For just the third time in eight seasons, the New England Patriots will travel for the AFC Championship Game.
The Patriots take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET. The Patriots lost their last two road AFC Championship Games, both to the Denver Broncos.
The Patriots blew out the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 at home Sunday to advance to the conference title game. Despite the dominant win, they’ll still be three-point underdogs against the Chiefs. That means Vegas considers the two teams equal. The Chiefs get a three-point boost for home-field advantage.
The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Week 6 at Gillette Stadium.
Here’s how the two teams match up next week.
PATRIOTS PASSING ATTACK VS. PASS DEFENSE
Patriots passing rank: 8th, 266.1 yards per game
Patriots passing DVOA: 4th
Chiefs pass defense rank: 31st
Chiefs pass defense DVOA: 12th
Tom Brady wasn’t nearly as good on the road this season. He completed just 63.4 percent of his passes with a 93.4 passer rating. Still, he should, in theory, be able to move the ball against the much-maligned Chiefs defense, especially after seeing his performance Sunday in the Patriots’ win over the Chargers.
Kansas City’s defense looked much improved against Indianapolis’ offense Saturday, but Colts quarterback Andrew Luck also didn’t look like himself.
Brady went 24-of-35 for 340 yards with one touchdown against the Chiefs in Week 6. Rob Gronkowski, who since has mostly disappeared, also looked dominant in the fourth quarter and had three catches for 97 yards overall.
The Patriots need to watch out for KC pass rushers Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Chris Jones. New England’s offensive line held up incredibly well against the Chargers’ pass rushers Sunday.
PATRIOTS RUSHING ATTACK VS. RUN DEFENSE
Patriots rushing rank: 5th, 127.3 yards per game
Patriots rushing DVOA: 9th
Chiefs run defense rank: 27th
Chiefs run defense DVOA: 32nd
The edge goes out to the Patriots if they don’t get so far behind to start the game that they have to abandon the run. The Chiefs were terrible against the run all season, but they held the Colts to just 87 yards. Those came on only 14 carries and 6.2 yards per clip, however.
The Patriots piled up 173 yards on 38 carries in Week 6, but they also stunk on the ground in road games, averaging 3.9 yards per carry with just four touchdowns.
PATRIOTS PASS DEFENSE VS. PASSING ATTACK
Patriots pass defense rank: 22nd, 246.4 yards per game
Patriots pass defense DVOA: 14th
Chiefs passing rank: Third
Chiefs passing DVOA: First
The strength of the Patriots’ defense is their passing attack, but we’re talking about Patrick Mahomes and the juggernaut Chiefs offense here.
Also, the Patriots let up a passer rating of 91.1 and 7.2 yards per attempt on the road and a 76.1 passer rating and 5.7 yards per attempt at home this season. So, while the pass defense certainly held up on the road this year, it wasn’t nearly as good as it was at home.
To win, the Patriots have to do a better job than the Colts of capitalizing on Mahomes’ poor throws and decisions.
Still, the Chiefs have wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce to deal with. The Patriots almost neutralized Kelce in Week 6, but Hill went off for seven catches for 142 yards with three touchdowns.
PATRIOTS RUN DEFENSE VS. RUSHING ATTACK
Patriots run defense rank: 11th, 127.7 yards per game
Patriots run defense DVOA: 19th
Chiefs rushing rank: 16th
Chiefs rushing DVOA: Fourth
The Chiefs proved they could still the run the ball without Kareem Hunt on Saturday when they scored four touchdowns on the ground. Mahomes, Hill and running backs Damien and Darrel Williams all had scores. The Chiefs carried the ball 33 times for 180 yards.
Expect a lot of rushing yards by the Chiefs next Sunday. The Patriots will let the Chiefs run on them with a priority placed on stopping Mahomes.
PATRIOTS SPECIAL TEAMS VS. SPECIAL TEAMS
Patriots special teams DVOA: 16th
Chiefs special teams DVOA: 11th
Tremon Smith returned a kick 97 yards in Week 6. That can’t happen again.