Here are the first ever Arrowhead Pride AFC CHAMPIONSHIP staff predictions:
Shawn Barber, Chiefs 21-20
I’m ready for the game.
- Zone blitz to the side of James White to prevent quick release against man coverage. He is very dangerous in that role.
- Jam Rob Gronkowski at the line of scrimmage with an outside linebacker and cover with Charvarius Ward.
- Kendall Fuller should shadow Julian Edelman on third down. Steve Nelson should cover Chris Hogan. Tremon Smith on Phillip Dorsett.
- Shadow with press man all receivers away from Edelman. Bracket or align man then zone off to the side of Edelman. Take Edelman and White away and watch Brady force it into places he don’t wants to go. These are his two security blankets.
- Re-route all wide receivers to force route adjustments. Project against off-tackle runs and screens with great eye discipline by safeties and outside linebackers.
- Keep the rotation going on the defensive line. Bull rush to collapse the pocket from inside gaps and prevent Brady from going up. Immediate inside pressure through A and B gaps. Keep these guys fresh for a relentless middle pass rush.
- Special teams need to be the tip of the spear and not the crack in the armor. Our core special team players need to play with playmaker attitude. Priority is to protect, then cover.
- Ballhawk Mindset: pursuit to the ball expecting takeaways.
- Ball carriers have awareness—securing the ball is a priority on every snap.
- Expect to battle for four quarters and four overtimes. By any means necessary. Know your position in all four directions. Play with a purpose and a passion.
- Start fast and finish strong. Know your job — allow players to react against think, aggressive against passive, confident against concerned.
- Protect the quarterback at all costs. Be playmakers by consistently taking what the defense gives. These will act as body blows until the pressure makes the Patriots drop their hands to protect the body, then go for the kill shots. Make the Patriots pay when they gamble.
Aaron Borgmann, Chiefs 24-17
Man, I was only fortunate to be a part of one championship weekend in my 12-year career in the league. 2008, Eagles at Cardinals. We missed out on the Super Bowl that year by about three minutes or so. It was crushing. It isn’t easy to get to this stage, folks, and you never know if or when you are going to make it back, so you have to take your shot and make it count.
This season is no different. I don’t think many, if any, expected these results at the start of the season, but here we are. Chiefs are easily the better team in my opinion. The last time the Patriots came to Arrowhead, I was on the sideline and we really stuck it to them that night. Remember Brady getting benched at the end of the game? He had trouble with noise that night. I think he will again.
Bill Belichick against Andy Reid has been as intriguing a matchup over the years and is as intriguing as any storyline in the NFL. There is unfinished business for the Big Red coach here—see 2004. I am not here to debate Xs and Os—that isn’t my expertise. I know Belichick will have a wrinkle prepped that people haven’t seen yet or don’t expect him to use, he always does that’s why he is going to the Hall of Fame. However, the Chiefs have one too. Don’t think that Reid hasn’t had something unique and unseen saved for this game that he hasn’t shown yet. It’s in there for sure.
I think the Chiefs pull out all the stops here. You don’t get to this point and leave plays in the playbook or effort on the sidelines. The locker room understands the magnitude and scope here. Not exactly sure what will happen, but this doesn’t feel like a game the Patriots have a great chance in. I think the line that is out there (Chiefs -3) is just begging people to lose money on the Pats. I think NE tries to shorten the game with a three-headed running attack and passes out of the backfield—that’s a strength for them. I think Chiefs get to Brady. I think Pat does Pat things. I think the Chiefs win.
Matt Lane, Chiefs 34-27
Chiefs-Patriots round two, only this time in Arrowhead. A few things going the Chiefs’ way: 1) The Pats aren’t nearly as good on the road as they are at home 2) Reid has proven to coach equal to Belichick plenty often in their head-to-heads 3) It’s no stretch to say the Chiefs have the better quarterback now. This game really can go either way, but being at home is huge and could really help tilt the edge.
When New England has the ball, the Chiefs have to handle the power run game whether out of 11 or 21 personnel. Look for clues like Michel or White, Devlin in the game and so on. New England will likely mix it up but there are tells. As they drop back to pass, man or match zone coverage should be the bulk. Make Brady work to his second and third reads and allow that pass rush to get home with fuel from the crowd.
When KC has the ball, continue to attack the Pats man coverage with mesh concepts and crossers. They can’t cover Kelce at all—use that—and when they dedicate guys to him, Watkins and Hill have favorable matchups. Run the ball just enough to threaten the ground and keep the RPO conflict defenders engaged in the run. The biggest key is solving the Patriots’ Cover 0 blitz packages and getting the ball out to the right guy.
In another high-scoring game, there are a few more key defensive stops especially in KC’s side with that pass rush and the home crowd. As the second half goes on in this deadlocked game, Pat Mahomes shows why he is the leagues MVP.
Kent Swanson, Chiefs 31-24
We are seeing the value of finally having a franchise quarterback: not one you have to talk yourself into and not one that needs everything else around him to go right. This rapid ascent to the front of the line should be appreciated. This team will always have a chance. They will always be a big factor in the dance. This won’t be Mahomes’ last opportunity to play in the AFC championship game. It won’t be his last game of this season, either.
