The New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game… and once again, there’s a lot on the line.
It’s finally here… the game everyone has been waiting for since the schedule first came out last spring.
Early this Sunday evening, the New England Patriots will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs in what has arguably been the most anticipated regular season matchup since the start of this new football season.
Sure, we might not have anticipated the state these two teams would be in when they go head-to-head for the third time in the past 14 months. But we’re here all the same, and anyone who thinks that Patriots/Chiefs won’t deliver some fireworks at Gillette Stadium this weekend probably don’t have a very good grasp on just how exciting these two teams are.
Let’s start with the opposition.
The Chiefs enter this important AFC clash at 8-4, which might come as a bit of a surprise to anyone who saw them play last season when quarterback Patrick Mahomes was single-handedly wrecking the NFL. Mahomes missed a couple games with an ankle injury this year and his defense has once again had troubles stopping the run; largely because of these two issues, the Chiefs dropped a couple games they probably wish they could have back.
As it stands now, Kansas City is the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff picture, and would host the No. 5 seed Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead if the season ended today.
The three seeds ahead of them are all well within striking distance, however: the No. 1 seed Ravens (10-2) could potentially stumble this weekend in Buffalo, the No. 2 seed Patriots (10-2) could fall to the Chiefs themselves in Foxborough, and the No. 3 seed Texans (8-4) are always a danger to drop a stinker here and there if their opponent catches them asleep at the wheel – this week that opponent is the Broncos and their ferocious Denver defense.
Even with a win over the Patriots, it might be hard for the Chiefs to catch either New England or Baltimore atop the standings are earn a first-round bye for the second straight season. Both the Patriots and the Ravens finish out their regular season schedules with a trio of fairly winnable games, whereas the Chiefs still have to take on the Broncos, Bears, and Chargers.
A better bet would be to see K.C. leapfrog Houston for the No. 3 seed. After the Texans host the Broncos, they’ll need to beat the Titans twice as well as the high-flying Buccaneers to maintain their edge over the Chiefs, who they beat head-to-head in Kansas City back in Week 6.
If the Chiefs managed to move up a spot in the AFC pecking order, they’d likely draw the Pittsburgh Steelers as a first round playoff opponent… who are starting their third-string quarterback and who would represent a much easier out than the 9-3 Bills.
Now let’s move to the Patriots.
New England’s 10-2 record somewhat obscures the fact that they’ve been shuffling along and beating good teams by the skin of their teeth for pretty much the entire second half of the season. They’ve also been thoroughly dismantled both times in the games they lost, both to division leaders (Baltimore and Houston) with exciting young quarterbacks at the helm. If Kansas City beats New England on Sunday, the Patriots would be 0-3 against their top competition in the other three conference divisions.
The good news if you’re a Patriots fan is that the schedule is about to get a whole lot easier after this game. The Pats will travel to take on the 1-11 Bengals next week in their final road trip of the season until the Super Bowl (we all hope and pray), before returning home to face the 9-3 Bills and then 3-9 Dolphins to finish the year.
Cincinnati and Miami have already been eliminated from postseason contention, so those should be winnable games for the Patriots – who still have everything to play for. Even what could be another tough game between the Bills and Pats should favor New England since Bill Belichick’s squad is at home this time playing before the Foxborough Faithful.
There’s also good news for New Englanders if you consider the state of Belichick’s defense this season. That D has been shutting down opponents all year long and absolutely obliterating people in fantasy football. They’ve been somewhat exposed in the two losses, and they’ve got another tough challenge this weekend when they host the explosive Kansas City offense, but Belichick supposedly built this defense specifically to counteract Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and the Chiefs O.
The bad news for Patriots fans is that if this game turns into a shootout like the two games ended up being last season, that style of game decidedly favors Kansas City. Tom Brady doesn’t have the weapons around him this year that he had in 2018, and as a result, the offense just hasn’t found its groove since a Week 3 home game against the Jets this year.
Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that Belichick, Brady, and offensive guru Josh McDaniels can sort out all the kinks before the playoffs arrive – and hopefully even sooner (like this week) – but it’s still been enough of a recurring problem in 2019 that if you talk to most Boston sports fans, you’d think the Patriots were 2-10 right now instead of 10-2.
Here’s all the info you need to take in this week’s gigantic game:
Date: Sunday, December 8, 2019
Kickoff time: 4:25 pm EST
Location: Foxborough, Massachusetts
Stadium: Gillette Stadium
TV channel: CBS
Live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Betting odds: New England -3 (Over/Under: 48.5), courtesy of The Action Network
Weather updates: 33 degrees F; partly cloudy; 5% chance of precipitation
If the Patriots can finally find themselves on offense, they should be able to exploit a suspect Chiefs defense and come away with a win. New England’s defense also looks as if they’re up to the challenge of containing Kansas City’s offense for 60 minutes, especially if this game turns into a relatively low-scoring, slug-it-out type of affair.