American Football Conference Championship: Chiefs vs. Patriots

Update: Well, now, as sportscaster Howard Cosell used to say in his trademark nasal whine, “How about that!” It turns out that Death reversed did in fact signify a sudden-death overtime, and the Chief’s Hierophant reversed did mean they “didn’t have a prayer.” My scoring projection was on the low side but the overall complexion of the reading was pretty much spot on: as implied by Strength reversed, the Patriots had just enough juice left at the end to pull it off.

Original Post:

American football playoff season is here again, and I’m doing my usual series of readings leading up to the Super Bowl game. In this installment I cover the upcoming AFC championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots, using my “Enemy At The Gates” head-to-head confrontation spread and the Golden Universal RWS deck (with the “Opportunity Card,” or Significator – the Chariot, symbolizing victory – drawn from the Radiant RWS). The game will be played in Kansas City this afternoon. The Chiefs as home team and 3-point favorite to win take the top row of the spread. I’m making an attempt to incorporate the lessons learned from my past experience doing these readings (posted here:; most important among these is that the scoring model must adhere to the three-point and seven-point convention of normal play, so quarterly scores for each team will almost invariably fall into this framework (3, 7, 10, 14, 17, 21, 24, 28, etc.)

All images © U.S. Games Systems, Inc, Stamford, CT and Los Scarabeo, Torino, Italy

At first blush, this looks like a somewhat lackluster game, with neither team able to find its mojo in the early going. The “Strength” card for the Chiefs is the 2 of Cups reversed suggesting that their ability to make one-on-one connections will be stymied in the first quarter; whether this means poor offensive or defensive performance at an individual level is uncertain. For the Patriots, the 8 of Wands reversed indicates that quarterback Tom Brady’s passes won’t land where intended, showing several  incompletions (maybe 8?) and perhaps an interception. Also, I sometimes interpret the 8 of Wands as a “strategic retreat,” so Brady may spend a good deal of the period scrambling in the backfield. Neither team shows dominance via these cards, but with fiery Wands in reserve the Patriots have more “bottled-up” potency that may carry them further than the Chiefs. Advantage: a weak +1 to Patriots, with a score of 7-0 or 7-3 in their favor.

The “Weakness” cards show the Chiefs in a better place in the second quarter, with the King of Swords assuming command of the field.  Their play execution should sharply improve, while the Patriots flounder with the 3 of Swords and may only manage a field goal. Advantage: +1 to Chiefs, with a cumulative score of 14-10 or 17-10 in their favor.

The “Edge” cards give a literal “edge” to the Patriots, with the Ace of Swords letting them “stick it to” the Chiefs and their 10 of Swords reversed. There is a conservative emphasis on defensive team performance, with scoring held to a minimum. Advantage: +1 to Patriots, with the score either static or creeping up to a 17-17 tie. The two middle periods of this game depict a see-saw contest, with the advantage going first one way and then the other.

The “Allies” cards, which I interpret in this context to reveal the infuence of the coaching staff, are both reversed. The 7 of Cups reversed for the Chiefs imparts confusion, as if they don’t quite know what to do with their advantage or how to “seal the deal” in the final quarter. The thought is that they may lose their way in the play-calling department. The Patriots, with the 4 of Wands reversed, can smell possible victory but can’t quite taste it yet, and may still snatch defeat from its slack jaws. Advantage: a paltry +1 to the Patriots on the strength of Wands over Cups, with a chance of the visiting team pulling ahead by a field goal at the end, 20-17.

The “Chance to Win” sub-quintessence cards once again slightly favor the Patriots, with Strength reversed suggesting that they will be able to stave off the Chief’s powerful offensive attack with a little extra effort, but it won’t be easy: the reversal shows that they will have to dig deep. For the Chiefs, the Hierophant reversed – which in older decks was titled the Pope – makes me want to get cute and say they “don’t have a prayer.” But I won’t (or maybe I just did). No advantage is assessed for this intermediary step.

The “Decision Card” is Death reversed. This card doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in either team being able to walk away with a decisive win. The Chariot runs head-on into inertia that will amount to a sobering corrective for its exuberance. As a Water card, Death squares well with the Water element of the Chiefs’ pair of Cups, but marginally less so with their two Air cards (Swords). It is on unfriendly terms with the Patriots’ Fire cards (the two Wands) but lukewarm toward their two Swords. The slightly better agreement with the Chiefs’ series may give them the edge to win through to victory. Advantage: +2 to Chiefs, but that’s a bit of a stretch. Another notion is that Death as outcome may signify a “sudden death” overtime after the game reaches a 17-17 or 21-21 tie.

The internal scoring for the spread (not the final game score) is deadlocked at 3-3, showing just how well-matched these two teams are. If the Chiefs can frustrate the  Patriots’ offense sufficiently in the second quarter while putting enough points of their own on the scoreboard, they may be able to turn the tables and eke out a 21-17 or 24-17 success. But I don’t think I’d bet on it unless the game goes to overtime. In that case, I could see Kansas City winning by a field goal.

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