Will the Patriots silence the doubters? Will a new dynasty emerge in Arrowhead? Breakout Live breaks down the AFC conference title matchup between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.
Patriots @ Chiefs
In what was an otherwise solid week of picks for the Divisional Round (3-1), I whiffed really like Pedro Serrano against the curve taking the Chargers over the Pats last weekend. I was right about one thing, though: the Pats did, in fact, have us all right where they wanted. Gronk’s not playing up to his normal All-Pro level? Whatever. He was just the best blocking TE off all-time last Sunday. Brady’s too old and his age will eventually show? Nope. How’s 34/44 for 343, a TD and no picks taste? Once again, the Pats showed us all why they’re the greatest sports dynasty ever.
If you’ve read any of my columns this season, you know I’m a big stats nerd. Well, chalk these two stats up to some of the craziest I’ve seen in a while: Brady has now won (28) more playoff games than any other QB has ever started (Peyton Manning – 27). Mmmk. And, with 13 conference championship appearances in 17 seasons (76.5%), we’re more likely to see Brady in an AFC title game than we are to see LeBron James hit a free throw this year (68.2%). That… doesn’t make sense. There’s an entire generation of 2nd/3rd graders who’ve never seen an AFC title game without Brady. Those kids probably think the Pats just get penciled in every year.
The long-winded point I’m getting at here is that the Pats are good. Like, insanely good. And consistently insanely good. I love the Chiefs, but this is a terrible matchup for them. Looks like the “arctic blast” that was set to hit KC Sunday and send temperatures plummeting below zero won’t actually come to fruition. But it will still be around 20 degrees and feel closer to 10 or less on the field, and that’s not good news for a team that’s built on speed and verticality.
I feel like I’ve seen Tyreek Hill come up hobbling after a play at least a couple of times in every single game I’ve watched this season. How’s the Cheetah going to hold up playing with frozen legs? The cold will not be the Chiefs’ ally. They were merely adopted by the cold. The Pats were born in it, molded by it. And they’ll play like it, too.
The key matchups I’ll be looking at are Hill vs. Stephon Gilmore and KC’s interior pressure vs. Brady. I already mentioned the struggles I see Hill having; and dealing with Gilmore, a rare big free agent signing for New England who’s played like a skillful madman all year, will be extremely difficult. I don’t think Hill will be throwing up any peace signs on his way to the end zone Sunday.
If the Chiefs want to have any shot in this game, Chris Jones, Dee Ford and Justin Houston are going to need to play the games of their lives. The Chiefs pressured QBs well all year, but Brady is no ordinary QB. He gets the ball out so fast and so accurately that it’s almost unfair. Even Joey Bosa – who was mic’d up last week – couldn’t believe his eyes with how quickly Brady gets rid of it. KC did have 2 sacks on Brady in their first meeting this year, but they’ll need at least 4 or 5 to even have a chance to tip this game in their favor.
I want to pick the Chiefs so badly here, but I can’t. Brady and Belichick are too good and the Chiefs are still too green to get over on the battle-tested Pats. This certainly won’t be the last we hear of the Chiefs – they’re going to be great for a while – but it also won’t be the last time the Patriots pull the old bait-and-switch on us all.
Prediction: Pats, 27-23