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Here is who national experts are saying will win the AFC Championship Game

One Minute Preview (AFC Championship Edition): New England Patriots

Here are five things to know about the New England Patriots before they take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
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Here are five things to know about the New England Patriots before they take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.

In a matter of hours, we’ll know if the Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl.

That sentence may seem surreal to those Chiefs fans who have seen more than their share of playoff heartache through the years. But the Chiefs will face New England in the AFC Championship Game at 5:40 p.m. on Sunday and try to advance to their first Super Bowl in 49 years.

I surveyed 58 NFL writers and broadcasters and found that 39 believe the Chiefs will prevail in the game, which is at Arrowhead Stadium, kicks off at 5:40 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS (Ch. 5).

Here are the picks from those experts and what they wrote about the game:

Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times believes the Chiefs will win. Here is bit of what he wrote: “This all adds up to Kansas City’s rightly being the favorite, with an extremely good shot of playing in the Super Bowl for the first time since Len Dawson led the Chiefs to a win over the Vikings in Super Bowl IV. (Patriots quarterback Tom) Brady has every right to feel confident in his chances, based on the fact that things virtually always work out for him and his team. Chiefs fans have every right to be worried, based on their franchise’s playoff history, but if (Patrick) Mahomes is Mahomes, that will be enough to warrant Las Vegas’s faith in Kansas City.”

Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com is picking the Chiefs to win 34-30. This is an excerpt of what he wrote: “Kansas City, led by an old sage and a young gun, is rightfully the favorite. The Chiefs’ offensive metrics are tops nearly across the board, and their speed is unmatched. Their Achilles’ heel, a soggy defense, held the blazing Colts to just 13 points and zero third-down conversions in the Divisional Round. The only things not on their side are history and experience, fickle intangibles that on any given day have nothing to do with anything, but against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick could mean everything.”

Elliot Harrison of NFL.com believes the Chiefs will prevail 30-26. Here is an snippet of what he wrote: “This game won’t be any more difficult than when the Ravens and their top-ranked defense came to town in early December. Mahomes answered the bell — ding, ding — late in that contest.”

Five of the eight CBS Sports writers predicted the Chiefs would win: Jared Dubin, Ryan Wilson, Will Brinson, David Richard and John Breech. The three picks for New England: Jason La Canfora, Jamey Eisenberg and Pete Prisco. Prisco predicted New England would win 26-24. Here is part of what he wrote: “I truly enjoy watching the Chiefs will play offensive football. And Patrick Mahomes is going to be an all-time great. But I think this is the week Bill Belichick and Brian Flores come up with a plan to get after Mahomes with a bunch of blitz looks. The Pats won’t stop Mahomes, but they will slow him down enough.”

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio and Michael David Smith were split. Florio predicted a 30-27 Patriots victory. Here is an excerpt: “Look for Patriots coach Bill Belichick to confound Mahomes, contain Tyreek Hill, control the clock, and ultimately prevail in the only stat that ever matters. Points scored vs. points allowed.”

Smith, who predicted a 42-35 Chiefs win, wrote in part: “The stars are aligning for this to be an all-time great game. Or at least the sun, earth and moon are aligning, as the game will be played under a lunar eclipse.”

Both of the Sporting News writers picked the Chiefs. Vinnie Iyer predicted a 38-33 win and wrote in part: “The Patriots have been weaker on the road this season, and Mahomes can blow up even their best-laid game plan. Having learned from the first meeting, Mahomes will have a clean, prolific game to out-duel Brady and stamp his MVP status with a trip to what might be the first of several Super Bowls.”

Todd Haislop sees a 35-31 win and wrote: “the Patriots have the edge in overall defense, if anything because they’ll be prepared with a game plan to contain the likes of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. So picking against New England, the team with the edges in defense and in the running game, would go against everything we know about postseason NFL football. Oh well. Mahomes is just different.”

Four of the five Dallas Morning-News sports reporters picked the Chiefs: Tim Cowlishaw (33-31 final score), Kate Hairopoulos (38-33), David Moore (35-31) and Kevin Sherrington (24-17). Jon Machota picked a 28-27 Patriots win. They all wrote a bit about the game. Here is a snippet from Cowlishaw: “We know history is not on the Chiefs’ side against Bill Belichick but everything else is. Threat of subzero weather disappeared, raising KC’s hopes of a celebration Sunday night.”

Mike Reiss of ESPN predicted a 27-24 Patriots win. An excerpt of his reasoning: “It also came down to one of the top rules from the Patriots beat-reporting handbook: If you’re going to bet against Brady and Belichick, do you have full confidence in the quarterback and head coach on the opposite sideline?”

ESPN’s Adam Teicher saw a 30-24 Chiefs win. Here’s a bit of what he wrote: “The Patriots were 3-5 on the road and averaged 21.6 points — more than 11 fewer than at home.”

Five of ESPN’s nine other experts think the Chiefs will win: Mike Clay, Louis Riddick, Dan Graziano, Trey Wingo and Kevin Seifert. The Patriots were the pick for Mina Kimes, Seth Wickersham, Mike Golic and Matt Bowen.

Four of the seven Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback writers believe the Chiefs will prevail: Albert Breer, Mitch Goldich, Andrew Brandt and Mark Mravic. Picking the Patriots were Jonathan Jones, Bette Marston and Jenny Vrentas.

Six of the eight Pro Focus Football writers predicted a Chiefs victory: Steve Palazzolo, Mike Renner, Zac Robinson, Sam Monson, Gordon McGuinness and Nathan Jahnke. The picks for the Patriots: Neil Hornsby and Jeff Ratcliffe.

Half of USA Today’s six writers picked the Chiefs: Jori Epstein (38-36 final score), Mike Middlehurst-Schwartz (35-31) and Lorenzo Reyes (37-33). The Patriots were the pick by Mike Jones (31-27), Jarrett Bell (31-27) and Nate Davis (22-20).

Five of the six SB Nation writers went with the Chiefs: Stephen White, Geoff Schwartz, Adam Stites, Ryan Van Bibber and Christian D’Andrea. The lone person picking the Patriots: Charles McDonald.

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From covering the World Series to the World Cup, Pete has done a little bit of everything since joining The Star in 1997. He writes about baseball and has a quirky blog that augments The Star’s coverage of area teams.
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