The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs are two of the leading contenders for the top two seeds in a tight race atop the AFC standings with about a month remaining in the 2021 NFL regular season.
Besides the first-round bye, the top spot also means home games in the Divisional and Championship Game rounds. If the AFC Championship Game comes down to New England and Kansas City, what will home field advantage mean?
Our friends at Strat-O-Matic simulated both scenarios -- an AFC title game played at Gillette Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium -- and found that being at home likely would mean the difference in which team advances to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
Before diving further into the games, here's a score recap of each matchup.
AFC Championship Game in Foxboro
The Patriots are 7-1 all time in AFC Championship Game matchups played at home, and that record improved in this simulation.
A Kansas City rally fell short as the Patriots held on for a 24-17 win and punched their ticket to Super Bowl LVI. Trailing 24-7 entering halftime, the Chiefs scored on a 22-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to Byron Pringle on their first drive of the second half before a Harrison Butker field goal pulled K.C. within a score with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But a final Chiefs drive died as time ran out with K.C. on the Pats’ 37-yard line.
Rookie quarterback Mac Jones was an efficient 16 of 23 for 207 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Patriots running back Damien Harris ran for 70 yards on 18 carries.
The Patriots defense forcing three turnovers was a critical factor in the outcome.
AFC Championship Game in Kansas City
Unlike in 2018, the Patriots were not able to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in a close AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium.
A late comeback by the Chiefs, capped by a Clyde Edwards-Helaire 3-yard touchdown run with 0:37 left in the fourth quarter, secured a 28-24 win. The Chiefs, trailing 24-14, scored on a touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce from three yards out with 5:17 left on the clock. Mahomes completed 29 of 45 pass attempts for 317 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Mac Jones completed 24 of 37 pass attempts for 209 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Edwards-Helaire was particularly effective for the Chiefs, scoring twice and averaging 8.3 yards per rush.
Red-zone offense was another strength for the Chiefs. They scored four touchdowns in four trips inside the Patriots' 20-yard line.