Rob Ninkovich Predicts AFC Championship Blowout

The former Patriot does not anticipate a nail-biter at Arrowhead

Taz and the Moose
January 17, 2019 - 11:00 am

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Whatever happens in the AFC Championship on Sunday, know this: neither team will be warm. Game-time temperatures are slated for single digits, with sub-zero temperatures possible in the second half.

“If the weather is like they say it’s going to be – really cold, zero or below – the Patriots roll,” two-time Super Bowl champion Rob Ninkovich said on Taz & The Moose. “They’re just used to the conditions, the mental toughness of practicing and being outside. Before practice, Bill (Belichick) will say, ‘All right, guys, get all your stuff on. Put on the layers. I don’t care if it’s raining, if it’s zero, if it’s 98 – I don’t care. Go out there. We’re going to practice in it because we’re going to play in it.’

“When you have that type of mentality, it’s just easier,” Ninkovich continued. “Their team is built for a running-style game. I think that if it’s really cold, it affects everybody, but it affects more so the passing game and the kicking game. They’re very successful on the ground, and if they can run the football with success, it sets up everything else.”

It also takes the crowd away.

“That crowd is very loud, but if you can run the ball, it kind of quiets everybody down,” Ninkovich said. “If you take away those 3rd-and-10s, it quiets the crowd down. So controlling the football, running the football, time of possession – that’s what affects the Chiefs. If you can take away the big plays on their offensive side and let them grind it out for 10, 12 plays and see if they can do that, then it’s going to be in your hands to play and have control of the game on your terms. It makes it a lot better. I have them winning by two scores if it’s a very cold game, which I anticipate.”

As for scheme, Ninkovich expects the Patriots to be aggressive – and physical – with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.

“I anticipate them jamming Kelce at the line of scrimmage,” Ninkovich said. “You hit him early, you try to slow his route down. Hill, I would double Hill with some type of double coverage. Within five yards, you’re going to hit him. So if he’s running a 5-yard crossing route, my linebackers are looking for him. You’re going to hit him, and you’re going to hit him every time he’s within that 5-yard distance to try to make him slow down a little bit. Those two guys, you got to stop those two guys. Those are your big-play guys.”

Patrick Mahomes, of course, is the X-Factor, and whatever New England called against Philip Rivers last week, they can’t call against Mahomes.

“Rivers is a sitting duck,” Ninkovich said. “He’s not going to move in the pocket. He’s going to be there, and he’s not trying to escape to run. Mahomes, he’s looking to scramble to throw. That’s a whole different set of challenges. If you’re in any man coverage, your backs are turned to the receivers and that’s what causes big plays – when a quarterback can get out. So then you’re going to have to take a guy out of the rush and maybe spy him. When you’re in man coverage, you need one guy to keep an eye on the quarterback. The hardest part is covering and putting pressure on the quarterback.”