Cash's Corner

Patriots ready for AFC Championship Game

After rolling over Chargers
Thu, 01/17/2019 - 11:30pm

It’s an exciting time to be a New England Patriots football fan, as it’s playoff time, and the team is marching toward another Super Bowl appearance. What stands in their way is a much-heralded Kansas City Chiefs team, which many football fans and pundits across the nation hope will thwart the Patriots in their endeavor to nab ring number six.

“If you’re not motivated this week you’ve got a major problem,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during a press conference this week.

This version of the Patriots battled through some early-season struggles, mishaps and adversity to earn the right to play in an NFL-record eighth straight AFC Championship Game this Sunday in Kansas City at 6:40 p.m. The Chiefs can avenge their 43-40 week six loss to the Patriots with a victory, to advance to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969 when they beat the Vikings 23-7. 

Despite the predicted cold weather, this should be a slugfest, with both teams playing well the past few weeks. The Patriots probably played their best game of the year when they ran all over the Chargers, beating them 41-28, in the Divisional playoffs on Sunday. The Patriots got off to a fast start, cruising to victory behind the stalwart play of the 41-year-old Brady.

The Patriots dominated the hapless Chargers on the ground and through the air with a balanced offensive attack. Brady looked poised and determined: throwing for 343 yards and a touchdown, while completing 34 of 44 passes. The stars were running back Sony Michel, 129 yards on 24 carries, and 3 touchdowns, Julian Edelman, 151 receiving yards, and James White, 15 catches for 97 yards.

The Patriots defense was also solid, putting constant pressure on Chargers QB Philip Rivers. Defensive end Trey Flowers had one sack, and along with linebacker Don’t’a Hightower, and the Patriots’ defensive frontline, harassed Rivers all game long, frustrating the Chargers’ offensive attack.

The Patriots will need to play just as well, if not better, against an explosive Chiefs team, which is led by standout QB Patrick Mahomes, speedster Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. The Chiefs offense is ranked number one in the AFC, while the Patriots offense is ranked fifth. The Patriots defense is ranked 21st, and the Chiefs defense is ranked 31st.

The Chiefs defense is formidable, even with its low ranking, as it’s played better down the stretch. The trio of defensive linemen, Chris Jones, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston present a fearsome pass rush designed to get after the quarterback. Its secondary is less impressive, and that’s where the Patriots could gain the advantage.

The oddsmakers are favoring the Chiefs by three points in Sunday’s game, which is forecast to be played in frigid weather conditions. The winner of the game will play in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on Feb. 3.

Cash’s pick: Patriots 31, Chiefs 27