Sometimes when a game is played the storylines are obvious.
Sunday’s matchup between the Patriots and Chiefs in the AFC championship game in Kansas City is one of those times.
We know who Tom Brady is and what he can do. We also know what Patrick Mahomes has shown he is capable of.
But no matter what we know, the great unknown is what will determine this week. And that unknown has everything to do with a winter storm that is predicted to hit the midwest during this game.
That’s this weekend’s X-factor, and quite bluntly, the only factor that matters.
Kansas City Chiefs
X-factor: Patrick Mahomes
This may seem like the most obvious answer ever and one that shouldn’t be considered as an X-factor, but hear us out. Patrick Mahomes is the Chiefs’ best player and leads one of the best offenses in the history of the NFL, but how he deals with the weather this weekend will mean everything to Kansas City.
Mahomes is from a town in East Texas named Whitehouse. It will snow there on occasion, but by the time that happens, the football season is long over. He went to college nearly seven hours West at Texas Tech and it can definitely snow out there and get pretty cold. But again, Mahomes was never really playing in that type of weather.
And last week against the Colts, Mahomes showed he could throw in cold, wet weather and maneuver around enough on a muddy, slippery surface. But if the weather is as bad as forecasters say it will be, Mahomes has never played a big game in anything like this. And he’ll be going up against the best defensive schemer in all of football in Bill Belichick.
There are a lot of unknowns in a game like this for Mahomes. How he adjusts to the weather, Belichick’s scheme and the pressure of an AFC title game will determine if the Chiefs can win.
New England Patriots
X-factor: The Weather
This one was tough because there were a lot of things to consider. Is James White the X-factor because he is great at picking up first downs on third down? Is Sony Michel the man because he could run rough shod over a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL against the run? Or is it simply Tom Brady because he can beat anyone, anywhere and any time?
But all of that taken into account leads us to this: the weather is the absolute X-factor in this game in favor of the Patriots for several reasons. First, Tom Brady has played in this weather, in this pressure and on this type of surface multiple times in his career. We know he can win in it and we know he can torch teams defensively despite bad conditions (see Titans-Patriots 2009).
Secondly, if the weather is as bad as it’s predicted, this has to be considered: Tyreek Hill likely won’t be catching as many deep balls because of how cold the temperature is and how wet the surface will be. As a result, the Chiefs will have to focus more on the intermediate game, which means the team will have to go to Travis Kelce. And when Bill Belichick knows a team is going somewhere, he finds a way to shut that person down (See Giants-Bills 1990).
It’s pretty impossible for anyone to say this potential type of weather favors the Chiefs who excel with their passing game. If the weather is bad, you’d have to say the advantage goes to the Patriots.