1. Kansas City +6: There are a lot of unknowns in this game – from the effectiveness of both Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to Jeremy Maclin and Spencer Ware’s status. Throw in the fact that Steven Jackson was just signed 3 weeks ago and the Patriots don’t have a legitimate starting RB and there are a lot of question marks surrounding this game.
Note: As of 2:45 PM ET Saturday – both Maclin and Ware are Active for this game.
Here’s what I know: The Chiefs defense is legit (as is New England’s) and with both offenses banged up I do not anticipate either team getting above 23. I also trust Alex Smith to not turn the ball over, make some plays with his legs, and lean on short passes and the running game. This style favors a great defense getting 6 points.
Kansas City’s defense has 2 Pro Bowlers in the secondary (Eric Berry and Marcus Peters) and 2 Pro Bowlers at linebacker (Justin Houston and Tamba Hali). They have a vicious front 7 and can disrupt most offensive lines. The Patriots’ issues this season has been that their offensive line hasn’t protected Brady (even when Edelman was fully healthy).
The Patriots are not invincible in Foxborough, despite what some think. I went against the Patriots twice in Foxborough this season and covered both times – Jets +8.5 in October (Pats won by 7) & Buffalo +7.5 in November (Pats won by 7). Edelman was healthy for the Jets game and the Jets were able to get to Brady often. Last season in the Divisional Round, the Super Bowl Patriots team won by just 4 to the Ravens. I’m not worried about going against the Patriots in Foxborough with 6 points and a team that plays a tough style of football.
If Gronk and Edelman were fully healthy I believe the Chiefs defense is good enough to compete, so for me to pass up on 6 points when their status is unknown would be a mistake. Marcus Peters can really test Edelman after not playing for two months and Eric Berry and one of KC’s linebackers can contain Gronk to an extent. The Chiefs are coached by DC Bob Sutton who was on the Jets staff when they upset New England in the 2010 playoffs in Foxborough. That experience can only help.
When KC has the ball I expect a ground and pound game with Charcandrick West (if Spencer Ware can’t go) and for Alex Smith to keep the passing game simple with Travis Kelce and rookie WR Chris Conley. You probably don’t know much about Conley but he’s a rookie out of Georgia who has amazing speed with a 4.35 40 time and had 6 catches for 63 yards and a TD in the 1 game he started over Maclin this year. I’m taking my chances that a quarterback like Alex Smith can protect the ball, feed the running game, and find Kelce, Conley, and Albert Wilson enough to move the chains.
I expect good defense on both sides. Chiefs will have to be aggressive upfront and handle whatever surprise plays New England throws at them. The public is against me on this one but hey, they were against me last week and went 0-3 when I went 3-0. We’re not asking Kansas City to win, we’re asking them to compete…and that they can do. Chiefs +6 for 5 units.
Fun fact: Divisional Round teams off a bye are just 6-10 ATS the last 4 years versus 12-4 SU. These games tend to tighten up.