I’m buying stock in the recent performance of the Chiefs defense. The Patriots will still have success with their short passing game and running the football. Just not enough. By the fourth quarter, the pass rush will have got home enough to affect Brady. I don’t expect Mahomes to shoot himself in the foot as much as he did in the first half in Foxboro. I expect a more consistent performance.
There will be few dry eyes in the stadium when Clark Hunt hoists the trophy named after his father. Make sure you stick around to witness it.
Craig Stout, Chiefs 38-27
It’s Bill. It’s Tom. We know this team doesn’t suck. We know that they’re going to come into Arrowhead Stadium ready to roll. They’re fantastic in the playoffs and one of the greatest dynasties that the NFL has ever seen.
But the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes. And a pass rush with the Arrowhead advantage.
This has the makings of a tough, grind-it-out game. The Patriots are going to run the ball with Sony Michel. They’ll move it through the air with Julian Edelman and James White. They’re going to try to start fast and keep the Chiefs defense off balance so they don’t fall prey to the same fate the Indianapolis Colts did last weekend.
But the Chiefs have the league MVP against a defense that is second to last in the league in DVOA on the road. The Chiefs will score, and they’ll score often. With the Chiefs defense finding their groove at the perfect time, a small handful of stops might be all that’s needed to flip the script and force Tom Brady into the same situation Andrew Luck found himself in last weekend. Not to mention that the Chiefs will find themselves with Justin Houston, Daniel Sorensen, Charvarius Ward, and Eric Berry on the field this week. The Chiefs came up three points shy on defense without all of those players last time these teams met in New England. They do enough to turn the tide this time.
Matt Stagner, Chiefs 45-35
It feels surreal to be making an AFC championship prediction that includes the Chiefs. We haven’t allowed ourselves, as Chiefs fans, to think about it. But as I’ve said a million times now, Mahomes changes everything.
We can’t get caught up in the second of the #TwoMore... just enjoy watching your team compete for one win against New England and all that comes along with it.
It’s potentially the changing of the guard in the AFC—the one that people have mistakenly called for many times before, the one AFC teams have been building for.
Once Brady is out of the way, we’ll have a shot, or so they thought. Who knew that Mahomes would have a chance to unseat Brady this soon? Nobody, or at least none of us who believed would say it out loud.
On the field, the Chiefs are trending up at the best possible time. The defense has played some of their best football in the last two weeks. Berry could help that trend continue. The offense is clicking with Damien Williams and Sammy Watkins providing boosts. Perhaps they’ll get help from Ware and LDT this week.
The matchup looks good overall for the Chiefs, but the X factors must be taken into consideration. Contrary to their sad social media self-pity fest, you don’t bet against the Pats in the playoffs. They have a coach and quarterback advantage over anyone when it counts.
Perhaps after Sunday, we can say, “Almost everyone.”
Joel Thorman, Chiefs 36-35
I’ve been blogging about the Chiefs for 12 years and you think NOW I’m going to pick against them? Think again. The Chiefs have an elite coach and quarterback and it’s the rare game where the opponent does too so they’re even there. Arrowhead is the tiebreaker that will give the Chiefs the edge.
Pete Sweeney, Chiefs 23-17 OT
The first two quarters of the first AFC title game in Arrowhead Stadium history will be about sizing each other up. Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes will both see success, trading blows to a 14-14 tie headed into halftime. The second half will bring colder temperatures, and with them, each defense will stand tall, allowing six more points in a deadlock. In overtime, Patrick Mahomes takes the torch from Tom Brady with a touchdown score to who else but Demetrius Football.
Aly Trost, Chiefs 33-27
Looking back on the entire season, there was never a doubt in my mind the Chiefs would make it to this point. The Patriots can go ahead and play underdog because the Chiefs will be playing with the strong, winners mentality they’ve had all season. No time to play victim with the Super Bowl this close in sight. Patrick Mahomes will have his true MVP performance, Travis Kelce will prove why he’s the best TE in the league over Gronk and “The Cheetah” will have Stephon Gilmore chasing all game. History is made on Sunday.
John Dixon, Chiefs 27-24
Since these two teams both scored 40 points in the Week 6 matchup in Foxboro — and the Patriots added three more to win — the simplest path to a prediction is to say that both teams will score 40 and the Chiefs will add three more to win at Arrowhead. But I think both Andy Reid and Bill Belichick will want to avoid a shootout, and emphasize defense in their game plans. So I think both teams will score 24, and the Chiefs will add three more — not because they’re the home team, but because I heard somewhere that everyone thinks the Patriots suck.
Dane Van Why, Chiefs 33-31
Remember when everyone thought the Patriots were finished back in November?
Well here they are again just one win away from another Super Bowl. New England does not suck. Not even a little. When you take on Bill and his GOAT, you cannot underestimate them. The Chiefs know this, though, and luckily for them, they get to play Brady in their house. This is going to be a thriller of game for sure. Brady vs. Mahomes and Reid vs. Belichick. Winter is coming in the form of my favorite Gatorade flavor (Arctic Blast), and I think it’s time that we crown a new king.