Buffalo (15-3) at Kansas City (15-2)
When: Sunday, January 24th, 2021
Where: Arrowhead Stadium,
Kansas City, MO
Time: 6:40 ET | TV: CBS
Opening Odds: Kansas City -4/56
Forget how good these teams have been all season. The main storyline this week before the AFC Championship Game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, is the health of Patrick Mahomes. All indications are that he will be cleared of the concussion protocol and be ready for Sunday’s title game. Mahomes suffered an injury in the third quarter of Kansas City’s divisional round win over Cleveland and did not return. Backup Chad Henne helped the Chiefs with a big third down run late in the game, but Mahomes has been practicing this week. Head coach Andy Reid said that Mahomes sustained an injury to his neck area and also, a toe injury he suffered is not causing him any problems. With Mahomes, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers playing on Sunday, don’t overlook Buffalo’s Josh Allen, who’s putting together one heck of a season. Since a 26-17 loss to the Chiefs in Week 6, the Bills have won 11 of 12 games with the only loss coming on a Hail Mary in Arizona. Buffalo is also 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games, while the Chiefs have failed to cover in nine straight contests.
Kansas City is currently 3-point favorites, which means oddsmakers believe that Mahomes will be good to go. Some Las Vegas bookmakers could put Buffalo as at least a 3-point favorite should Mahomes be ruled out. Kansas City would be a favorite or around 2.5 points in the Super Bowl against either Green Bay or Tampa Bay, while Buffalo would be short underdogs. It’s the first postseason meeting between these teams since the AFC title game following the 1993 season when Buffalo won 30-13. The Bills would go on to lose a fourth straight Super Bowl and haven’t been back to the AFC Championship Game until now. In Week 6 on Monday night in Buffalo, the Chiefs were 5.5-point favorites and won 26-17 behind 245 yards rushing. Mahomes had only five incompletions in 26 attempts for 225 yards and two scores, both to Travis Kelce. Buffalo was held to 206 yards, with Josh Allen throwing for just 122. Kansas City is 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings.
The Bills enter on an eight-game winning streak following a 17-3 home win over Baltimore last Saturday in the Divisional round. It was an ugly and windy night and the biggest play was a Taron Johnson 101-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter. The Ravens were about to go in and possibly tie the game before the longest interception return for a score in postseason history. Buffalo was outgained 340-220 but didn’t turn it over and had only two penalties for 11 yards. Allen was 23-for-37 for 206 yards and a score, while Stefon Diggs had eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Buffalo came out of that game relatively healthy It appears the Bills got out of that game healthy, but Vernon Butler (quad) and Gabriel Davis (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Allen’s terrific season resulted in eight 300-yard passing performances thanks to Diggs, who recorded NFL highs of 1,535 yards and 127 catches. The defense has allowed touchdowns on just two of eight red-zone situations in the playoffs.
The Chiefs have joined the 2002-04 Philadelphia Eagles as the only teams in NFL history to host three consecutive conference championship games and the common denominator is Andy Reid. The Chiefs’ coach decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 48 with barely a minute left and Henne completed a short pass to Tyreek Hill that clinched the win over an upstart Cleveland team. Mahomes has won 24 of his past 25 starts including playoffs – the first QB since 1950 to ever go on a 24-1 stretch. Mahomes left last week’s game with 255 passing yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions on 21-of-30 completions. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and wideout Sammy Watkins both missed last week’s game and are listed as questionable for Sunday. K.C. mostly relied on Darrel Williams last week, as he rushed for 78 yards on 13 carries. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce combined for a total of 219 receiving yards and a touchdown on 16 catches and 21 targets last week. Kansas City’s defense ranked last in the NFL in red-zone defense, allowing a touchdown rate of 76.6 percent.
With or without Mahomes, I believe this Buffalo team is better all around. The Chiefs are not as dominant as they were during last year’s Super Bowl run and I expect Allen and Diggs to tear up the K.C. secondary. I’m calling for an outright Bills win, so take the points.
Pick: Bills +3
Championship Round Staff Selections