Sunday Night Football has an AFC Championship preview coming up this week. The 3-2 New England Patriots will take on the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in a battle that will likely determine home-field advantage in this year’s playoffs.
This game is likely to have no punts from either side and will come down to whoever has the ball on the last drive of the game. Why is that, you ask? It’s because each team brings a high-powered offense that can score at will. Trust me when I say that you won’t want to miss this game.
First, let’s take a look at the Chiefs. Young sensation Patrick Mahomes is having an MVP season with 1,513 yards, 14 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. He has continuously proved himself week in and week out especially in Week 5 after beating the defensive juggernaut Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 30-14.
Mahomes’ ability to move in and outside of the pocket and sling the ball downfield is a tricky combo for even the most elite defenses, and if you’ve been watching this season, the Patriots aren’t one of them. Without an A+ game from the defensive line containing the young gunslinger and forcing him to make hasty decisions, this offense can’t be stopped.
With a wide array of weapons like Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins, the Patriots will have to bring the pressure. They’ll also need a stellar game from their top linebacker, Dont’a Hightower, who has struggled all year. The savvy veteran has looked sluggish this year and without him leading this defense, they seem to have lost their identity. If Mahomes has time for the play to develop or can extend the play with his legs, expect a big day from the Chiefs offense.
Make no mistake, the Chiefs are not to be taken lightly. This isn’t the same Alex Smith led Chiefs offense (which torched the Patriots last year) which featured a ton of check down screens and short passes. Say what you want about Andy Reid, but the man is still one of the top coaches in the NFL, and one of the few who can come up with a gameplan to rival Bill’s.
As for the Patriots, their offense finally got going against the Dolphins and Colts the past two weeks. Tom Brady is having an impressive year with 1,259 yards, 12 touchdowns, and a surprisingly high 6 interceptions. With his favorite target, Julian Edelman finally back and new wide receiver Josh Gordon, the entire offense has opened up. Gronk can’t be double teamed anymore, and if he is, Brady will exploit the defense like he’s known for.
The real key to this game for the Patriots is their running game. Sony Michel and James White have been a dynamic duo with a combined seven touchdowns and 692 all-purpose yards. Justin Houston, Kansas City’s top pass rusher and run defender, is likely out this Sunday so the Patriots will look to be run heavy and rely on that tandem to set up the passing game for Gronk.
With Kendall Fuller likely to be on Edelman, it’ll be tough to get him involved, so look for Josh Gordon, Chris Hogan, or Phillip Dorsett (who has been amazing this season) to get the majority of looks if Brady decides to air it out. Expect big games from White and Michel, because without an effective run game, it’ll be difficult for the Patriots to move the ball effectively and control the time of possession.
These two teams are clearly the best in the AFC right now. High-octane offenses who have proved that they can’t be stopped once they get going. In the end, I think Brady and Belichick will play their cards just right and end up with a game-winning drive, resulting in a 45-42 Patriots victory (bet the over, folks), but this won’t be the last time we see these two teams facing off this season.
Photo: Matt Stone