock have a big day (in what could possibly be his last season.) The Patriots defense will get the key stop or turnover to seal the victory.