Quick Predictions for Those Needing to Waste Time Before the AFCCG
At this point of the week, you already know how bad the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense is against the run. You know how they are a much better defense at Arrowhead. Andy Reid’s rare success scoring 40 points against the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick? Old hat. This is the point of the week where it is almost impossible for somebody to bring up a new stat before the start of the AFC Championship Game. So… no use in chatting about “21 personnel,” the dominance of Damien Williams in his short stint with the Chiefs, or even how Patrick Mahomes’ effectiveness drops the longer he has to hold onto the ball. Time for some predictions in order to waste time before we all find out if it will be the Chiefs or Patriots representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Quick Prediction No. 1: The Patriots Will Score Off of a Chiefs Punt
When the Patriots and Chiefs played in Week 6, the Chiefs almost scored on a kickoff return. Just last week, the Chiefs allowed a Colts touchdown off of a punt block. The Patriots have multiple blocked punts this season. This is a recipe for a special teams touchdown in the AFCCG. The prediction here is that the Patriots will score a touchdown off of a Chiefs punt. The best bet is that it will be off of a blocked punt, but after watching the way Julian Edelman returned punts last week against the San Diego Chargers, my quick prediction is that Edelman will pull a Troy Brown and bring one back to the house. (The flipside of this prediction is, “Ryan Allen will punt the ball out of bounds every time he is called into service”).
Quick Prediction No. 2: The Chiefs Will Have No TD Scoring Drives of Fewer Than Five Plays
Everybody knows the Chiefs are a quick strike offense. Back in the Week 6 matchup, the Patriots did a great job in the first half of forcing Mahomes and the Chiefs offense of earning every point. The second half? Not so much. While the Chiefs had just one scoring drive in the first half consisting of five or fewer plays (and that ended in a field goal), all four of the Chiefs touchdown drives in the second half were in five plays or less. There is no way, barring a turnover from the Patriots in their own territory, that Bill Belichick is going to let a team light up his defense like that for the second time in the same season.
Quick Prediction No. 3: Dwayne Allen and/or James Develin Will Have a Catch
Sony Michel is a gamechanger for the Patriots. Bill Belichick tipped his hand during this year’s draft when he took both Michel AND Isaiah Wynn in the First Round. He was telling the rest of the NFL, “watch out! I’m going back to hard knock football so you all better be ready.” While many did not heed his warning on those moves alone, there were two other signings that should have made it abundantly clear he was not messing around: the restructuring of tight end Dwayne Allen’s contract and handing out an extension to fullback James Develin. The rest of the league might be going smaller and quicker, Belichick is beefing up with versatile bruisers. Allen is probably the best blocking tight end in the league, and Develin is by far the best overall fullback in the NFL, whether that be blocking, running, or even catching.
For the AFCCG, the Patriots are expected to run the ball… a ton. The only grouping where Michel is NOT averaging more than 4+ yards a carry is with six offensive linemen. 21 personnel, 5.13 YPC, 11 personnel 4.38 YPC, 22 personnel 4.50 YPC, and 12 personnel, 4.53 YPC. The reason Michel is so dominant in the run game is thanks to his monster fullback Develin leading the way and Dwayne Allen resuming his role of a sentient bulldozer. However, while Allen’s season as a pass catcher has been rather dormant, he can still catch passes, especially against the worst TE defense in the NFL. So too can Develin, and the Patriots have a slightly hilarious tendency to split Develin out wide and use him as a WR to pick up a solid 4-6 yards per catch. Expect either Allen or Develin to corral a Brady rocket today as the Chiefs sleep on their abilities to be effective in the passing game (my money is on both hauling in catches).
Quick Prediction No. 4: A Patriot DB with a First Name Starting in “J” Will Have an INT
At first, this might seem like an odd and fluky prediction, but when you break down the Patriots defensive backs by their first name, you can see I’m really hedging my bets. The first part of this prediction involves the question, “will Patrick Mahomes even throw an interception against the Patriots?” As anybody that remembers the Week 6 game, Mahomes has a real tendency to do such things. And it is not like he has gotten better at protecting the ball, defenses have just been worse at capitalizing
That’s four balls that the Colts have been right on with Mahomes without picking it. Looks like the Chiefs will advance. Whoever plays them next weeks needs to get the turnovers when they are there to be taken. KC moves the ball like crazy, but they are ripe for turnovers. https://t.co/WweA3TCChq
— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) January 12, 2019
Matt Chatham, who is for my money the best Patriots analyst around, has beaten this drum all season long. When you watch Mahomes play you can understand why. Whether it is throwing the ball away or getting it stripped, Mahomes is “ripe for turnovers.” So when it comes to the AFCCG, I expect to toss an INT. Whether that means the interception will fall into the hands of J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty or Jonathan Jones, only time will tell. Gun to my head, Jackson is going to be the Smooth Criminal stealing one from Mahomes.
Quick Prediction No. 5: Chris Hogan will Have a Catch of 25+ Yards
Throughout this season, many have moaned and complained about the lack of production from Chris Hogan. However, there are two very simple explanations for Hogan’s “lack of production.” The first is, it is fairly difficult to be a consistent impact player when you are not on the field. The Patriots were a top-four offense in the NFL this season. They got to that point despite “Brady having a bad year” because they were incorporating a rookie running back into the run game. Most of the time they were doing so, they had two wide receivers on the field. For the most part this season, Hogan has been Wide Receiver No. 3. It is extremely hard to make impact plays in the passing game when you are on the sideline.
The other notable explanation for a lack of Hogan production was Brady uncharacteristically ignoring Hogan. Brady made matters worse this year by constantly missing Hogan when he was running open (unless he was more open than anybody in the last three seasons, then Brady obliged him). Since the departure of Josh Gordon, Brady has done a much better job of distributing the ball to the open receiver. Brady has had a slight tendency when given a dominant catching option to look to that option even if he is covered. It has happened with Edelman at times, other moments with Gronk, and more than a few times this season with Gordon. Now that Gordon is gone, Brady has been a world beater by merely hitting the best option on every play. It might not be for a touchdown, and it might only happen a handful of times during the AFCCG, but Chris Hogan will get open today against the Chiefs and when he does, Brady will hit him, and it will be for a big chunk of yardage.
Final Quick Prediction: Patriots 34–Chiefs 20
*Last Week’s Pregame Predictions: 2-for-3*
- Adrian Clayborn will record a sack
Adrian Clayborn will add a Tackle for a Loss
- Phillip Dorsett will be this postseason’s version of Danny Amendola (caught a TD)