For a few weeks it appeared as if the New England Patriots weren’t going to have a bye in the AFC Playoffs for the first time since 2009.
When the Patriots have a bye, they very rarely fail to reach at least the AFC Championship Game. The last time that happened was back in 2010 when the New York Jets beat them in the Divisional Round.
While their bye chances looked bleak late in the season, New England managed to get it done and earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC behind only Kansas City. By doing so, they guaranteed themselves a home playoff game and the potential to host another one if Kansas City is upset.
But standing in their way of the AFC Championship Game is a really good defense and a quarterback itching to get to his first Super Bowl.
On Sunday, the Patriots will play host to the Los Angeles Chargers who are fresh off a road playoff win in Baltimore and are playing some of their best football of the season. Led by quarterback Philip Rivers, the Chargers are hoping to score the upset.
Sunday isn’t the only big game for the Patriots. Saturday’s Chiefs-Colts result will play a hand as well, seeing that if the Patriots do win.
With the Super Bowl field narrowing each Sunday, there is always huge odds movement during the playoffs. The Patriots are currently +200 to reach Atlanta. If they beat the Chargers in the Divisional Round, those odds will inevitably be much shorter on Monday. However, they will be drastically different based on the outcome of the Colts/Chiefs game. If the Pats (who are undefeated at home this year) get to host the Colts in the AFC Championship, they will be about -200 favorites to reach the Super Bowl. If they have to travel to KC, however, they will be about +115 to +130 underdogs. Home-field advantage means the world to this year’s Patriots, and Arrowhead is an extremely tough road environment.
The Patriots are led by Tom Brady who is arguably the best quarterback of our generation. He’s got the experience to take a team all the way and head coach Bill Belichick is right there with him.
For New England, it’s key they get up early and show they can score on the Chargers’ defense. Los Angeles has a dominant pass rush led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to go along with a solid secondary.
It won’t be easy for New England on Sunday but it’s hard to bet against Terrific Tom and the Pats.