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2019 AFC Championship Game: Advanced stats show just how good the Chiefs offense is

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A look at the stats ahead of Sunday’s meeting between the Patriots and Chiefs.

Divisional Round - Indianapolis Colts v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have reached the Super Bowl each of the last two seasons and to make it three in a row, they will have to go into Arrowhead Stadium and defeat the AFC’s number one seed. The Kansas City Chiefs, of course, are as good a team as the Patriots have met this season and them playing their first conference championship game in front of a home crowd certainly won’t make things any easier for New England.

To further analyze this week’s matchup, let’s take a look at some of the advanced stats heading into the game (courtesy of SB Nation’s Bill Connelly; for his methodology please click here).

Patriots offense vs Chiefs defense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Patriots offense (l.) vs Chiefs defense (r.)

New England’s offense continues to be excellent in the open field, keeping itself in favorable third downs and generally moving the football well on any given play as evidenced by the standard down success rate — gaining 50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third and fourth down. Kansas City’s defense, on the other hand, has had its fair share of issues in the open field in all categories except those tied to third downs.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

Patriots offense (l.) vs Chiefs defense (r.)

New England’s offensive success rate when backed up near its own goal line is nothing to write home about — but still better than what the Chiefs defense is doing in such situations. And while the Patriots had one turnover inside their own 10-yard line this season — a tipped interception in week one — they have taken care of the football very well when starting in unfavorable field position.

Red Zone

Patriots offense (l.) vs Chiefs defense (r.)

The Patriots’ red zone numbers improved slightly during the divisional round, especially around the goal line. While Kansas City still appears to have an advantage this deep down the field, New England is moving the football fairly well farther away from the end zone — especially between the 11 and 30 — and could challenge the Chiefs in this area.

Third Downs

Patriots offense (l.) vs Chiefs defense (r.)

The Patriots converted third downs at will early on during the divisional round but still finished the game just 7-of-14. The number is similar to New England’s week six meeting with Kansas City during which the team converted on 7 of 13 chances. When looking at the season-long numbers, the AFC’s number two seed is holding the edge on third-and-shorts and third-and-mediums while the Chiefs defense is performing better in third-and-long situations

Blitz Situations

Patriots offense (l.) vs Chiefs defense (r.)

While the Chiefs are having a solid 11.7% sack rate in so-called blitz situations — 1st and 18 or more, 2nd and 14 or more, and 3rd and 3 or more — New England’s offensive line has done a good job of keeping Tom Brady clean when the unit is forced to play from behind the sticks. Sacks in general might turn out to be a deciding factor on Sunday: Kansas City has registered 55 of them through its 17 games.

Patriots defense vs Chiefs offense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Patriots defense (l.) vs Chiefs offense (r.)

You may have heard it by now, but the Chiefs’ offense is pretty good no matter which situation it finds itself in. When looking specifically at the open field, we can see that the standard down success rate is terrific, as is the ability to keep drives alive. What stands out most, however, is that 11.1% of Kansas City’s plays in this part of the field resulted in gains of 20+ yards. New England’s defense, for comparison, has allowed big plays on 7.9% of its defensive snaps.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

Patriots defense (l.) vs Chiefs offense (r.)

As noted above, the Chiefs move the football successfully in any given situation. Being backed up is no different, as the team finds a success rate of 42.9% inside its own 10-yard line. The Patriots, meanwhile, are solid but unspectacular in this part of the field. However, all it takes is one big play to make a difference — and now would be a good time for the Patriots to register their first turnover inside the opposing 10-yard line this season.

Red Zone

Patriots defense (l.) vs Chiefs offense (r.)

Kansas City is outstanding in the red zone no matter which statistic you look at. The Patriots’ defensive performance in this part of the field might very well be the deciding factor in the AFC title game: when the two teams met in October, New England held Kansas City to just two touchdowns on five red area trips. A similar success would go a long way to securing the team a berth in the Super Bowl.

Third Downs

Patriots defense (l.) vs Chiefs offense (r.)

While not always finding themselves in the most favorable situations, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and company are usually rather successful when keeping drives alive through third down conversations. Again, this is something that the Patriots did well the last time the two teams met — Kansas City was allowed to advance on just 4 of its 10 third downs — and that will be of the utmost important on Sunday. However, New England’s defensive numbers on third down do not stand out.

Blitz Situations

Patriots defense (l.) vs Chiefs offense (r.)

Even when finding itself in unfavorable situations and playing from behind the sticks, Kansas City moves the football well. The Patriots improved their big play rate over the last weekend but are still susceptible to giving up chunk plays in rather obvious passing situations — and the rather low sack rate of 6.5% is part of the problem.


All in all, there is a reason why the Patriots and Chiefs are left as the AFC’s top two teams: they are performing generally well in the advanced statistical categories outlined above. New England’s offense has a slight edge over Kansas City’s defense and Kansas City’s offense appears to have a noticeable edge over the Patriots’ defense. But games are not played on the stat sheet and as the current odds — the home team is favored by 3 points — show, we might be in for a tight battle after all.