Written by Pablo Figueroa at Sporting Charts
The Wild Card round left us with a couple of memorable games (with included gut-punch losses for tortured franchises), and also a couple of blowouts. It also left us with a profitable 3-1 record in last week’s picks, so let’s hope that trend continues as we tackle the Divisional games.
The first 25 years of this format have proven to be fairly consistent, with home teams going a whopping 73-27 straight up. This makes sense considering that home squads secured a bye by virtue of being better over the regular season, while the extra week of rest provides a boost that the visiting squads don’t enjoy.
Even as recent seasons have provided a number of Wild Card teams making runs to the Super Bowl, we can’t discount this 25-year trend as we approach a week full of exciting matchups. So, again, in chronological order, here are our picks for Saturday and Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at New England Patriots (12-4)
Saturday, 4:35 ET CBS
Line: Patriots -5, O/U: 42
In what may be the most impressive stat of the Brady-Belichick era in New England, the Patriots have played 23 non-Super Bowl playoff games in their span, and only six of them have come on the road. Over the other 17 played at Foxborough, the Pats have gone an unparalleled 14-3. Now for the fifth year in a row, they’ve earned a bye week to start the postseason, a condition in which they’ve only lost once during this era (2010 vs Jets). This means that the Chiefs are in for a tall order, especially now that the Patriots appear to be healthy and loaded.
And yet, Kansas City remains the hottest team in the league, with a 10-game winning streak to close the season that was accentuated by a 30-0 road playoff win over the lowly Texans that now means that the Chiefs haven’t lost in three months. It is also important to remember that just last season, the same Chiefs team was able to demolish the Patriots to the tune of a 41-14 thrashing that had many wondering if the end was near for Tom Brady. While that particular game was probably a worst-case scenario for the Patriots, it could also suggest that this upcoming game could be closer than it is widely assumed.
The likely loss of Jeremy Maclin deprives the Chiefs from their biggest downfield threat, but they can instead opt to go for their usual array of short passes mixed with power rushing, a formula that has taken them far in 2015. The Patriots are welcoming back Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, but their contributions are in question considering their long absences. If Kansas City finds a way to shut down Rob Gronkoski (a big if, of course), Tom Brady‘s targets may need to be more precise than usual. Even for a QB that thrives on a lack of turnovers, the Kansas City defense shall be hunting for interceptions and the chance of shortening up the game.
The Patriots stumbled a bit down the stretch and actually went a middling 7-7-2 against the spread for the season, while the Chiefs were one of the league´s best road underdogs. While I still see the Patriots as the better team, and one that should ultimately win, the spread seems a couple of points too large. It should be a close, entertaining game from the start.
The Pick: Chiefs +5
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