The Kansas City Chiefs have knocked down one postseason opponent, but their next game is much tougher on paper. A dominant win over the Houston Texans will be great for morale, but the Chiefs (11-5) will now travel to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (12-4) in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
New England looked like they were guaranteed a top seed before a Week 17 lost forced them to the second seed. Still, that's good enough for home-field advantage against the Chiefs, and was enough for a first-round bye, so they will be rested. That's great news for wide receiver Julian Edelman, who has been out for the past seven games with a broken foot.
Getting Edelman back is huge for Brady and the offense, but there's also some bad news relating to tight end Rob Gronkowski. He is dealing with a knee injury and his status for the game on Saturday is up in the air. If he plays, he surely won't be at 100 percent and that's a big blow to the Patriots.
Gronkowski led the Patriots with 72 receptions for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Gronkowski has a lengthy injury history but he was mostly reliable this season, so his injuries are coming at a terrible time. Edelman, despite missing seven games, was second on the team with 61 receptions for 692 yards and seven touchdowns.
Brady was just as productive as ever this year, completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 4,770 yards with 36 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. The Patriots are as dangerous as ever based on Brady and his ability to spread the ball around alone, though if the lack of targets was going to catch up with New England, the playoffs are a bad place for it to happen.
The Patriots field the league's No. 6 offense in yardage and No. 3 offense in points scored per game, with 29.1. But the Chiefs match up well with them on the other side of the ball, ranking No. 7 in the league in yards allowed and No. 3 in the league in points allowed per game at 17.9. The Patriots aren't that much worse on defense, ranking 10th in the league in points allowed.
Unfortunately, the mismatch becomes clear when you compare offenses. New England is high in all categories, while the Chiefs rank 27th in the league in yardage. Alex Smith doesn't throw for a lot of yards and Jamaal Charles is out for the season with an injury. Still, the Chiefs don't commit many mistakes on offense and somehow, Smith has led the Chiefs to the No. 9 scoring offense in the league, surprisingly.
Smith has thrown just seven interceptions against 20 touchdowns the season, and averages just 203.2 passing yards per game. Prior to the final two weeks of the season, Smith had thrown just four interceptions but he struggles against the Raiders and Browns. Earlier in the season, he went nine consecutive games without throwing an interception. Obviously, he will need to play clean football so as not to give Brady and the Patriots more chances than they will already have.
How to Watch
When: Saturday, Jan. 16, 4:35 p.m. ET
Where: Gillette Stadium
Commentators: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Online: NFL Game Pass