KANSAS CITY (WPRI) — The New England Patriots are heading into enemy territory on Saturday ahead of their showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship.
It’s a tale of two franchises: the Patriots are looking to advance to their fourth Super Bowl in the past five years while it’s been nearly 50 years since the Chiefs reached the big game. (They defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV in 1970. Their only other appearance was a loss to the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl.)
Up for grabs Sunday night is the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which is named for the longtime owner of the Chiefs, though the team has never actually won it themselves. This is also their first time hosting the AFC title game.
While this is the Patriots’ eighth straight appearance in the conference championship, it’s their first on the road since 2015. It’s also the first time since that same season that they go into a game as underdogs, with the Chiefs favored by three points.
In fact, New England has been the underdog only 15 times since 2010, and in those games they boast an 11-4 record.
If the Patriots want to knock off the top-seeded Chiefs, they’ll need to start fast on Sunday night. They scored first in just three of their eight road games this season, which is a big reason why they were 3-5 away from Gillette Stadium – their worst road record in almost a decade.
Starting hot will hopefully settle down the raucous crowd at Arrowhead Stadium and help ease the nerves that head coach Bill Belichick said are inevitable this time of year.
“Nervous? Yeah, sure. You want to go out there and do well. There’s an anxiety,” Belichick said. “We all have things in the game that we have to do. You want to perform them well, not let your team down because everybody’s counting on you to do your job. You’re counting on everybody else to do theirs. You don’t worry about everybody else. You just worry about doing what you can do and make sure you don’t screw up what you’re supposed to do.”
The Patriots were 11-1 this season in games they scored first while the Chiefs are 11-2.
Both teams are healthy going into Sunday’s game, with Friday’s injury report featuring just a single name: Chiefs LB Dorian O’Daniel.
“There’s no pill we can take to get in condition or get stronger or get faster or anything. You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to work at it,” Belichick added. “You do that day after day, week after week, month after month, in some cases, year after year, and that’s how you improve.”
“You need your best players out there and you expect them to deliver,” QB Tom Brady said. “If you can feel good and feel like you’re trending toward feeling your best on Sunday, I think that gives you a lot of confidence.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:40 p.m.