The Kansas City Chiefs are betting favorites hosting the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. The NFL odds have Kansas City pegged as 3-point chalk, marking the first time in 68 games that New England is a betting underdog with Tom Brady under center.
As for the Over/Under, the total for the AFC title game opened at 57 points and dropped to 55 earlier this week with the extended forecast calling for chilly temperatures in the mid-teens. However, it looks like that “Arctic Blast” will miss Arrowhead Stadium and the latest weather report predicts temperatures in the mid-20s with slight breezes.
If you’re watching and wagering on the AFC Championship, we break down all the betting angles: from quick-hitting props to the pointspread and total.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-3, 55.5)
Both the Chiefs and Patriots have a nose for the end zone in the early going.
A touchdown has opened scoring in 11 straight games for Kansas City, with that Week 6 meeting at New England as the last time a field goal cracked the score column first (funny enough). The Chiefs have beaten their foes to the scoreboard in eight of those 11 contests, with five of those TDs coming through the air.
New England struck first with a touchdown versus Los Angeles in last weekend’s Divisional Round rout and has watched a touchdown hit the board first in eight straight games, scoring those six points in five of those contests. However, on the road, the Patriots average just over four points per first quarter and have been beaten to the scoreboard in five of their eight away contests – giving up a touchdown in four of those five instances.
PREDICTION: Opening score – Chiefs touchdown (+162)
FIRST HALF PROP
Kansas City buried the Colts in the first half of their Divisional Round game last weekend, holding a 24-7 lead at the break. And while KC won’t put that same pressure on the Patriots early into this game, this team is among top first-half bets in football.
The Chiefs are 13-4 versus the first-half pointspreads this season (compared to 11-6 ATS vs. full-game spreads), owning an average lead of plus-7.5 points after two quarters. That success includes an 8-1 mark against the first-half spread at Arrowhead.
The Patriots, on the other hand, are 10-7 against first-half spread on the year but only 2-6 on the road versus those 1H lines. Books are serving Kansas City -2.5 (-110) as the first-half spread for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game – which is a fine bet – but you can go for the throat with a KC prop play in the “first-half winning margin” markets.
PREDICTION: First-half winning margin – Chiefs 1-3 (+900)
The Patriots punished the Chargers with the running game last weekend, getting a huge day from Sony Michel who rumbled for 129 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Michel’s backfield mate, James White, didn’t record a single carry but instead did damage through the air with 15 catches for 97 yards.
That performance has bookies puffing up White’s receiving yards prop and downgrading his potential as a runner this Sunday. On the season, White has run 94 times for 425 total yards – an average of 4.5 yards per carry – while boasting 26.6 rushing yards a game.
His Over/Under player prop odds for the AFC title game sees his rushing total at just 18.5 yards. Kansas City’s defense very much relies on pressure, and what better way to relieve that pressure than to run the football. While Michel will get the bulk of the touches on the ground, White doesn’t need much in the way of carries to top this rushing total.
Before the Divisional Round win, he had rushing efforts of 30 and 41 yards against the Jets and Bills and now takes on a Chiefs rushing defense that allows an NFL-worst five yards per carry.
PREDICTION: James White Over 18.5 rushing yards (-115)
As mentioned, the betting markets jumped all over the Under when forecasts called for cold weather in Missouri. Since that move to 55, action has been on the Over and moved this number to 56 points. The Chiefs and Patriots ranked No. 1 and No. 4 in scoring this season and combined for 83 points in their Week 6 meeting, blowing away the 59.5-point total.
Each team is headlined by a remarkable talent at quarterback but leaned on the run in their recent efforts. New England posted 155 yards rushing in the win over the Chargers while the Chiefs recorded 180 gains on the ground in their victory over the Colts. Those additional handoffs were in part to New England and Kansas City blowing out their Divisional Round foes, trying to chew up clock and finish the game.
Sunday’s championship contest is set up for a shootout. Each defense is playing better than they did for most of the regular season but they each rely on big plays and turnovers to snuff out opponent’s drives. New England ranked 21st in yards allowed but tied for fifth in takeaways (28) and Kansas City sits 31st in yards against but is just behind the Pats at 27 takeaways. Neither team is great at stopping opponents in the red zone either, and this one could come down to who settles for a field goal first.
PREDICTION: Over 56
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Patriots getting the points with No. 12 taking snaps. And that rare occurrence should make bettors take a second look at New England rather than question the oddsmakers' wisdom, which is often a bad decision.
New England suffered all five of its losses on the road this season, posting an average margin of minus-2.6 points in its eight away games. Both the offense and the defense were two-faced in those road games, when compared to home production, and Sunday’s title game in Kansas City is the Pats’ first road game in more than a month – going back to December 16.
New England’s one-sided 41-28 win over L.A. last weekend (which was really a 41-14 win with two touchdowns scored in garbage time) was set up perfectly for the Patriots: they were playing at home, coming off a much-needed bye week, facing a West Coast team in the cold, and a team that was coming off a very physical Wild Card game and making its second cross-country trip in the postseason.
As for the Chiefs, we all know what they can do on offense. It’s the defense that will help make the difference Sunday night. While singled out as this team’s biggest weakness, the stop unit is very good at the one thing that gives Brady trouble: pressure with just four pass rushers, especially Justin Houston, Chris Jones and Dee Ford. Getting that amount of pressure from only four guys allows the rest of the front seven to slide into coverage and clog up the field.
In fact, books aren’t giving enough points to the Patriots considering the impact Arrowhead Stadium and how well – or poorly – Brady has performed there in the past. The Chiefs have one of the rare home fields in the NFL that is actually worth the perceived 3-point advantage to the spread and have a decisive edge when those home games are played at night, going 11-4 ATS in night games (played at 6 p.m. ET or later) since 2006.
PREDICTION: Chiefs -3