New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs
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Team effort needed for Chiefs win
When the Kansas City Chiefs run out for their first AFC Championship game since 1993 on Sunday night all eyes will understandably be on quarterback Patrick Mahomes who has excelled in just his second season as a pro.
Having thrown over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in his first year as a starter it's fair to say that Mahomes has been key in the Chiefs quest for their first Super Bowl appearance for almost 30 years, but there's more to this Kansas City outfit than just a young gunslinger.
In their divisional playoff encounter with the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City made a potentially dangerous opponent look pretty ordinary with an impressive running game, mostly thanks to the exploits of Damien Williams, who led the way with 129 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
Then there was Tyreek Hill, who breezed through the much talked-up Colts defence mid-way through the first half for a 36 yard score, one of four rushing touchdowns from four different players - meaning the impressive numbers put up by Mahomes weren't the story of the day for a change.
But perhaps more encouraging for the Chiefs was the performance of their usually leaky defence whose tenacity ensured that one of the season's most potent quarterbacks - Andrew Luck - was virtually non-existent on the night.
Luck was limited to just 19 of 36 attempts, passing for 203 yards while T.Y. Hilton, expected to pose problems for an undermanned Kansas City secondary, only caught four passes for 60 yards, and the normally relentless Marlon Mack didn't top 50 yards rushing.
The Chiefs will no doubt adopt a similar approach on Sunday as the tried-and-tested way to beat the Pats down the years has usually been to get to Tom Brady, and if Dee Ford and Justin Houston can trouble the New England offensive tackles as they did last week they will have a decent chance of making it to the NFL's showpiece game for the first time since 1970.
Brady brings experience
Like the Chiefs if the New England Patriots are to make it to their eighth Super Bowl then much of the attention will focus on their quarterback and veteran of 39 postseason games to date, Tom Brady.
And despite now being in his 40s the five time Super Bowl winner still continues to look every bit the superstar he is in the Pats' divisional playoff game against the LA Chargers, completing 34 of 44 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown.
Much of this success has been built around a resilient defensive line and New England's is ranked first in the NFL in pass-blocking and if they can protect Brady once again from a fierce Chiefs pass rush he's capable of causing their secondary all kinds of problems from the pocket.
However, like their opponents the Patriots are far from a one man outfit and their rushing game is up there with the very best, grinding out 517 yards in their final two regular-season games while notching 155 yards in Sunday's 41-28 win over the Chargers as Sony Michel rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns.
After just one postseason game, they can already boast the best total offence, passing offence and are third in rushing offense while their defence has allowed the least rushing yards to date; but there's no doubt that if New England are to win this one they need to keep Patrick Mahomes quiet and fortunately for them they can rely on a pretty mean pass defence right now too.
In the regular season the Pats allowed 246.4 yards per game and the Chargers' Philip Rivers was the first quarterback to top 300 yards passing against them since Week 7 in last week's divisional playoff.
There's no substitute for experience though, and an organisation which is well versed in success and led by a coach who has taken charge of 39 postseason games, not to mention a QB in his 16th year as a pro, who has won three league MVP awards, five Vince Lombardi trophies, and four Super Bowl MVP Awards can't be discounted lightly.
The Kansas City Chiefs are favoured by 3 points at 1.9310/11 on the Exchange and that's probably fair considering their blistering form in the regular season, but they can also be backed at 5/1 on the Sportsbook to win by 7 to 12 points if you think the margin might be bigger.
This game is bound to come down to individual performances and there are few players right now in better form than Tyreek Hill and Damien Williams, so backing them both to score TDs at 11/4 on the Sportsbook is pretty tempting while veteran QB Tom Brady can be backed at 5/6 to make 23 or more pass completions.
But with two high-profile quarterbacks on show it's difficult not to expect something of a slugfest and when the two met in the regular season it ended 40-43 in favour of the Pats and both teams to score 40 points again this time around can be backed at a mouth-watering 35/1.