In order to get to the Super Bowl from the AFC, you have to go through the New England Patriots
Bill Belichick's Patriots have appeared in eight straight AFC Championship Games, but they haven't been perfect during that stretch.
In fact, the Patriots are 4-3 since 2012 on conference championship weekend, with two of the losses to Denver and the other to Baltimore.
The good news for the Kansas City Chiefs is teams who beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship are 2-1 in the Super Bowl during the last eight years.
If you go back further in the Belichick era, the Patriots' only other AFC Championship loss came at the hands of Indianapolis in 2007, and the Colts went on to the win the Super Bowl that year as well.
Kansas City is going to need its best all-around performance of the season to knock off New England, and it showed signs in the divisional round it is more than capable of doing that.
Patriots vs. Chiefs Information
Date: Sunday, January 20
Start Time: 6:40 p.m. ET
Odds (via OddsShark): Kansas City -3; Over/Under: 57
In addition to CBS, the game can be viewed on FuboTV.
Kansas City Defensive Line Disrupts Brady
Kansas City's defensive performance was one of the biggest surprises of the divisional round.
The concession of 13 points to the Indianapolis Colts stunned a majority of people who have watched the Chiefs all season.
While it's hard to fathom a similar performance against the Patriots, that's exactly what we'll see as the Chiefs play with a ton of confidence on defense.
The front four will be the key Sunday, as they'll be tasked with getting pressure on Tom Brady and limiting the impact of the New England ground game.
Chris Jones and Dee Ford need to get off the ball fast in order to force Brady into difficult decisions.
In the win over the Colts, the Chiefs totaled five quarterback hits, four tackles for loss and three sacks.
If Bob Sutton's defense puts up similar numbers Sunday, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense should be in a great position to open up a double-digit lead.
It all starts with putting Brady under pressure, as the five-time Super Bowl winner can't be allowed to sit back in the pocket and develop a rhythm.
If Brady is able to pick apart the Chiefs secondary while connecting with his wide array of targets, the Chiefs could be in trouble.
By disrupting Brady with a strong pass-rush, the Chiefs also take the Patriots running backs out of a rhythm.
James White, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead can be vital parts of the passing game, but if they are asked to stay back and block, it limits Brady's options within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
The burst through the interior from the Chiefs can also halt the progress of White and Michel on the ground, which is as important as silencing Brady. In Sunday's win over the Chargers, Michel ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.
The penetration from Ford, Jones, Justin Houston and others will turn what should be gains of five-to-seven yards into rushes of three yards or fewer.
By limiting the progression of Michel and White, the Chiefs create more opportunities to go all out on third down to force Brady into an incomplete pass or a turnover.
Pounding through the offensive line won't be an easy task to accomplish over four quarters, but the Chiefs proved in the divisional round they are more than capable of rising to the occasion and supporting the team's dynamic offense.
Gronkowski Ends Struggles With Breakout Game
If Brady is under duress for the majority of the contest, he's going to have to get off short passes across the middle in an attempt to keep drives alive.
With the running backs occupied by blocking Kansas City's pass-rush, Rob Gronkowski benefits and plays a major role in the Patriots offense.
In the divisional round, Gronkowski caught one pass for 25 yards to mark the fifth time in the last six games in which the tight end recorded fewer than 30 receiving yards.
The lone exception during that stretch was a 107-yard outing against Miami in Week 14 that proved Gronkowski can still be a vital asset to the Patriots offense.
Gronkowski has experienced mixed results in the AFC Championship Game, as he's averaged 70 receiving yards in four conference title game appearances.
The good news for Gronkowski is Kansas City has given up the third-most receiving yards and second-most touchdowns to tight ends this season.
Since Kansas City will bring pressure, Gronkowski should have a mismatch to exploit on a few plays against either a linebacker or defensive back.
If Brady recognizes those mismatches early on, Gronkowski could extend a few drives and force the Chiefs to alter their defensive approach.
As he breaks free in the Kansas City secondary, Gronkowski comes close to hitting the triple-digit mark in receiving yards to break out of one of the worst slumps of his career.
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