Prior to the weekend, TMZ released a video that shook the entire league. Released on Friday, the video showed Kareem Hunt pushing and kicking a woman in the hallway of his Cleveland residence. Shortly after the Kansas City Chiefs decided to part ways with the star running back after Hunt reportedly lied to the team about the incident. Now with the playoffs approaching, the Chiefs are missing a key piece of their offense which is beginning to create some competition to claiming the AFC crown this season. With that in mind, are the New England Patriots the new favorites in the AFC after the news?
Before anything let’s get something straight. The Chiefs are no joke this year even without Hunt in the picture. Tyreek Hill is still around and the offense is still more dominant than ever. However, they are a whole lot more beatable than they were a week ago. With Patrick Mahomes still under center, the Chiefs are still going to be threats in the conference but the running game won’t be the same. Players like Spencer Ware will likely provide some production in Hunt’s absence but they simply aren’t players with Hunt’s skill set.
While the Patriots are still trying to bring more consistency with their offense, the team will be one of the best come playoff time. Rob Gronkowski got healthy at the right time and Josh Gordon is continuing to show he’s capable of being the team’s No.1 receiver (3 TD) alongside Julian Edelman which has pushed the offense in the right direction. With James White coming out of the backfield, the Patriots have yet another weapon whose on pace to eclipse over 100 catches and 1,000 receiving yards.
A lot of the recent success could be connected to the team’s running game picking up in recent weeks. Led by Sony Michel, the Patriots have created a more balanced offensive attack which is something we were unsure of heading into the season. Averaging over five yards a carry over the past two weeks, Michel has been the team’s best options in finding success on the ground. Known more for his pass-catching ability coming out of college, Michel has been a pleasant surprise for the Patriots who may have found their featured back.
Having success running the ball is extremely important during the playoffs, which is why losing a player of Hunt’s caliber could be one of the main factors in whether the Chiefs are still the best team in the conference. With all of these weapons there’s plenty to be optimistic about on offense as the Patriots are starting to finally hit their groove climbing their way to the top of the AFC.
While the Patriots are still towards the bottom of the league in total yards and passing yards allowed, they’re ranked 9th in the league in points allowed. This is a good sign for the Patriots as they’ve allowed plenty of yardage, but have been stingy in the red-zone. Facing off against an offense as dominant as the Chiefs, this will come in handy. They’ve shown facing off against them earlier this season they could be slowed down, which could certainly happen again.
Despite the Chiefs being the favorites up to this point, here’s still plenty of competition in the AFC with teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, L.A Chargers, and Tennessee Titans posing as the top threats to the Patriots.
However, these teams have shown some inconsistencies throughout the season. The Titans dismantled the Patriots 34-10 earlier this season, but with home-field advantage likely in a potential matchup this season, that kind of performance will not happen. The Chargers’ defense is one of the best in the AFC which could push them to the AFC title game if Phillip Rivers continues to play as well as he has. The Steelers are always a threat with their strong offense lead by Antonio Brown and Juju Smith- Schuster in the passing game and James Conner’s breakout season (despite being injured currently).
There will be plenty of competition this year, but in all likelihood we could be looking at a Chiefs- Patriots AFC Championship Game come January. The Chiefs are currently the top seed in the conference and for good reason. Sitting at 10-2, the team has the best chance to get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. However, facing the Chargers, Ravens, and Seahawks over the next three weeks will be no easy task. As for the Patriots, they’ll play three divisional games and one road matchup with the Steelers which bodes well for their chance to get a first-round bye. If the Patriots continue to improve like they have, we could be looking at the team being the top team in the AFC when it’s all set and done.