Prediction: Patriots And Rams Go To Atlanta [OPINION]
I like neither home team this week. I believe the Rams will be waiting for the AFC challenger. It is based on the performances, not just from last week but the last quarter of the season.
The Kansas City Chiefs finished the year at 12-4, but since the suspension of their star running back Kareem Hunt, they went 3-2, losing two of the last three. Two of those three wins were against the 4-12 Raiders and the other win was at home, in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens that were led by their rookie quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
Compare the five-week schedule in December between the Chiefs and Patriots:
- Each 3-2, .600 overall
- Chiefs defense let up 29.6 points per game
- Patriots defense let up 15.2 points per game
- Chiefs run defense surrendered 821 yards, good for 164 yards per game with 5.9 yards-per-carry
- Patriots run defense surrendered 621 yards, good for 124 per game with 6.1 yards-per-carry.
- Chiefs (vs Colts) run defense surrendered 87 yards on 14 carries.
- Patriots (vs Chargers) run defense surrendered 19 yards on 10 carries.
Kansas City played well last week when they hosted the NFL's hottest team, the Indianapolis Colts, who were winners of 10 of their last 11, including their playoff win on the road in Houston.
But they didn't play as well as the 31-13 score would suggest. The Colts imploded with silly penalties and Andrew Luck seemed to have a lot of trouble throwing the ball. The Colts' running game was stalled from the beginning and they never got any momentum, aside from a blocked punt, returned for a touchdown.
While I picked the Colts, I seemed to forget the fact that they are an indoor dome team and came to the formidable outdoor Arrowhead Stadium to face a rested Chiefs, and mostly during a snowy day at 35 degrees.
I will point this out: Patrick Mahomes threw for no touchdowns in that game. He finished the day 27-of-41 for 278 yards.
Here's a fun fact (if not a weirdo statistic) that they keep at the NFL Combines for quarterbacks: hand size. Mahomes has very small hands at 9.5 inches, almost near the cutoff where scouts lower the value of the athlete. The L.A. Rams' Jared Goff has even smaller hands and is at the limit at 9.0 inches even (see, Trump?). This concern comes into play for two reasons: fumble concerns and throwing concerns in cold or inclement weather.
Athletes experience a big difference in their performance in extreme temperatures. There is a scientific list of reasons why.
Today's forecast in Kansas City for the AFC Championship Game calls for 19F degrees with a 10 mph wind and a "Real Feel" of 10F degrees and light winds expected to be around 5-8 mph. These are conditions that meet with criteria for extreme temperatures for human beings.
The New England Patriots are in their eighth straight AFC Championship in a row. Granted they lost two of their last five as well, both on the road. Tom Brady will be playing in his 13th (!) AFC Championship game in his 18 seasons as the Patriot's starting QB.
By the way, Brady has freakishly large hands. He's also 3-0 with no interceptions in games with a "real feel" below 15 degrees. Brady is 24-4 in sub 30F weather and 5-1 sub 20F.
Not convinced he's a White Walker yet? Here is his overall road record in sub 20F
Completions/Attempts Completion % YPG TDs INTs Record
Stats: 212/348 60.9% 226.4 21 4 8-3
Kansas City sports conversation has been dominated by radio hosts, their callers and sports writers promising each other that the ghosts of the postseason KC blues at Arrowhead were exorcized with a home win against the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs.
I see a Chiefs team lacking the punch they had with Kareem Hunt as running back.
I see the Patriots showing signs of their Super Bowl teams; keeping the defenses out of sync, pressuring QBs better than anyone else late in the season, healthy and rested for the first time all year and with the more stingy run defense of the two. Both teams dominated their opponents to reach the AFC Championship.
Kansas City is putting their star safety on the field with Eric Berry returning, but it's not likely that he'll be in his Pro Bowl form, as this will be the first game he's played since September.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the Patriots are expected to win here.
NEW ENGLAND 29 KANSAS CITY 20
Los Angeles 33 New Orleans 31
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.