This year’s NFL conference championships are two battles of offensive juggernauts, with the AFC Championship Game pitting the first and fourth-ranked scoring offenses against each other. When Tom Brady and the New England Patriots travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, one thing is for certain; points will be scored.
Will Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, prevail against Mahomes, who led the league in touchdown passes in his first year as a starter? No matter what happens, it will be a very entertaining game. Here are five bold predictions for Sunday’s clash of titans.
5. The Patriots nullify Kansas City’s potent pass rush
The Chiefs may have a terrible defense, but one thing they do very well is rush the passer. During the regular season, Kansas City was tied for first in the NFL with 52 sacks. Chris Jones finished with 15.5, Dee Ford with 13, and Justin Houston with nine. The same can be said about the Los Angeles Chargers, who boast Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa on the edge.
However, in their divisional matchup with New England, the Chargers were unable to sack Brady even once. Their excellent defense surrendered 41 points to the Patriots, who are playing their best football of the season at just the right time. The Chiefs’ pass rush may be better than LA’s, but their secondary is much, much worse.
New England was able to scheme Bosa and Ingram out of the play, and Brady got rid of the ball quickly. If he was able to do that effectively against a strong secondary, he can certainly do it against a weak one. Kansas City is going to give up a lot of quick completions; that much is inevitable. They must keep the yards after the catch to a minimum if they hope to keep the game close.
4. New England exposes the Chief’s poor defense
Because Kansas City won’t be able to disrupt New England’s aerial attack with its pass rush, the rest of its defense is going to suffer. Steven Nelson and Kendall Fuller are solid cornerbacks, but the rest of the Chiefs’s secondary is awful. Even the return of Eric Berry won’t be enough. The Patriots’ passing game should be centered on short, quick passes designed to give receivers room to run after the catch, and this along with a strong and versatile running game will open up the deep middle of the field for Rob Gronkowski, who, even though his body is 75 years old, is still one of the league’s most dangerous receiving threats.
3. Kansas City’s offense continues its torrid pace
The Chiefs averaged 35.3 points per game in the regular season, and scored 24 points in the first half of their divisional matchup against the Indianapolis Colts before taking their foot off the gas. The Colts’ defense lacks elite talent, but it is very well coached by defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
Kansas City’s constant motion confused Indy all afternoon, and the same thing should happen on Sunday. The Patriots’ linebackers are decent, but not great. Having to account for Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley, Tyreek Hill, and the rest of the Chiefs’ weapons will be a nightmare for an average defense that lacks the speed to keep up.
The Chiefs scored under 30 points only four times all year. Once to an excellent Broncos defense, once to the Cardinals in a game Kansas City didn’t seem very interested in, once to the Chargers, and once to arguably the top defense in the league, the Ravens. When the Patriots and Chiefs faced off back in October, Kansas City put up 40. There’s no reason to believe that New England of all teams will be the defense to slow down this monster.
2. Damien Williams is the Chiefs’ X-Factor
Since Kareem Hunt was released, Williams has become Kansas City’s feature back, and he has performed well in that role. Since the majority of the Chiefs’ offense is based on the passing game, New England is likely to attempt to slow them down in this area. If this is the case, Williams will have a bigger responsibility. Look for Kansas City to run the ball with Williams when Patriots’ nose tackle Danny Shelton is not on the field.
1. The highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history
These two teams combined for 83 points in their first matchup, with the Patriots emerging victorious by a field goal. In 2010, the Green Bay Packers fell to the Arizona Cardinals in overtime by a final score of 51-45. Both conference championship games have the potential to top that mark, but the game with the worse defenses is more likely to set the record. New England and Kansas City score a lot of points, and if any two teams are going to score the most points ever in a playoff game, it will be these two.