Who the Chiefs could see in the AFC Championship ... and who they might want to see

Andy Reid greeted after Chiefs beat Colts

Andy Reid is warmly greeted after Chiefs beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 in the AFC Divisional round on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.
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Andy Reid is warmly greeted after Chiefs beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 in the AFC Divisional round on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.

In eight days, Arrowhead Stadium will host its first AFC Championship Game in its 47-year history.

The Chiefs will be there.

Who else?

The Chargers and Patriots play at 12:05 p.m. Central on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass., for the right to visit Kansas City next weekend. The Patriots are a 4-point favorite in the AFC Divisional Round game.

After their 31-13 victory against the Colts on Saturday, several Chiefs were asked which team they preferred to face. They didn’t take the bait.

“Luckily it’s going to be at Arrowhead,” lineman Mitchell Schwartz said. “That’s two of the top teams in the AFC; the Colts were another one. We know whoever we face in the playoffs is gonna bring it, and they’re gonna be good. So we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

The Chiefs would be favored by 4.5 points against the Chargers and by 4 points against the Patriots, bet BetOnline.

They are familiar with both possibilities. Let’s take a look.

New England Patriots (11-5, No. 2 seed)

Previous meeting this year: Patriots 43, Chiefs 40, Oct. 14

Ah, the vaunted New England Patriots. They’re no stranger to this time of year, and they’re vying for their eight straight appearance in the AFC Championship. If they would have an advantage over the Chiefs, it would start there — experience.

But much of their success there comes on their home field. In fact, New England has not won a road conference championship game since 2004.

It would be an intriguing matchup in the trenches. The Chiefs tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks. But Tom Brady was hurried less often than any quarterback in the league, facing pressure on only 17.4 percent of his dropbacks, according to Next Gen Stats.

The Patriots have a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde defense, and fortunately for the Chiefs, the fickle nature is dependent on the venue. They rank second in the NFL in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) in their home games. They rank 31st in the league in the exact same statistic in road games.

Again, the Chiefs are hosting.

Los Angeles Chargers (13-4, No. 5 seed)

Previous meetings this year: Chiefs 38, Chargers 28, Sept. 9; Chargers 29, Chiefs 28, Dec. 13

At age 37, Philip Rivers put together one of his best seasons, tying a career-high with a 105.5 quarterback rating. He threw 32 touchdowns. And yet the Chargers managed to win without his best offering against the Ravens in the AFC Wild Card Round.

Why? Their defense is better than most give it credit for. The Chargers finished eighth in the NFL in fewest points allowed (20.6 per game). Although they are relatively weak at inside linebacker, they prefer to rotate more defensive backs into packages. That would be speed-on-speed against the Chiefs’ passing attack, which includes Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins running routes.

The Chiefs’ best chance to take Rivers out of his game is to pressure him. And the opportunity is there. In two matchups this season, Chiefs lineman Chris Jones has dominated the interior of the Chargers offensive line.

Lastly, a note: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for six touchdowns and zero interceptions in the two games against Los Angeles.

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