Chiefs v Patriots and a frigid AFC Championship game
The Kansas City Chiefs began life as the Dallas Texans, and this week they have had reason to feel like the Dallas Cowboys, a.k.a. “America’s Team.” If there is anything to be gleaned from Twitter polls of fans about which matchup they want to see in the Super Bowl, the vast majority involve Patrick Mahomes and Co. rather than Sunday’s AFC championship game opponent, the New England Patriots.
Or, to put it another way, folks outside of New England would really prefer not to see the Patriots advance, with a recent SB Nation poll of 1,970 fans showing that 69 percent want Tom Brady and Co. to lose this weekend, as opposed to just 12 percent for the New Orleans Saints, 10 for the Chiefs and 9 for the Los Angeles Rams.
That antipathy toward the Patriots, or at least a pervasive sense of weariness, can be presumed to have much to do with the team’s relentless success, now going on almost two decades, plus the allegations of cheating in scandals such as Spygate and Deflategate. However, the result may be a New England squad that goes into Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium with some basis to talk themselves into an “Us against the world” mind-set.
That certainly seems to be the approach Brady is taking, to judge from his comments immediately after he helped beat the Chargers last week. “I know everyone thinks we suck and, you know, can’t win any games,” he told CBS’s Tracy Wolfson. That stance doesn’t exactly reflect reality — just because many people don’t want to see you win, it hardly means they don’t think you can win — but in the immortal words of George Costanza, “It’s not a lie, if you believe it.”
Of course, the Patriots are bringing more than just an underdog mentality to the game, in which the Chiefs are, in fact, favored by three points. They have a confidence born of victories in this round in three of the past four years, with two Super Bowl wins in that span, not to mention the many postseason triumphs of the preceding 13 seasons, and a game plan that worked extremely well in last week’s ouster of the dangerous Chargers.
That, however, was in Foxborough, Mass. — where the Patriots also defeated the Chiefs, 43-40, in an epic Week 6 battle — and New England hasn’t fared as well in the playoffs away from home, with a 3-4 record under Brady and Coach Bill Belichick, and no road postseason win since January 2007. Compounding the challenge Sunday will be a Kansas City offense that led the NFL in scoring and finished first Football Outsiders’ DVOA by a wide margin, with Mahomes’s huge arm, above-average mobility and impressive improvisational skills meshing wonderfully with a receiving corps that features Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.