Instead of giving you full-on predictions for the 2016 NFL divisional playoff round, we’re going to provide a few reasons why the underdogs could potentially pull off an upset. The first matchup we’ll consider is the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, who last met during the 2014 NFL season. Anyone remember the outcome of that one? Yes, the Chiefs defeated the Patriots by a score of 41-14. It left everyone wondering if Tom Brady and company were finished. Obviously, that notion was put to bed a few months later, as the Patriots won the Super Bowl to wrap up that season.
So the question is, can the Chiefs once again pull off a shocking upset? This time it’ll be on the road, and the Patriots will have revenge on their minds. It’s going to be a tall task for Alex Smith and company, but they’re fresh off a ridiculously impressive wild-card victory over the Houston Texans, which is where we’ll begin. Let’s check out three reasons the Chiefs can beat the Patriots.
1. Kansas City’s momentum
The Chiefs have won 11 straight games heading into their matchup against the Patriots. That’s pretty incredible to think about in the NFL. While they were fortunate enough to draw one of the more mediocre teams in the playoffs, the Houston Texans, Kansas City left no doubt that they were the better team during their 30-0 victory.
What about New England? Oddly enough, the Patriots have lost two straight games and four of their last six, with their two wins coming over the Texans and Tennessee Titans (the latter has the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft). So while New England and K.C. are heading in different directions, they essentially have a clean slate going into the playoffs. However, it’s hard to argue with the Chiefs’ massive success both offensively and defensively this season.
2. Kansas City’s defense
The Chiefs have quickly become one of the most dominant and downright scary defenses in the NFL. Even their 2015 stats don’t fully reflect how good this team has been. Overall, on the year, the Chiefs rank No. 7 in yards allowed per game (329.3) and No. 3 in points allowed per game with 17.9. Their most impressive run, however, has been those last 11 games where they went unbeaten. During that span, they allowed only 11.6 points per game, which is nearly impossible to imagine. Over the run, they gave up 14 or fewer points a ridiculous eight times.
This defense is the real deal, no questions asked. As far as defensive statistics, the Chiefs rank No. 4 in the NFL in sacks (47), No. 2 in interceptions (22), and are tied for the most defensive touchdowns with six on the year. In their dominant playoff victory over the Texans, the Chiefs intercepted Brian Hoyer four times and sacked him three times (neither stat is factored into the numbers above either).
3. Road warriors
We aren’t sure what gets into the Chiefs when they play on the road, but they’ve been ridiculously good this season away from home. They went 7-3 this year on the road (including a 45-10 victory over the Detroit Lions in London), and outscored opponents 291-170. Those numbers include the playoff game against Houston.
While the Patriots may be one of the most talented teams in the NFL, the pressure that the Chiefs are going to create, as well as their obvious road success, will be tough to face. Yes, Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in history, but even game-planning for a defense like the Chiefs is a pretty brutal task right now. Many people weren’t shocked when Kansas City dominated the Texans on the road, as they’ve been doing that consistently during the second half of the year.
The Chiefs are floating somewhere between 4.5-point to 5.5-point underdogs against the Patriots early on. Is that simply due to the fact that Brady is on one side of the field? The facts don’t lie, Kansas City has a great matchup here, and this may wind up being one of the most popular underdog selections of the divisional round of the 2016 NFL playoffs. Don’t sleep on the Chiefs, because their defense alone has the ability to take over games at times. The question is, can they compete against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL who’s fresh off back-to-back losses?
Follow Jeff Smith on Twitter @JSM8ith
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.