FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The AFC Championship game matchup is set. and it doesn’t get any better than the Patriots, old playoff war horses playing in their record eighth consecutive conference title game, against the Chiefs, the league’s new guard with the likely league MVP in quarterback Patrick Mahomes and their explosive young skill-position talent.
The last meeting resembled a video game: Patriots 43, Chiefs 40 in October at Gillette Stadium. The two teams combined for 946 total yards of offense in the game, including 692 passing yards between Mahomes and Tom Brady.
The rematch will take place Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium because of Kansas City’s No. 1-overall seed in the AFC.
The Patriots, who moved to 9-0 at home with Sunday’s 41-28 divisional-round win over the Chargers to advance to the AFC title game, are 3-5 on the road this season.
“This team has a lot in front of it,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
“That’s the best team in the AFC we’re getting ready to play,” Patriots veteran special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “It’ll be a tough game for us, but we’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of character in this locker room. We’ve got a lot of belief. So we’ll see where that gets us.
“We’ll enjoy this tonight, go hug our wives, girlfriends and kids and be back in the lab tomorrow.”
Receiver Julian Edelman, who caught nine passes for 151 yards, said the team must look toward Kansas City “immediately.”
“You have to turn the page,” he said. “We played a tough team today, you tip your hat, they had a great season, but now we’re going to go play the best team in the AFC, the No. 1 seed. We’re going to go on the road in a hostile environment in Kansas City, and they’ve got a really good football team. It’s going to start with an unbelievable week of practice and preparation to give ourselves the best shot to go out there and win.”
After seeing the Chiefs earlier this season, Slater said, “You figured they’d be there in some way, shape or form with the way they’ve competed all year long, and they’ve had so many players that have had tremendous seasons.
“They’re a very good football team. We’ve got our work cut out for us.’’
Sunday clearly was the Patriots’ most complete game of the season, with running back Sony Michel rushing for 129 yards and three touchdowns.
“At this time of year, you need everyone at their best or you’re not going to be playing for very long,” Slater said.
Asked what he recalled most about the last meeting with the Chiefs, safety Duron Harmon said, “A lot of points.”
“They scored a lot of points, we scored a lot of points,” Harmon said. “That’s not how we want to play defensively. So we need to do a good job to try to limit the big plays, limit them scoring. It’s an explosive offense. They’re explosive on all levels — special teams, defense, offense. They probably have the MVP this year [in Mahomes].”
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore said: “It’s going to be a different game this game. Both teams have gotten better since. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication this week to get ready for them.’’