The latest AFC Championship is now set, with New England punching its own ticket for a league-record eighth straight appearance in the conference title game. By virtue of No. 1 seed Kansas City’s lopsided victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night, the Patriots will travel to Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday to face the Chiefs – a team they vanquished in a shootout in Foxborough back in Week 6.
For New England, this marks the 15th appearance overall in AFC Championships and seventh on the road.
After winning their first three road AFC title games (1985 at Miami, 2001 and ’04 at Pittsburgh), the Patriots haven’t fared so well away from Gillette, losing at Indianapolis (2006) and twice at Denver (2013 and ’15).
This season, the Patriots had difficulty winning regular season games on the road, dropping five of eight away games. Arrowhead is a notoriously loud outdoor venue where visiting teams often have trouble winning, but paradoxically, last night’s win over the Colts was K.C.’s first playoff home win in a quarter century.
However, the matchup between New England and Kansas City features the top two teams in the conference and sets up an intriguing rematch of the earlier meeting this year. The Patriots squeaked out a 43-40 win back then, but both teams’ defenses are playing better of late. And while the Chiefs are still led by second-year QB Patrick Mahomes and a potent passing attack, New England has evolved since Week 6 into a more ground-reliant offense that can still move the ball and score points through the air.
Whether both teams can continue to light up the scoreboard against one another next weekend remains to be seen, but the stakes this time around couldn’t be much higher. A win will send either the Patriots or Chiefs to Super Bowl LIII two weeks later in Atlanta. Kickoff for the AFC title game is 6:40 Eastern (5:40 Central). The game will be broadcast on the CBS television network.