Here we go, the Wildcard games are all behind us and it is on to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Things are getting more fun and more stressful by the week. Teams like the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have earned their right to rest last week in preparation for home games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers respectively. I already took a look at the Steelers and Broncos matchup, now it is time to look at the Chiefs and Patriots.
Will Julian Edelman play? What about Jeremy Maclin? Can the Patriots hold serve at home or will the Chiefs continue rolling to 12 in a row and a place in the AFC Championship game? Let’s not waste any more time and let’s get right to the 2015-2016 NFL AFC Divisional Round Predictions, Picks Chiefs vs Patriots
New England Patriots over Kansas City Chiefs
This week two incredible runs will bump squarely into each other with one based on this season and the other with a more historical flavor. The Chiefs are entering this week’s Divisional Round match-up against the Patriots on an 11 game will streak and became only the second team to make the playoffs after starting the season 1-5. Meanwhile, the Patriots are 8-1 in the Divisional Round since the pair of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady matched up. To say the tandem are having a successful run in each other’s company is an understatement.
Like a lot of the match-ups this weekend, injury could be the name of the game. The Chiefs are already without Jamal Charles but honestly that is not a deal breaking considering he has been out for this entire run. Now the loss of or limited availability of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is a major concern. Alex Smith went all of 2014 without throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver. The game changed this season with the edition of Maclin who helped propel Smith to career bests in yards. If Maclin cannot go that will not only hurt the deep threat but will allow the Patriots to double tight end Travis Kelce, who is the only reliable threat left for Smith.
Meanwhile, in the Patriots camp injury has not been avoided. In fact, Tom Brady has been running for his life for weeks behind an injury ravaged offensive line and hurt his ankle in the finale but appears ready. Even when Brady turns around he is without the pair of LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, his primary safety valve. The combination has made the Patriots beatable and kept Brady below 300 yards passing for almost all of the last couple of months. But unlike the Chiefs, Brady has re-enforcements that could be returning this week. If both return you increase the protection with the return of left tackle Sebastian Vollmer and the number one wide receiver, Julian Edelman. Edelman also serves the roll of protection for Brady since he gets it out of his hands fast to Edelman. That function alone is of great benefit.
The Chiefs play steady football and rock solid defense, both are beyond dispute. The Patriots defense is second in the NFL to the Broncos in sacks and that alone, coupled with a solid secondary, could cause fits for Alex Smith all day. This game does not have the makings of a blowout no matter how you look at it. The edge running the ball falls squarely on the Chiefs and there is no dispute with the combination of West and Ware. If Edelman goes and Maclin does not, there is no question which receiving corps is superior. As you break each position down things work out close. So when finding a default I will take the veteran success of Brady and Belichick at home over Smith and Reid on the road in a close one.