by Aengus Moorehead
Chiefs: 12-5 SU,9-8 ATS
Patriots: 12-4 SU,7-6-3 ATS
When: 4:35 PM ET, Saturday, January 16, 2016
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
The first game of the divisional playoffs will take place in Foxboro as the New England Patriots will attempt to notch a fifth conference championship appearance when they face the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
New England had a first-round bye, while Kansas City had dominated the Houston Texans 30-0 on the road to boot. The winner will go on to face the winner of Sunday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos.
Kansas City isn’t considered to be the cream of the crop in the NFL as five of the remaining eight playoff teams have better odds to win Super Bowl 50 according to Bovada . But there’s no doubt that the Chiefs are the NFL’s hottest team, and they’re hoping that carries over in New England.
Including the playoffs, Kansas City is on an 11-game winning streak, having not lost since they visited the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 18. No other NFL team even ended the regular season with more than four straight wins, and the Chiefs have largely done so in dominant fashion.
All but one of their wins over this stretch has come by at least one touchdown, and Kansas City has defeated six teams by 14 points or more. The Chiefs have won with a defense that’s allowed more than 20 points just one time.
After their 9-0 start, the Patriots were Super Bowl favorites with a seemingly clear path for the big game at Levi’s Stadium come February. But four losses in their last six games have changed that perspective, and New England appears somewhat vulnerable to a potential upset.
New England lost out on the No. 1 seed in the AFC with two straight losses at the end of the season. While the Patriots suffered losses to the Broncos and New York Jets, they were also defeated by the lowly Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.
With various injuries to their receiving corps and running backs, the Patriots have had a difficult time scoring. Injuries to the defense have also hampered New England, and they are far from healthy entering the divisional round.
But they still finished with a first-round bye for some much needed rest with all their injury issues. Quarterback Tom Brady, who injured his ankle in the regular season finale against Miami, surely benefited from the extra rest while wide receiver Julian Edelman, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive end Chandler Jones should all be back for the playoffs after missing time.
Brady is arguably the best quarterback in the AFC, finishing the regular season with a conference-high 35 touchdown passes. Edelman finished the regular season with 692 yards and seven scores in nine games. But even if Edelman is rusty, the Patriots could rely on Danny Amendola as the No. 2 option. Amendola had 648 yards receiving in the regular season.
The Patriots’ wide receivers are capable to get off some big gains. But tight end Rob Gronkowski has been a dominant player downfield. He leads the Patriots with 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also leads all New England receivers with 16.3 yards per catch (minimum of 10 catches). Gronkowski will need to work overtime, though, to get open for Brady. The Chiefs have one of the best passing defenses in the league, ranking ninth in the regular season allowing just 231 yards per game.
New England could get so much more dangerous on the other side of the ball with Hightower and Jones back to power the front seven. Jones is the best pass-rusher on the team with 12.5 sacks. Hightower has also had his moments getting to opposing quarterbacks with 3.5 sacks in the regular season. Assuming they haven’t lost a step, they should have their moments against a vulnerable Kansas City offensive line which gave up three sacks in the Wild Card game.
The Chiefs’ rushing offense remains solid. They torched the Texans with 141 yards and a score in their Wild Card matchup on the strength of running back Spencer Ware. Ware had 67 yards and a score on 16 carries. Meanwhile, quarterback Alex Smith was solid with his scrambling; adding 27 yards on five carries.
Don’t expect to have Smith running all around the field, though. He’s been pretty effective throwing the ball recently. Smith has 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in his last seven games dating back to Week 12 of the regular season – three in his last two though. He completed 77.3 percent of his passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Texans on Saturday.
Tight end Travis Kelce was Smith’s prime target, hauling in team-highs of 128 yards and eight receptions. Kelce had a big game against the Patriots in the teams’ last meeting last regular season with 93 yards and a score. He could explode for another huge outing considering that the Patriots’ passing defense has looked jaded the past three games, allowing 296 yards per game.
In Kansas City’s outstanding performance over Houston this past Saturday, the one bad note was the apparent loss of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, to what was believed to be a torn ACL. Instead, it was reported that Maclin suffered a high ankle sprain and his status for this game is still unknown. He’s been an outstanding free agent pickup, who had 87 catches for 1,088 yards with 8 TD’s on the year.
Kansas City’s defense has also looked amazing recently. They’ve allowed just 11.6 points per game in their last 11, including Saturday’s Wild Card shutout. The Chiefs forced five turnovers (four interceptions and one fumble recovery) against Houston. Kansas City could be up for another dominant defensive performance if they can catch a New England team looking to play through an early deficit.
However, the Chiefs went through team drills in their final practice of the week without star linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Houston missed the season’s final five games because of a hyper-extended knee while Hali has a broken thumb and swelling in his knees.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots Early Odds & Betting Lines
Live NFL Playoffs Odds & Scores - Click here
In their last action, New England was a 20-10 loser on the road against the Dolphins. They failed to cover the -10-point spread as favorites, while the combined score (30) was profitable news for UNDER bettors.
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Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots NFL Betting Odds & Trends
Current Streak: won 11 straight games.
Kansas City is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games
Kansas City is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Kansas City's last 5 games
New England is 2-5-1 ATS in its last 8 games
New England is 15-4 SU in its last 19 games
New England is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games
One overlooked aspect about the Chiefs is that they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since they stunned Denver on the road way back in mid-November. In fact, in their last four games of the season, the Chiefs opponents ended up with a combined 19-45 dossier so they haven’t been battle-tested in a while. Forget about the Houston game. The Texans got into the playoffs only because one team had to represent the abysmal AFC South division.
As for the Patriots, the Miami loss was perchance preordained, for a victory against the Dolphins would have given them the No. 1 seed and a possible date with the Pittsburgh Steelers which was certainly not the idyllic path to the Super Bowl. Instead, they will be better suited against a team which had not won a playoff game in their last eight attempts before last week.Smith is a fine quarterback but a little fragile above the neck. He is up against one of the best signal-callers the game has ever seen and need I remind you that Brady was benched when these two teams last met. Knowing Brady, it is still quite fresh in his mind and like the general he is, will lead his troops to victory. The caveat though, it will be a close one. Patriots win but do not cover the 4 points and take the over 42
Aengus NFL Playoffs Prediction and Pick: Kansas City +4 at BetOnline
alex smith - chandler jones - danny amendola - dont’a hightower - jeremy maclin - julian edelman - justin houston - kansas city chiefs - new england patriots - rob gronkowski