Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots Pick 12/4/19
Kansas City Chiefs (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, December 8th, 4:25 PM
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Point Spread: KC +3 / NE -3 (Best Bonus)
Over/Under Total: 48.5
In a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs for a late Sunday afternoon showdown in Foxboro. The Chiefs hold an 18-16-3 all-time advantage against the Patriots, but it is New England who has won the last two, including last years’ conference title game 37-31 in overtime.
HOW THE WEST WAS WON
KC enters the week with an 8-4 record and coming off a 40-9 victory against the Raiders that essentially clinched the AFC West as they now have a two-game lead over Oakland with just four games left along with the all-important tiebreaker advantage. This would be the Chiefs fourth straight divisional title, and if they can beat New England and Buffalo defeats Baltimore this weekend, it would leave five AFC teams within a game of each other (Houston is the other) in the hunt for the conference’s two playoff byes.
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Even with a brief respite due to injury, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes continues to put up MVP type numbers in his third season in the NFL. On the season, the KC signal-caller has thrown for 20 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions and is also second in the NFL in quarterback rating behind only Lamar Jackson. He has thrown for his two lowest full game yardage totals in his career over the past two weeks, both under 200 yards. He will be looking to get off the snide against a Patriots defense that has struggled in both of their losses against quarterbacks that able to make plays with their legs, something Mahomes has indeed shown himself to be capable of doing.
Mahomes’ primary targets through the air remain tight end Travis Kelce along with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. Kelce easily leads the team in receptions, targets, and yards, and when the team features him, it has paid off in the standings as the Chiefs are 15-3 in their last 18 games when Kelce has double-digit targets. Speedster wideout Tyreek Hill is as fast on the field as he is a terrible person off the field, but unlike Kelce the team hasn’t been as successful when he is a focal point, as they are 1-4 in their past five games when he has at least nine targets and are just 8-7 over their last 15 when he scores a touchdown. Surprisingly Hill hasn’t been used as much in the running this year, rushing only five times for 14 yards after carrying the ball 22 times for 151 yards a season ago. Sammy Watkins remains a scratch ticket at the position virtually, as he is prone to big games like when he scored three touchdowns in week one, but unfortunately for Kansas City, that was the only time he has gotten into the end zone in his past twelve games.
BANGED UP BACKFIELD
LeSean McCoy has been the focal point of the Chiefs backfield throughout the year, and that will likely remain the case on Sunday with both Darrel and Damien Williams dealing with injuries that have them both questionable to play. McCoy has scored in two straight games after being held out of the end zone since September but will hope to get back to rushing consistency after posting just 48 yards on 15 carries over his past three games. Rookie Darwin Thompson ran for 44 yards on 11 carries against Oakland last week and could be in line for more work if neither of the Williams is available. Veteran and frequent Chief Spencer Ware was signed on Tuesday and could theoretically contribute if needed.
While the Chiefs come in off back-to-back victories, the Patriots are off their second loss in their past four games after losing 28-22 against the Texans at Houston. If the playoffs started now, New England would be the second seed in the AFC. But with four weeks to go, and just a one-game lead over Buffalo in the AFC East, anything now is seemingly possible with the Patriots offense still in disarray and the Bills and KC still remaining on their schedule.
New England’s offense continues to struggle, despite what their 22-point output may say from a week ago, with a lot of those points coming when the game was out of reach. The absurd predictability and lack of creativeness from coordinator Josh McDaniels remain a major issue as teams are easily slowing down the Patriots offense by simply double covering Julian Edelman and putting a defensive back on James White coming out of the backfield. His confusing play calling was in full effect last week, as he abandoned a recently playing well Sony Michel after he ran 5 times for 28 yards on their first drive and was a major reason why they were able to get down to the Texans 7 yards line to start off their offense, but after that he only rushed five more times as McDaniels panicked after the team went down 7-3 and ineffectively went “pass-heavy”. If McDaniels ever leaves for another team to be a head coach, it is a near lock as a bet that he will undoubtedly fail again similar to what he did in Denver and join a long list of former Patriots coordinators who couldn’t hack it in the top sot.
RIPPLE IN THE RECEIVERS
Another area of concern for the Patriots has been issues throughout their wide receivers, especially with first-year players Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry. Harry was never targeted again after a route running mistake led to an interception last week while Meyers continues to read defenses wrong and repeatedly end up going in the opposite of his expected direction. Julian Edelman is the only reliable target, and his usage shows this, as he is second in the league in targets with 123 and third in receptions with 82. Edelman has double-digit targets in seven straight games, though last week was the first time he had over 100 yards receiving in his past six contests. Phillip Dorsett and Muhammad Sanu have run into issues of late as well, with Sanu having a brutal fourth-down drop against the Texans and Dorsett posting just five receptions for 18 yards over his previous two games. Running back James White reemerged last week with eight catches for 98 yards and two scores, which was a welcome site after posting just 11 catches over his previous four games. Tight end Ben Watson has seemingly fallen out of favor of late with only two receptions over his past two games, which is the same amount as backup Matt LaCosse.
With problems amongst the receivers, injuries throughout the offensive line, and an overrated coordinator calling plays, it is no wonder quarterback Tom Brady remains unhappy and not posting stats consistent with his past output. After throwing for over 300 yards four times in his first six games, Brady has done so just once in his previous six, and that was last week against Houston when they game was already out of reach. Even with issues all season at the receiver position, Josh McDaniels has repeatedly gone air heavy with the offense as Brady leads the league in pass attempts and is averaging over 40 per game. He will hope to find things easier this week against a Chiefs pass defense that ranks 25th in yards allowed.
THE FINAL DECISION
Both the Patriots and Chiefs have had a clear differential in success in terms of how many points they score in a game. This year Kansas City is 7-1 when scoring more than 24 points but just 1-3 when posting 24 or less. For the Patriots, it goes farther back, as they are 28-2 in their last 30 regular-season games when scoring 21 points or more but just 3-6 in their previous nine when scoring 20 or less. For this game, the Patriots have a clear perceived advantage in terms of time and location, as they are 36-4 in their last 40 December games at home and are currently riding a 22 game Gillette Stadium winning streak. Despite all that, I believe Mahomes and the Chiefs will be able to do enough against a Patriots defense that has recently struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks and recommend taking Kansas City with the points at Foxboro on Sunday.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Kansas City +3