Expert's Final Thoughts On Chiefs vs. Patriots Playoffs Matchup

Ted Sevransky

Saturday, January 16, 2016 12:16 AM UTC

Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 12:16 AM UTC

The Chiefs are the hottest team in the NFL, riding an eleven game winning streak into Foxboro on Saturday.  Meanwhile, the Patriots slumped down the stretch, losing two straight (with a chance to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs) and four of their last six.

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NFL Picks: Patriots -4.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

These two teams played on Monday Night Football in Arrowhead last year, one of the ugliest losses of the entire Bill Belichick era for New England.  KC mauled the Patriots on both sides of the line of scrimmage in a dominating 41-14 victory, gaining more than 200 yards on the ground and through the air. Tom Brady threw a pair of interceptions before getting benched in the fourth quarter, while Alex Smith picked apart the Patriots secondary to the tune of 20-26 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover.

That game transformed the Patriots trajectory.  The Pats didn’t allow 200 rushing yards in any game the rest of the way, while winning 13 of their last 14 meaningful games on their way to a Super Bowl title.  And it’s a loss they still remember well, as evidenced by numerous quotes from coaches and players in the locker room over the last few days.  The Pats are offering the appropriate platitudes, but their focus level for this particular opponent on this particular week is ‘off the charts’ good.

The first part of this handicap will focus on KC.  How good have the Chiefs actually been during this 11-0 run?  Good enough to beat the weak, that’s for sure!  During this run the Chiefs have faced one bottom feeder after the next.  Their last seven regular season games came against the Chargers (twice), the Raiders (twice), Cleveland, Baltimore and Buffalo.  That’s not exactly a tough slate.

The Chiefs have three wins since opening day against playoff foes.  One came against Pittsburgh with third string QB Landry Jones behind center for the Steelers.  One came against Denver, in the game where Peyton Manning threw four early interceptions and then was benched for the next two months due to injury.  The third came against Houston last week with Brian Hoyer making his first career playoff start behind a depleted offensive line.  There’s not one team that the Chiefs have beaten during this entire winning streak that’s even remotely comparable to a rested, focused Patriots squad coming off a bye and playing at home in January.

Things get even worse for KC when we start to look at the injury situation for both squads.  KC’s defensive line is banged up.  Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford are all less than 100% heading into their second straight road playoff game.  The Chiefs top deep threat, WR Jeremy Maclin, suffered a high ankle sprain in the win over Houston.  Even if Maclin suits up in Foxboro, he’s not likely to be his explosive self.  KC also lost starting offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to a concussion, joining starting center Mitch Morse in concussion protocol moving forward.  If that duo doesn’t suit up this weekend, it’ll be a major loss for the Chiefs offense.

While KC is battling injuries, the Patriots are getting much healthier.  New England will get back WR Danny Amendola following a nine week absence; a huge difference maker for Tom Brady.  LB Donta’ Hightower is expected to suit up, as is elite offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer.  All  three guys are what I would call ‘impact players’, and their return to the field makes the Pats a better team than the one we saw losing to the Jets and Dolphins over the final two weeks of the regular season.

But the real kicker here is the turnover situation.  Facing one weakling after the next, the Chiefs have gone a remarkable +22 in turnovers during their eleven game winning streak.  But the Patriots don’t turn the ball over; committing an NFL low 14 turnovers all season.  In the four games this season where KC didn’t win the turnover battle, they went 1-3 SU, 0-4 ATS against the NFL odds, and this is not a game where they can be expected to win that battle.  KC might be the ‘Flavor of the Week’ for pundits and talking heads on TV; but the Pats are the class in this matchup! Back New England with your NFL picks!

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