NFL expert Jay Tremblay (@SportsM0ney) takes us through the AFC Conference Championship clash between New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs | Sunday 20th January 2019, 23:40 | Sky Sports
This rematch between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, could very well come down to the seeing if the Patriots can hold KC on third, but more importantly, fourth down.
As we saw last week, Kansas City made it a point to not take their foot off the gas and continued to go for it on fourth and short against the Indianapolis Colts. They continued time and time again to extend drives and score points against a Colts side that so many had quickly pegged to be the ‘Dark Horse’ to win the Superbowl, after their upset over the Houston Texans in the Wildcard Round.
Truth is, the Chiefs are very dangerous, and they boast a terrific fourth down record this season, converting at a modest 79%. Kansas City are also lethal in the red zone, coming away with a touchdown on 72% of occasions, second-best in the NFL this season.
In terms of the New England defence, they fit the bend and don’t break model. They aren’t spectacular all around but shine in certain areas. Ranking sixth in Points Allowed Per-Game at 20.8 and fourth when it comes to stopping opponents from converting on fourth down, there’s a glimmer of hope there.
In the same breath, the Pats rank 20th in Yards Allowed Per-Game and 19th in Opponents Yards Per-Play, two categories where Kansas City rank #1 in on the offensive end. With the way the Chiefs move the ball, it’s going to take a masterful effort and maybe some luck, for the Patriots to keep them from doing what they do best on Sunday night at Arrowhead.
Supporting a high-scoring contest
The reason I like the Overs in this match-up isn’t because in the last game the two sides scored over 80 points combined (college football stuff), it’s because neither one of the defences can stop the other team.
The Chiefs don’t win by stopping you on defence, they out score you. They do however have one of the leagues bets pass rushes and they excel at getting pressure from both sides of the ball.
Between Ford, Houston and Jones, they have 37 sacks on the season, but teams have figured out that you can run on them and then open them up with the play action downfield or dump it off to your third down back in space. It’s simple yet effective football and it’s something the Patriots have won their last 5 Superbowl rings doing.
On 11 occasions this season (64%) the Kansas City defense has allowed opponents to score three touchdowns or more. Those teams included the Oakland Raiders (4-12), the Denver Broncos (6-10) and the San Francisco 49ers (4-12). These are some of the worst teams in the NFL and each scored over 24 points on the Chiefs.
Meanwhile the Patriots have also been burned on that side of the ball, to the likes of the Miami Dolphins (7-9), the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) and the Tennessee Titans (9-7).
It’s important not to let your eyes deceive you and base your decisions solely on what you saw last weekend, as both teams had two weeks to prepare for their opponents and it showed in their game plans.
Yes, the Chargers finished with 28 points, but they were being blown out since the first-half and the Patriots were in cruise control when they allowed those two late fourth-quarter scores, a theme which could play out in opposite fashion this week should the New England offense struggle to score. Kansas City meanwhile put up three touchdowns and field goal before the Colts even knew what hit them and added a fourth touchdown, late in the fourth quarter for good measure.
It’s a rare occurrence when we get to back the Over in a Conference Championship however the media has once again done us a huge favour in pushing a narrative that should be considered, but not with the weight and attention it’s getting.
Initially it was sourced that the weather in Kansas City would be nothing short of “frigid” and that sent bettors into a frenzy, blindly backing the under. After the majority of the public were burned by backing the underdogs on the spread and going 1-3, with only the Eagles covering the spread last weekend.
With the news of the cold weather and the ‘trend’ of cold weather games being low-scoring, bettors jumped on the opening Under of 58.0, dropping it down as low as 54.0 before resting at 55.5. This for me shows a real opportunity for us to get in on the Over, between two defenses who have yet to impress on the season.
White to reach the red zone
Expect James White back to his usual play-off heroics once New England reach the red zone.
Now that they have Sony Michell to run on first and second down, they can choose between Burkhead and White as their third and fourth down back. Last weekend, White was featured heavily in the pass game and Burkhead saw the red zone work and being rewarded with a few touchdowns, typically that would go to White.
The Patriots are a franchise who reward grunt work and a more than one touchdown drive last weekend was set up by both Michell and White’s hard work to move the sticks and get Brady out of trouble with quick, dump-off passes. White, who did not rush all game, was instead targeted 17 times in the passing game, catching 15 of those targets for a smooth 97 yards but no touchdown.
White currently sits at 12 touchdowns for the season, seven via the air and five on the ground. He has a knack for finding the endzone in big games and the Chiefs, having allowed 51 touchdowns this season, 22 of which to the running back position, at odds of 23/17 at Unibet, I’m happy to jump on.
With the speed and power of the Kansas City pass rush, expect Brady to be under fire early and often on Sunday and he won’t hesitate to target his quickest outlet pass in Big Game James.