Zylbert’s Patriots-Chiefs Over/Under: Is Tom Brady’s Recent Playoff Work Being Overlooked?
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports Pictured: Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce
Betting odds: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Time: 6:40 p.m. ET
Regular Season: 9-8-2, Even
Postseason: 1-1, -0.3 units
Last Week’s Result: Colts-Chiefs Over 55 (loss)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit
Oh man, from a quarterback standpoint, does it get any better than this year’s AFC Championship Game?
Tom Brady, the old guard, will be entering his eighth consecutive conference championship affair while seeking his fourth Super Bowl berth in the last five years. Already the holder of numerous playoff records, you just know “The GOAT” isn’t going down without a fight in this setting.
And on the other sideline it’ll be the new kid, Patrick Mahomes, looking to take the torch coming off a much-anticipated postseason debut rewarded the franchise with its first home playoff win in 25 years. This after the second-year signal-caller showcased one of the greatest seasons by a QB in NFL history.
So, how will this monumental showdown measure up to its imposing over/under line?
Simple, don’t overthink it. This is a game that has the ingredients for an over despite understandably drawing one of the highest totals in history.
First off, it immediately needs to be noted how Brady in the postseason is about as dependable as it gets in all of professional sports.
Yes, he may not have been as consistent during the regular season this year as he normally is, but Brady in the playoffs is just a whole different beast.
Throughout the last several years, Brady’s work in the postseason has been especially stellar. Going back to the 2012 campaign, he has started 16 playoff games and in all but two of those, he accumulated more than 275 passing yards (the two times he did not were blowout victories).
In the process, Brady racked up a whopping 5,284 yards (or 330 per game) through the air, which is so significant that it would comprise the third-most passing yardage ever recorded if those 16 games all took place in the same season.
Additionally, the three-time NFL MVP registered a nifty 34-11 TD/INT ratio, as the Patriots churned out a desirable 31.4 points per game in the 16 contests.
His 44.7 pass attempts on average over this stretch would have ranked first in football in 2018 and that tendency illustrates how the Patriots are simply more of a pass-heavy team in the postseason, which is really useful when dealing with a high total.
Passing often in this matchup would seem to be a wise decision, taking on a Chiefs pass defense that was routinely gashed for yardage (273.4 yards per game) in the regular season. The Patriots also recorded their highest scoring total in a game this season (43) when they battled Kansas City on Sunday Night Football back in Week 6.
Though the Chiefs did tie for the NFL lead in sacks this year, they’re about to face a Patriots unit that yielded only 21 sacks, third-fewest in the league. They gave up none last week to the Chargers.
Armed with a fully healthy supporting cast, it seems academic that Brady will have one of his usual sharp postseason outings here. His “underdog” mindset figures to only boost the likelihood of that happening.
The offense squaring off opposite this legendary squad is very much a behemoth in its own right — and one that will be remembered in history no matter if they win or lose this game.
That’s because the Chiefs put up 35.3 points per game this season, going into the books as the third-highest scoring offense in NFL history. Led by Mahomes, it was a very consistent unit that scored no fewer than 26 points in any game.
Watching them in the Divisional Round last week, it’s easy to surmise Kansas City picked up right where it left off, dissecting a solid Colts defense for 31 points. The Chiefs probably could have added more if it wasn’t a rout. Going toe-to-toe with Brady over a trip to the Super Bowl will require a lot more of an effort.
The matchup itself also presents the Chiefs with an encouraging opportunity to continue along with their rousing offensive success.
On defense, the Patriots play more man coverage than anyone else in the NFL. Those familiar with Mahomes know that he normally fares well against teams that deploy this often.
In fact, according to Sports Info Solutions, the 2017 first-round draft pick faced five defenses (including New England) that ranked in the top-12 in the NFL in man-to-man usage this season. In those five outings, Mahomes put up 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions while averaging 328.6 yards.
He’s not the only one who would benefit from seeing a lot of man. All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill might be salivating over this prospect, seeing as he averaged 4.1 yards per route against press coverage, which is the best such mark in a season in two years (minimum 100 routes). Fellow All-Pro Travis Kelce should play his usual starring role as well.
Plus, it’s worth pointing out this jarring stat: In Bill Belichick’s 342 games as head coach of the Patriots, his club has allowed 40 or more points only seven times. Well, the Andy Reid-led Chiefs were responsible for three of those instances, including one this season.
While I expect both Brady and Mahomes to carry this over, the two running games will also be capable of providing a lift. The New England D surrendered 4.9 yards per rush in 2018, tying it for third-worst in football. Kansas City finished second-worst at 5.0 yards per tote.
Thankfully, it does not look like the Arrowhead Stadium weather will be too much of a factor, as despite initial reports of an “arctic blast,” the temperature will settle in throughout the 20s.
That hopefully means we’ll get the usual work from the two star quarterbacks. With that done, everything else figures to fall in place. On the app, I got this over in at 55 a couple of days ago, but if you’re stuck with 56 on your book, I would say it’s not a bad idea to buy the point.
Play: OVER 55 (-120)