Everything comes down to one game in the AFC. Kansas City prepares to defend their turf at Arrowhead Stadium, ready to prove Patrick Mahomes really is the NFL MVP and this team is ready for greatness.
On the other side is a team that has achieved that in spades, as the New England Patriots look to erase a pedestrian regular season run and get back to the Super Bowl for a third year in a row.
Picking NFL games hasn’t exactly been easy this year and a game like this is precisely why. The Pats and Chiefs actually met earlier this season and that showdown culminated in a crazy 43-40 thriller. New England edged out the win at home, but the series shifts to Kansas City and nobody seems to know what to expect.
Vegas isn’t being shy here, though. The top NFL betting sites peg the top-seeded Chiefs as the victor, as they’re favored by three points and projected to earn their first trip to the Super Bowl since winning it back in 1970.
This is a game of two compelling narratives.
Andy Reid chases an elusive ring on one end, but to even get to the league’s title game he’ll have to fend off arguably the greatest head coach of all-time in Bill Belichick. It’s the upstart, flashy Chiefs chasing an elusive title and the seasoned Pats trying to add to their already stacked trophy case across from them.
While the sportsbooks favor the Chiefs and a lot does seem to be going their way, I can’t quite quit the Pats just yet. Here’s why they look like a killer underdog this weekend:
I get that the Patriots were pretty underwhelming for the majority of the 2018 NFL regular season, but I feel like they might have been trolling us the whole time. I mean, did you watch what they just did to the Chargers last week?
L.A. proved all year long that they’re not some trash team. They are extremely balanced on both sides of the ball and they were exceptional (8-1) on the road. They even beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh and had the stones to go for two (in a win) against the Chiefs.
The Patriots pounded the rock down their throat and Tom Brady was surgical through the air. New England completely waxed them and find themselves in their eighth straight AFC title game.
That’s just one game, but the Pats looked very good in virtually every regard. That’s all of the scary.
Speaking of those now eight trips to the conference title game, nobody has more playoff experience than the Patriots. It’s true that Tom Brady has more Super Bowl appearances than traditional road playoff games, but he and this team have been there and done that.
I hear the road woes argument. New England are just 3-5 on the road and the last two times they played away from home with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, they lost. But the Patriots know what it’s like to be on this stage and they know what it takes to emerge the victor.
Kansas City just got a big playoff win last week, but this is literally Patrick Mahomes’ first rodeo. He handled a slightly overrated Colts team, but he lost to these very Patriots earlier in the year and he may find it difficult to get past them in the second meeting.
Generally speaking, quarterbacks tend to eat their first playoff loss before they get to the big game. Mahomes is amazing, but he still makes rookie-esque mistakes and he doesn’t have a very good defense behind him. Andy Reid also has a less than colorful record in these conference championship games, too.
I agree that Kansas City has more explosive talent, but the overall gap between these teams really isn’t that wide. Experience could easily end up being the difference here.
This one is arguably less concrete. Still, I don’t know what it is about league MVPs, but they just do not fair well as far as getting to and/or winning the big game. They actually do get to the Super Bowl quite a bit, but NFL MVPs still hit a wall or ultimately come up short for some reason.
I’m not sure if it’s due to a more finesse game, perhaps an over reliance on their production and/or putting up numbers helps mask other glaring weaknesses.
For the Chiefs, Mahomes’ numbers are tough to ignore and he’s obviously an exceptional talent, but he helps make up for the loss of Kareem Hunt and a defense that is far from elite.
Looking back at NFL MVP history the last 18 NFL MVPs either failed to get to the Super Bowl or lost once they got there. The last to win regular season MVP and hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season was Kurt Warner with the Rams.
To be fair, Patrick Mahomes hasn’t actually won the MVP yet. He’s probably going to, though, so add this to the pile of reasons for potentially betting against KC this weekend.
The weather has actually improved a bit, but at the moment the forecast calls for cold temperatures when the Patriots and Chiefs face off at Arrowhead Stadium. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee a thing one way or the other, but the style of play could.
Colder temperatures make it more difficult to create explosive passing plays, it can impact the surface of the field and can also impact kicking. New England is arguably better suited to survive the elements, as their passing game doesn’t rely on big throws down the field and they proved last week they can run the ball as effectively as anyone.
This would-be offensive explosion could end up getting curbed by the weather and a more ball-control approach could greatly benefit the Pats.
Ultimately, I think the Pats have the edge here. Obviously, they are very attractive underdogs based on their cool +135 price tag at Sportsbetting.ag, but they also are not going into a situation they’ll be unfamiliar with.
The actual setting of the game gives the Chiefs an edge, but in virtually every other regard New England trumps the Chiefs. The weather impact could be a very underrated aspect to this game and if the usually potent Chiefs offense is at all slowed down, New England’s defense could take advantage of it.
I still expect some points in this one and it will also be very close. However, nobody is better at executing with everything on the line than New England.
Whether it’s a last second kick to win it or a big defensive stop, I expect the Pats to come out on top, punch their third straight ticket to a Super Bowl and return elite betting value in the process.