NFL Picks: Why Bet the Underdog Patriots ATS

Underdog Patriots Could Be the Right Pick in Kansas City


Jason’s 2018-19 NFL picks record through the Divisional Round: 10-14 ATS, 0-2 ML (minus-2.90 units), 7-9 Totals


This is where the New England Patriots usually fall apart – from a betting perspective, at least. The Patriots reached the Conference Round of the NFL playoffs each of the last seven seasons; they went 4-3 SU and 2-5 ATS, which makes them a very shaky NFL pick for Sunday’s AFC title game (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS) against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Except for one thing: This will be just the second time that the Patriots head into their Conference matchup as the underdogs. New England opened as a 2.5-point puppy (+110) on the NFL odds board, and they’re available at the full +3 as we go to press. That line happens to match the computer projections at FiveThirtyEight, so if you’re going to place a bet on Sunday’s showdown, you might want to lean towards the dog side of the equation. Here are a few reasons why:


Our Chief Weapon Is Mahomes
We’ve already hammered the general concept of betting on underdogs in our look at the NFC title game, so let’s consider the football-specific aspects of Sunday’s matchup this time around. And the Patriots definitely have some merit here. Defense hasn’t always been their strong suit, and at No. 16 on this year’s efficiency charts at Football Outsiders, New England’s stopping power is certainly in question.

But they’re miles ahead of Kansas City at No. 26 overall. When Andy Reid first took over at Arrowhead, the Chiefs were defensive stalwarts, with QB Alex Smith “game managing” the other side of the ball. Now that Reid has had time to fashion the roster in his own image, Kansas City has flipped the script; they’re all hat and no cattle with QB Patrick Mahomes and the league’s No. 1 offense jacking up the score beyond reach.


It’s a Sony
That might not cut it now that we’re deep into the postseason. The Patriots (No. 5 overall) aren’t exactly slouches on offense, even if QB Tom Brady is coming off a marginal Pro-Bowl regular season at best. It’s actually the run game that Kansas City supporters have to worry about. The Chiefs were dead-last in the league against the rush, and we just saw Patriots RB Sony Michel (24 carries for 129 yards and three TDs) rip apart the Los Angeles Chargers in the Divisional Round. The Chargers rush defense ranked No. 10 overall coming into the playoffs.

The Chiefs also won’t get the same weather bump they did when they squashed the visiting Indianapolis Colts – an indoor team – during the Divisional Round. Sunday’s forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-teens; that won’t slow Brady and the Pats down too much. And in a close game on paper that could come down to the final minutes, who do you trust to manage the clock: Reid, or Bill Belichick? We rest our case.