The reigning AFC East-champion New England Patriots enjoyed a bye to begin the playoffs – and by all accounts, so did the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs. After breezing to a 30-0 victory over Houston last week, the Chiefs vie for their 12th straight win when they face the host Patriots on Saturday in a divisional-round clash.
“Typical Kansas City game – a lot of turnovers on defense, no turnovers on offense, capitalized on opponents’ mistakes and didn’t make any,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the Chiefs’ convincing victory. “They’ve won a lot of games pretty much doing that.” Belichick has won quite a few games in his own right, and the cagey coach likely will have Julian Edelman (broken bone in foot) back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 15. The shifty wideout helped the offense average 418.6 yards and 33.6 points during the team’s 9-0 start to the season, as opposed to 317.5 and 23.1 without him (3-4).
TV: 4:35 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE HISTORY: The Patriots opened as 5-point home favorites, were briefly bet down to -4.5 and then bet back to -5. The total was bet down from 44.5 all the way to 42. Since then it has been bet back up a half-point to its current number of 42.5. Check out the complete line history here.
Chiefs – LB T. Hali (probable Saturday, knee), LB J. Houston (probable Saturday, knee), RB S. Ware (probable Saturday, ankle), WR A. Wilson (questionable Saturday, hamstring), J. Maclin (questionable Saturday, ankle), OL L. Duvernay-Tardif (out Saturday, concussion), OL M. Morse (out Saturday, concussion).
Patriots – WR J. Edelman (probable Saturday, foot), LB J. Freeny (probable Saturday, wrist), T S. Vollmer (probable Saturday, leg), DB J. Coleman (probable Saturday, concussion), LB D. Hightower (probable Saturday, knee), DL S. Siliga (probable Saturday, personal), DE C. Jones (probable Saturday, disciplinary), QB T. Brady (probable Saturday, ankle), TE R. Gronkowski (questionable Saturday, knee), WR D. Amendola (questionable Saturday, knee), DB N. Ebner (questionable Saturday, arm).
WEATHER REPORT: It is supposed to rain early in the day in Foxborough and should tapper off as the game rolls on. Skies will clear up a little, but should still be mostly cloudy during the game. There will also be a five-to-six mile per hour wind gusting across the field.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Chiefs (-3) – Patriots (-3.5) + home field (-3) = Patriots -3.5
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Kansas City is still viewed with skepticism by most pundits. Most think the Chiefs are a phony team because of their easy schedule, but they rank high in every advanced metric I use. New England has some question marks on both sides of the ball coming into this game, but when healthy, the Patriots are the best team in the AFC by a wide margin.” – Covers Expert Steve Merril.
ABOUT THE CHIEFS (12-5, 9-8 ATS, 8-8-1 O/U): Alex Smith became one-dimensional in the passing attack last week after wideout Jeremy Maclin suffered a high-ankle sprain. Kansas City initially feared Maclin had endured the third right ACL injury of his career, but the 27-year-old’s availability for Saturday’s tilt remains clouded at best. When asked if Maclin could play without participating in practice, coach Andy Reid said: “He could do that. He might not have to do that, but he could do that.”
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (12-4, 7-7-2 ATS, 9-7 O/U): Tom Brady threw for 4,770 yards this season, but the veteran quarterback may find the going tough against All-Pro safety Eric Berry, as well as cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Sean Smith. New England’s 30th-ranked rushing attack averaged just 87.8 yards per game, the team’s lowest since Belichick’s first year as head coach in 2000. Brandon Bolden, who has risen up the ranks in lieu of injuries to LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, is averaging just 3.3 yards on 63 carries.
* Chiefs are 5-0 ATS in their last five road games.
* Patriots are 0-4-2 ATS in their last six games versus a team with a winning record.
* Under is 4-1 in the Chiefs last five games.
* Over is 4-1 in the Patriots last five home playoff games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is backing the Chiefs in Saturday’s first Divisional Round matchup with 59 percent of wagers on Kansas City. As for the total, 65 percent of wagers are on the over.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals (-7.5, 49)
The Green Bay Packers rebounded from a late-season stumble with an impressive road victory over the Washington Redskins in the opening round of the playoffs on Sunday. The road only gets more difficult for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who will try to avenge a 30-point beating in Week 16 when they visit the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night.
Green Bay was bludgeoned at Arizona 38-8 before dropping a 20-13 decision at home to Minnesota in the regular-season finale to squander their chance for the NFC North title. Rodgers said the Packers had their “mojo” back after erasing an early 11-point deficit versus Washington to set up a rematch with the Cardinals. No. 2 seed Arizona reeled off nine consecutive victories before absorbing a 36-6 loss to visiting Seattle in its season finale. Behind quarterback Carson Palmer, the Cardinals feature the league’s top-ranked offense and finished second in the league in scoring with an average of 30.6 points.
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: The Cardinals opened as 7.5-point home favorites, have been bet down to -7 and back up to -7.5. As for the total, it has been bet down 1-point from 50 to 49. Check out the complete line history here.
Packers – TE R. Rogers (probale Saturday, hip), RB E. Lacy (probable Saturday, ribs), T D. Bakhtiari (probable Saturday, ankle), LB J. Elliott (probable Saturday, quadricep), TE J. Perillo (questionable Saturday, hamstring), CB Q. Rollins (questionable Saturday, quadricep), CB S. Shields (Doubtful Saturday, concussion), WR D. Adams (out Saturday, knee).
Cardinals – DT F. Rucker (probable Saturday, ankle), DT J. Mauro (probable Saturday, calf), LB M. Golden (probable Saturday, knee), RB A. Ellington (questionable Saturday, toe).
WEATHER REPORT: Indoors.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Packers (-2) – Cardinals (-6) + home field (-3) = Cardinals -7
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Arizona cruised to an easy 38-8 win over Green Bay just a few weeks ago, and it’s hard seeing this game being different this time around. The Cardinals are a bad matchup for the Packers, but Arizona is now laying 2.5-points more than they did in the first meeting, so there is less line value in this rematch.” – Covers Expert Steve Merril.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (11-6, 10-7 ATS, 6-11 O/U): Rodgers rallied Green Bay by throwing a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes against Washington, including one to second-year wide receiver Davante Adams, who is not expected to play Saturday due to an MCL sprain in his knee. The Packers’ ground game, which has struggled throughout the season, got going against the Redskins as Eddie Lacy and James Starks each ran for a second-half touchdown while gaining a combined 116 yards on 24 carries. Green Bay, which ranked sixth in the league against the pass, recorded six sacks in their wild-card victory.
ABOUT THE CARDINALS (13-3, 9-7 ATS, 9-7 O/U): Palmer set career highs in yards (4,671), TD passes (35) and quarterback rating while throwing to one of the league’s top receiving corps in Larry Fitzgerald (career-high 109 catches), John Brown and Michael Floyd, which combined for 22 scoring receptions. Rookie running back David Johnson has scored a total of 13 touchdowns and had been superb since taking over as the starter while also providing a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Arizona recorded nine sacks in Week 16 against the Packers, but linebacker Alex Okafor suffered a toe injury during the bye that ended his season.
* Packers are 5-1 ATS in their last six road playoff games.
* Cardinals are 4-0 ATS in their last four home playoff games.
* Under is 7-1 in the Packers last 8 games following a straight up win.
* Over is 5-0 in the Cardinals last 5 playoff games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is giving the slight edge to the Packers with 54 percent of wagers on the Cheeseheads. As for the total, 64 percent of wagers are on the over.