Chiefs at Patriots prediction: How to watch, live stream on CBS, CBS All Access, 2018 AFC Championship rematch
New England is trying to cling to the No. 2 seed in the AFC
When the schedule was released over the offseason, it didn't take long for NFL fans to circle this Week 14 matchup between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough. After all, these two clubs were vying for a bid to Super Bowl LIII in an AFC Championship that needed overtime to determine the winner. In the end, it was New England that prevailed at Arrowhead and moved on to later win its sixth championship in franchise history.
Because of how epic that contest was, it made sense at the time (and still does) that this was pegged to be a marquee game late in the year. Now that we're here, it certainly is for both sides. Unlike a year ago, the Chiefs are not as much of a juggernaut and the same could be said for the Patriots. Still, both are vying for playoff position as Kansas City is nipping at the heels of New England's No. 2 seed in the conference. A win on Sunday in Foxborough would not only inch the currently 8-4 Chiefs a game closer to the 10-2 Pats, but it would also give them a critical tiebreaker against the defending champs.
There certainly a lot of playoff implications on the line, but before we dive deeper into the matchup, let's make sure you know to tune into this AFC showdown.
How to watch
Despite their 10-2 record and currently being placed as the No. 2 seed in the conference, the Patriots don't appear as dominant as they've been in recent years. Most of that is due to the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski and the team's failure to replace him with a dynamic weapon that can stretch the defense and open the middle of the field for Julian Edelman and others. The running game has also been a bit stagnant, which has forced Tom Brady to throw the most he's ever had to in his career. The six-time Super Bowl champion is on pace for 648 pass attempts, which would be a career-high. That has also made them a bit inefficient and Brady has started to slow down since the start of the season. Since Week 4, he has the most pass attempts in the NFL (380), but has completed just 59.2% of his passes (ranking 24th in the NFL) and has 11 touchdown passes (T-20th).
What has saved the Patriots for most of the season is their superb defense, which has been at or near the top of the large majority of statistics in the NFL. Heading into Week 14 they've allowed a league-low 12.1 pointer per game and currently rank No. 1 in DVOA. That said, they are coming off their worst outing of the season after the Texans were able to pass for four touchdowns in the Pats' Week 13 loss. For reference: They allowed four passing touchdowns all season prior to that game. They certainly still have a lot of talent and elite coaching, but they'll need to get more offensive efficiency if they want to be a true contender in this game and in the AFC playoff picture altogether.
As for the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes appears to be getting healthier after he suffered an injury to his kneecap that sidelined him for a chunk of time earlier this season. While he's looked healthier, it hasn't shown up on the stat sheet as he's thrown for less than 200 yards in back-to-back weeks. He's also completing just 55.7% of his throws over that stretch with a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Despite his struggles (which haven't been as bad as the stats would suggest according to the eyeball test), the Chiefs have been able to go 2-0 over the span and just dropped 40 points against the Raiders.
A large part of that is thanks to the defense that had a pick-6 in the contest and allowed just nine points total. They've been an opportunistic bunch forcing 19 turnovers (tied for 7th best in the NFL), but it's a unit that New England can exploit on the ground. Heading into this matchup, the Chiefs have the third-worst run defense in the league.
I don't think Patrick Mahomes has looked as bad as the stats would suggest over the last two games upon his return from injury. He's been able to move around well and drive the ball downfield. He can do as much damage at Watson was able to do last week, which is why I give the edge to Kansas City. Even in Foxborough and having the superior defense, I'm not sure the Patriots offense will have enough to keep up. They will be able to find success on the ground with Sony Michel, but they've shown an unwillingness to continue feeding him as the game goes on in recent weeks. If that continues, it may hurt them in the end.
The pick: Chiefs 23-17 over Patriots
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