NFL: AFC Championship Preview

The AFC will decide its Super Bowl representative on Sunday evening as the Kansas City Chiefs take on the New England Patriots. It will be a contest between a breakout star and one of the greatest quarterbacks who’s ever played. Here’s what to look for in this match up:

Chiefs Find the Real Deal

The story of this NFL season has been Patrick Mahomes, and why wouldn’t it be? In his first season, Mahomes has amassed 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards passing and led the Chiefs to an AFC-best 12-4 record. He is likely going to win MVP.

Mahomes joined just two other quarterbacks who threw for more than 50 touchdowns in a single season. One of them will be on the opposing sideline on Sunday wearing red, white and blue in Tom Brady.

Not Done Yet

It happens every season. The Patriots get written off in September and some start saying the dynasty is over.

But every December, New England hits their stride and starts to play like the smart, dominant team we know. Against the Chargers last Sunday, Tom Brady looked spectacular and thew for over 300 yards with no interceptions.

But that was at home.

How will they fare on the road in one of the most hostile NFL environments? The temperature could be as low as the single digits or below zero, but knowing the Patriots that shouldn’t be a problem.

How Will the Defenses Fare?

One of the knocks on Kansas City this season has been poor defensive play. Those critics were put at bay last Saturday against the Colts. The Chiefs contained the Colts to under 300 yards of total offense and didn’t let Andrew Luck throw the ball at will. That’s a sharp turnaround from a team that ranked 31st in total defense during the regular season. Now, they face the Patriots, who are a completely different animal. It’s hard to gauge the Patriots because they nearly always prepare well against any defensive scheme. But one problem is they’ll be on the road, and New England was just 3-5 in the regular season on the road. Three of the five losses came by double digits. The Patriots will likely have a hard time stopping a Chiefs offense filled with stars. They relied on a last-second Gostowski field goal to win back in October, but the Chiefs defense looks improved now.

Best Offense Ever?

The lack of defense for the Chiefs this season was made up by their high-powered offense. Tyreek Hill, one of the fastest players in the NFL, accumulated nearly 1,500 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in just his third season. Travis Kelce is one of the best overall tight ends in the league. And don’t forget about the big men up front.

Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz have been one of the best offensive tackle duos in the NFL.

Kansas City averages a league-best 35 points per game, but will they be able to do that against New England?

Last week, the Patriots played their best offensive game in quite some time. They absolutely dominated on both sides of the ball against a Chargers squad many saw as one of the most complete in the league.

Running back Sony Michel had over 100 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone.

In the first meeting against Kansas City, Michel ran for 106 yards and two scores. A repeat of that performance will do nothing but help his 41-year-old, hall-of-fame quarterback.

What Will Happen

The first meeting between these teams could be a gauge of what we could see on Sunday. But these two teams are much different than they were in October, and the weather is expected to be dreadfully cold.

In conditions like these, one of the best ways to predict a game is by coaching. Both Bill Belichick and Andy Reid are great coaches, but what’s going to happen in those clutch moments?

Everything seems to set up for Kansas City with home-field advantage and a more talented offense. But there’s a reason Belichick has five Super Bowl rings and Reid has only ever been to one Super Bowl. A Chiefs win could signify a passing of the torch in the AFC from Brady to Mahomes. But a Patriots win could say the dynasty refuses to die just yet.

Prediction: Patriots 27, Chiefs 24

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