It’s an AFC championship stat special.
With the Lamar Hunt Trophy on the line and the Chiefs hosting their first AFC championship, let’s go through some stats that could play a role in Sunday’s highly-anticipated game:
First, an overview of the enemy:
There’s no place like (Ma)home(s)
Home field advantage is desired by all teams in any sport ever — especially when it comes to a playoff situation.
The reason for this due to the well-known factor that most teams perform much better with their fans’ support and crowd noise, no travel time involved and overall familiarity with the field/environment — amongst other reasons.
Let’s take the Chiefs defense, which would stand to benefit more than anything else.
Despite its struggles throughout the season, Arrowhead Stadium has made a difference.
Take a look at some of these home numbers:
There's no place like Arrowhead. In nine 2018 home games, the #Chiefs defense...— Aly Trost (@AlyTrost) January 17, 2019
- Tallied the most QB pressures in the league w/ 118
- Finished 2nd in sacks w/ 31
- Tied for 2nd in forced fumbles w/ 12
- Only gave up an avg. of 17.4 ppg to opposing teams#protectthehouse
For context, the defense had 10 less sacks on the road and gave up nearly double the amount of points per game on when playing away (34.6).
And, as it turns out, home-field advantage is proving to be more important now than ever, according to these stats:
Home field has grown to be a far greater edge in the NFL conf. champ round in recent years. Home team records:— Jon Campbell (@JonnyOddsShark) January 16, 2019
Last 5 years:
Recent history won't be on the Patriots' side next weekend. Road teams are 0-10 in conference title games in the last five years. Last away teams to advance were the Ravens and Niners in 2012.— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) January 14, 2019
(Ty)wreaking havoc on the press
Earlier this season, Andy Reid referred called Tyreek a “little joker” after he insisted on playing despite dealing with injuries.
The Patriots, on the other hand, may not have a nickname that nice for the dynamic and dangerous wide receiver.
And it’s understandable as to why that would be.
In Hill’s two career games against the Patriots, he did some damage with the 14 total receptions he got in those matchups:
Tyreek Hill has more total receiving yards (275) against the #Patriots over the 2017/18 seasons than any other receiver in that time frame.— Aly Trost (@AlyTrost) January 17, 2019
Oh, and add four touchdowns to that line. Three of the four touchdowns came in the thrilling 43-40 road loss the Chiefs suffered in New England Week 6 of this season.
The Patriots will undoubtedly have a plan to stop Hill from blowing by them again. The question is: will it be enough?
Take a look at these numbers from Next Gen Stats:
How will the Patriots game plan to stop Tyreek Hill?— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 16, 2019
Patriots defensive backs have been at their best in press coverage while Tyreek Hill has consistently beaten press, averaging 4.1 yards per route against press coverage this season.#NEvsKC | #GoPats | #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/t8GP01n6YV
With the Chiefs offense back and healthy and the growing presence of Damien Williams added to that mix, Hill may have even more opportunity to get behind the Patriots’ defensive backs and help lift the Chiefs to a victory.
(Justin) Houston...New England may have a problem
A lot has changed since the Chiefs played the Patriots on the road in Week 6.
While the Chiefs had a perfect 5-0 record going into that game, they boasted one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
And, at that point in the season, the secondary had given up more yards to opposing teams (2,309) than the Chiefs offense had gained (2,065).
If that wasn’t bad enough, they had also conceded as many passing touchdowns as Mahomes had thrown (14).
Those types of numbers earlier in the season had the secondary ranked at a lowly 28th in defensive DVOA after those trying five weeks.
However, things have changed thanks to the Chiefs’ rising pass rush and the return of Justin Houston — who the Patriots didn’t see in their 43-40 win over the Chiefs at home due to a hamstring injury he was fighting at the time.
His return has been nothing short of impactful for Kansas City:
Since Justin Houston's return from injury in week 10, to the end of the 2018 regular season, the #Chiefs defense had:— Aly Trost (@AlyTrost) January 17, 2019
- 14 takeaways
- 26 sacks (8 from Houston)
- 15 forced fumbles (3 by Houston)
Houston also tallied 10 QB hits in that time
With Houston, Dee Ford and Chris Jones manning the front line and the Chiefs’ strength in QB pressures, Brady could be in trouble. Especially when looking at his numbers under pressure this season...
Despite leading the NFL in passer rating under pressure just last season with 96.6, per PFF, Brady’s QBR in the same category dropped significantly to 71.2 this year. Additionally, he completed less than half of his pass attempts in those situations with just a 45.3 percent completion rate.
Run defense vs. run offense
While the Chiefs defense did well in some key categories at home, when it came down to the run game, it struggled quite a bit. Kansas City’s secondary gave up an average of 132 yards per game and five yards per carry, placing it at last place on the run defense DVOA this season.
This could be an area that New England tries to expose the Chiefs with the Patriots’ incredibly dangerous ground game. This season, the Patriots had 100-plus rushing-yard games in 10 different games, two of which they put up 200-plus rushing yards.
Then, last weekend, in their 41-28 win against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Patriots ran 155 yards for four touchdowns, giving them control of the game from the opening whistle forward.
In that game, Sony Michel accounted for 129 of those rushing yards — his fifth 100-plus rushing-yard game of the season.
However, Michel — though an important player to watch — is not as good on the road (regular and postseason):
Sony Michel and the Patriots' run game were dominant against the Chargers. But most of his damage has come at home this season pic.twitter.com/NRomxMiuuB— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) January 16, 2019
Should the Patriots focus their game on the run anyway, regardless of Michel’s road numbers, it may not be enough for them to keep up with Andy Reid’s prolific offense — especially if they find themselves trailing early.
Which leads us to...
Hot out of the gates
When it comes to lighting it up quickly in the first quarter, the Chiefs, thanks to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ dynamic offense, have no problem turning the magic on:
The #Chiefs are by far the best first quarter team in football, outscoring opponents by 6.2 points on average.— Bernd Buchmasser (@BerndBuchmasser) January 15, 2019
The #Patriots, for comparison are 8th with an opening quarter scoring differential of +0.9.@ArrowheadPride@PatsPulpit pic.twitter.com/swUB5mMFog
The first quarter may be one of the best opportunities for the Chiefs to get up on New England early. If they can do so, it’ll allow them more opportunity to control the rest of the game — particularly after the half — and keep New England chasing rather than the other way around.