Of course, there is a minuscule fragment of truth to the New England quarterback’s words. The Patriots reaching an eighth consecutive conference title game on the strength of a 41-year-old passer is a mind-boggling accomplishment. And there’s a reason the Chiefs are the favorites to reach the Super Bowl; his name is Patrick Mahomes.
MORE: Picks, odds for NFC championship game
The Kansas City QB, likely the NFL MVP for 2018 after throwing 50 touchdowns in the regular season, is the kind of player who can give the Patriots problems. New England under coach Bill Belichick is known for its uncanny preparation habits, but Mahomes is capable of plays for which an opponent simply can’t prepare.
Then again, Brady remains the leader on the other side. And the Patriots’ offense, now an established threat in the power running game to compliment Brady’s precision in the passing game, can attack the Chiefs in multiple ways. If there are weaknesses in the Kansas City defense — and there are — New England will identify and exploit them.
It all sets up what should be another AFC title-game classic. Below are Sporting News’ picks and predictions.
Patriots vs. Chiefs: Picks, odds for AFC championship game
- Date, time: Sun., Jan 20, 6:40 p.m. ET
- Location: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
- TV: CBS
- Odds: Chiefs -3; Total: 57.5
Tadd Haislop: The Patriots and Chiefs won their divisional playoff games against the Chargers and Colts, respectively, in a similar fashion. Even though New England blew out its opponent on the scoreboard, the domination was rooted in the power running game with Sony Michel. Surprisingly, that’s how Kansas City managed its win, too, with Damien Williams.
Presumably, New England will use a similar game plan in the conference title game against a Kansas City defense that has been vulnerable to the run at times in 2018. The Patriots have an advantage on the ground, and keeping pressure away from Brady will be vital.
The tried-and-true formula to beating New England is getting to Brady, but few teams can actually do it. Kansas City pass-rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston gave Indianapolis offensive tackles fits in the divisional round, and Chris Jones completes one of the league’s best pass-rushing trios. So, yeah, the Chiefs can do it.
With that said, the Patriots have the edge in overall defense, if anything because they’ll be prepared with a game plan to contain the likes of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. So picking against New England, the team with the edges in defense and in the running game, would go against everything we know about postseason NFL football.
Oh well. Mahomes is just different.
Pick: Chiefs, 35-31
Vinnie Iyer: The Patriots are still the Patriots, but the Chiefs’ past playoff missteps under coach Andy Reid will get buried here for two reasons: They are at home, and they have Mahomes.
Brady will keep up his team’s offensive momentum, but New England will lose this one defensively, as the speed, quickness and athleticism of Kansas City’s skill players are too much to handle a second time.
The Patriots have been weaker on the road this season, and Mahomes can blow up even their best-laid game plan. Having learned from the first meeting, Mahomes will have a clean, prolific game to out-duel Brady and stamp his MVP status with a trip to what might be the first of several Super Bowls.