There are at least two viable methods to pick winners before the games are played. One theory subscribes to a team playing well will play well again. A second thesis, anticipates a team that played badly the previous week will bounce back with a big effort.
Those two theories collide on Sunday when the New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs.
Last week, in Houston, the Patriots lost their second game of the season and with it their top seed standing for the American Football Conference playoffs. The postseason tournament starts next month with 12 teams. Two of those dozen postseason participants meet at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
The Chiefs throttled down on Oakland last week, 40-9. The Raiders and Chiefs have been division rivals since the Dallas Texans abandoned both their city and name to become the Kansas City Chiefs in 1961. The Chiefs name was an agreement with the Mayor of Kansas City, H. Roe Bartle, who was affectionately known as “Chief.” Lamar Hunt’s team would adopt in exchange for Mayor Bartle guaranteeing with city money sellout receipts for each home game his name for the team.
The Chiefs went on to become the second American Football League team to win a Super Bowl in the first game that was billed as the Super Bowl before kickoff. The name was inspired by Hunt’s daughter, throwing a ball in her house while her Dad and other NFL executives were meeting. The toy she was playing with bounced wildly and one of the men at the meeting table asked her, “What is that thing?”
“A Superball,” came the enthusiastic response as she chased it through to the next room.
“This should be the Super Bowl,” soon morphed from the bright young girl with her toy.
The Chiefs won that game to complete the 1969 season in the first year it was called a Super Bowl, and the last game before the American and National football leagues dissolved into the American and National football conferences of the National Football League.
The Chiefs bring this rich history to Foxboro this week, and meet a New England team coming off a loss and needing a win to stay in the hunt for the top seed.
The Chiefs won last week by 31 points, and the Patriots lost straight up.
Take the team that is playing great, or the team that has a springboard for preparation?
There is a plausible case that the Patriots have hit the wall. This season they have succeeded for three months not by virtue of Tom Brady putting up big points, but rather a defense that has been ‘lights out’ for opponents. Sometimes, real danger for success, is when a team is carried for a period of time not by their strength, but a perceived weakness. Maybe it will still prove to be a weakness, and if that couples without a revitalized offense, a team can drop like a rock.
Calling a crash for the Patriots has been a longstanding frugal stand. The Patriots always win games like this, one they need late in a season and coming off a loss. But, that apparent motivational edge is countered by the fact that the Patriots won both games last season against Kansas City, a sixth week three point win on the east coast, and a playoff victory in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium.
The AFC Championship Game last January pretty much came down to a coin toss, neither defense was holding their opponent; the Chiefs put up 24 points in the fourth quarter, and the Patriots 14, including the final minute TD to send the game into overtime.
The Patriots won the coin toss, and Brady drove the Patriots to the winning touchdown.
Was that his last hurrah against the Chiefs? Or does the best quarterback to ever play the game have another one in him?
Will it be the team playing well, or the team coming off a loss?
Two sides to consider..