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Sunday’s American Football Conference Championship Game pits the two teams that have ruled the AFC this millennium. Including next month’s game in Houston, either the Steelers or Patriots will have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl ten times since 2001.
The Patriots will methodically do what they need to do to win, while also minimizing opportunities for Houston to come away with an upset victory. Houston has had issues this season with their special teams coverage. That could set the Patriots up with a short field and a quick score. Once the Pats take a lead this Texan team is in trouble. Their offense does not have the talent to keep up with the Patriots.
Super Bowl 49 was arguably the most exciting and memorable championship game in the history of the National Football League. On Sunday NFL fans will be treated to a rematch of that epic event as the Seattle Seahawks travel to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. Currently these two clubs are favorites to represent their respective conferences at NRG Stadium in Houston on February 5 for Super Bowl 51.
While we are all still basking in the after glow of a hard fought upset road victory against a quality team, here are some numbers from Sunday night’s game at Phoenix.
For most of the season the topic of conversation in regards to the New England Patriots has centered on the performance of the offensive line. While that unit has at times deserved scrutiny, the return of Sebastian Vollmer has seemed to have stabilized the group. Overlooked has been what may be the real Achilles heel for this squad as they battle the Denver Broncos on Sunday: the team’s third down defense.
Thanks to the epic meltdown by the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers advance in the NFL playoffs – and the New England Patriots will host the Kansas City Chiefs rather than Cincy in the division round of the 2015-2016 post-season.
NFL wild card weekend kicks off Saturday afternoon as the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Houston to take on the AFC South champion Texans. Both clubs overcame the common obstacle of extremely unsuccessful starts to the 2015 season; Houston did not win their second game of the year until Week 6, and KC did not get their second victory until the following week. To accomplish that rare feat both teams leaned heavily on their defenses, both of which ranked in the top ten in the league in points allowed. After a five-turnover debacle against Denver in Week 2, the Chiefs gave the ball away just ten times over the next fourteen games, and finished with a plus-14 turnover differential – second best in the league this year. On December 27 the Texans lost to the Patriots to drop to 6-7 and their playoff chances appeared bleak. Houston’s defense forced ten turnovers over the next three games to carry the team to an improbable comeback, and into the post-season.
Expect the New England offense to perform much better than it did last week. Let’s give credit where it is due: the Jet defense is one of the best in the NFL. The Patriots should have much better success on third down than they did last week, which will lead to more scoring opportunities – and at the same time keep the Patriot defense off the field, allowing them to be less gassed and more effective.
In one of only three NFL Week 16 games between two teams with winning records, the 12-2 New England Patriots take on the 9-5 New York Jets in a game with playoff implications for both teams. The Patriots have already won the AFC East title (for the seventh consecutive season) and earned a first round bye. The Pats can clinch the number one seed and home field throughout the conference playoffs with a win over their arch rivals (or with a loss by Cincinnati). The Jets have the same record as Pittsburgh and Kansas City but need help because they would lose tiebreakers to the Steelers or Chiefs. Gang Green will be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss combined with wins by the Broncos, Steelers and Chiefs. The Jets would also be eliminated from the number five seed with either a loss plus a Pittsburgh win, or a loss plus victories by the Broncos and Chiefs.
An interesting aspect to this game is how well New England can run the ball, behind an inconsistent offensive line and their top two running backs now on injured reserve. If the Patriots are too one-dimensional on offense then Tennessee might keep it interesting for a while thanks to their pass rush, but in the end the Titans are just far too overmatched in all three phases of the game to keep pace. The Patriots already had their annual WTF game two weeks ago against Philadelphia; they are not about to look past this one or lose a second straight home game.
Take the Patriots minus the points despite the big line.
The 10-2 New England Patriots seek to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2002 when they travel to Houston to face the 6-6 Texans on Sunday. The Patriots need a win to keep even with Denver and Cincinnati in the race for a first round bye in the AFC, while Houston looks to overtake Indianapolis for the lead in the AFC South.
Philadelphia rookie CB Eric Rowe gets his first NFL start Sunday, and it against a New England team that since 2003 is 38-4 coming off a loss and is 52-8 in the month of December since 2001.
It is incredible the number of statistical categories that these two teams both rank in the top ten, top five, or best overall in – especially when you compare the Patriot offense versus the Bronco defense.
The Patriots host the 5-4 Buffalo Bills in a battle between the longtime division rivals on Monday night. A victory by the Pats all but mathematically clinches the AFC East for New England; it also would keep the Pats in the number one seed in the AFC, setting up a crucial game next week at 7-2 Denver. Buffalo currently owns the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture, but needs a win to stay ahead of six other teams that are no more than one win behind them.
The Giants defense ranks 30th or worse in total yardage, passing yardage, third downs converted, first downs, yards per play, yards per drive, passes completed, sacks and sack yardage.
|TheAthletic - Dec 1st, 2020|
|NBC Sports Boston - Dec 1st, 2020|