I’m on to the AFC Championship. I’ve been pretty outspoken about that in recent days.
There’s no way the Houston Texans come to Foxboro on Saturday night and end the New England Patriots’ season. If they do, I’ll call it the most shocking Patriots loss I’ve ever seen.
That’s right, even more shocking than losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. That game was played at a neutral site, on the biggest stage. At that point, anything can happen. And it did.
Losing that game and seeing a potential 19-0 season fall apart was shocking, for sure. But I would have been even more shocked if it happened at Gillette Stadium.
The Texans come to town as a 16-point underdog, having been given a layup in the Wild Card round, and taking full advantage of it, defeating the Derek Carr-less Oakland Raiders 27-14 last weekend in Houston. They won their division with a 9-7 record, and have already lost to the Patriots this season, 27-0, back in Week 3 at Gillette.
Jacoby Brissett was the Patriots’ quarterback in that game. On Saturday night, it will be Tom Brady under center for New England. And he smells blood.
So how much time do you really want to spend on the Texans? Like I said, I’m on to the AFC title game, which will be held on Sunday, Jan. 22. Kickoff is set for 6:40 p.m. ET.
If Saturday night goes as expected, the Patriots will be hosting either No. 2 seed Kansas City or No. 3 seed Pittsburgh. The Chiefs host the Steelers on Sunday afternoon in the Divisional round.
The only question I have now is, who would you rather face, if you’re the Patriots?
My prediction is that Kansas City comes to New England for the AFC Championship. It might not be a popular opinion, seeing how dangerous Pittsburgh’s offensive weapons looked in the Steelers’ 30-12 Wild Card win over the Miami Dolphins last weekend. And you know what? If Pittsburgh was hosting its Divisional round game against Kansas City, then I’d probably be leaning towards the Steelers.
But it’s in Kansas City. So I’m rolling with the home-cooking.
The Chiefs already got whooped by the Steelers this season, 43-14, back in Week 4 in Pittsburgh. Since that loss though, Kansas City won 10 of its last 12 to win the AFC West at 12-4 and clinch a first-round bye. It’s an improvement from last season, when the Chiefs were the No. 5 seed and had to play on the road in the Wild Card round. They took care of business, going into Houston and crushing the Texans 30-0, only to lose to the Patriots in the Divisional round, 27-20, at Gillette.
Alex Smith doesn’t have the Super Bowl rings that Ben Roethlisberger does, but Smith is sneaky good in the playoffs. In five career playoff starts over the last six years, Smith has thrown for 1,309 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one interception. And while the defensive stats show the Chiefs and Steelers to be fairly similar this season, the eye test tells me that I’d rather see Pittsburgh’s defense come to Foxboro than Kansas City’s.
The Patriots already defeated the Steelers this season, 27-16, back in Week 7 in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger was injured and didn’t play in that game, but you’d have to think that Brady and company would be good for at least 35 points at home against the Steelers. At least, that’s how I would expect it to play out.
The Chiefs don’t have the star-studded offensive cast that the Steelers do, but they just seem like a much more well-rounded team.
What it truly comes down to is, I don’t think either Kansas City or Pittsburgh will come into New England upset the top team in the AFC. But if there’s one team I’m more concerned about than the other, it’s the Chiefs.
So, this weekend, as I completely overlook the Houston Texans in the Divisional round, I’ll be rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Then, I’ll be on to Super Bowl LI.