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Saturday, January 16, 2016

NFL 2015 AFC Divisional Round (Chiefs vs Patriots)

Kansas City At New England (-5; 43.5) is an intriguing matchup because the Kansas City Chiefs have won 11 games in a row. Not only are the Chiefs getting the customary hedge of roughly 3 points for being the Away Underdog, they're getting an extra 2 points. These factors alone make this an easy ATS (against the spread) pick. Or, does it?

The New England Patriots have not looked dominant since Week 10, a last second win over the New York Giants. Their record since then is 3 Wins, 4 Losses. Of these losses, the one in Week 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles standout the most. Faced with various injuries, the outlook going into the game was the Patriots could beat the Eagles even when not at full-strength.

After leading early by 14 points, the Patriots faced a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Though they mounted a comeback, it fell short. Since that time, it seems as if the Patriots packed it in for the season, in order to take care of injuries and dare I say to position themselves not to play one specific team (Pittsburgh Steelers) in this round of the playoffs.

I do not put much stock in the Patriots' last two losses of the season. At this point, five of the AFC six playoffs spots had been determined. The Patriots controlled their own destiny and they basically chose the second seed.

Injuries will be a big part of the story, mainly Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) and Jeremy Maclin (Chiefs). Both are listed as Questionable, with Gronkowski more likely to play. Without him, the Patriots offense is not as explosive and consistent. Without Maclin, the Chiefs do not have a passing game.

Already ranked near last this season in passing yards, this will put more pressure on the defense. The Chiefs defense has held the last 12 of 13 opponents to under 21 points. This sets up a great battle between one of the NFL's top secondaries and pass rushing defenses, and Tom Brady.

Brady led the NFL in Pass Attempts, Passing Yards and Passing TDs. He was pretty much New England's entire offense. The Patriots were ranked 30th in Rushing Yards and 5th in Passing Yards. Brady threw 2 or more TDs in 13 out of 16 games, so one can basically start the Patriots off with 14 to 21 points on the board.

The Patriots scored, at least, 20 points in 15 of their first 16 games this season. So, can the Chiefs score 21 or more points to edge out a victory? The Chiefs scored 21 points or more in 12 games this season.

With New England giving 5 points, the numbers favor the Chiefs (.789) because the Chiefs scored 17 or more points in all but two games this season.

So, I take the Chiefs (OVER), seeing this as well-balanced game on both sides of the ball, with the victor making the least costly turnover. Pick wisely, and check out the pick for the other playoff games.

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