Just like the NFC Championship, the AFC Championship is also a rematch of a Week 6 contest. The Buffalo Bills hosted the Kansas City Chiefs in a Monday Night Football showdown that could have been the Bills’ first big statement that they were ready to take down an AFC contender. However, the Bills came up short, falling 26-17.
The Chiefs got a huge night out of rookie tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire, although Patrick Mahomes threw a pair of touchdown passes without an interception. On that night, the Chiefs were better, as their defense bent under the pressure of the Buffalo offense, but they did not break.
The AFC Championship may have the Chiefs playing without both Mahomes (concussion protocol) and Edwards-Helaire (knee and ankle).
Can the Chiefs win anyway? Take a look at our thoughts on this Sunday night matchup.
AFC Championship (January 24)
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
When: Sunday, January 24, 2021, 6:40 pm ET
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
Radio: Westwood One
JAZZ Sports Odds: Chiefs -3 / Total 53.5 *
Why the Bills Will Win
Did you know that the Bills did not blitz Patrick Mahomes one time in their Week 6 matchup? It was the only time, dating back to the start of the 2016 season, when a defense completed a game with a blitz rate of 0 percent, according to Next Gen Stats.
However, Mahomes was not able to burn the Bills down the field. He did not complete a pass for more than 20 yards. Tyreek Hill had just three catches for 20 yards. On 20 of Mahomes’ drop-back pass plays, the Bills played quarters, a zone coverage that leaves the sides of the field, underneath, open.
They also conceded the run box, and the Chiefs ran the ball 36 times for 245 yards. In the second half, the Bills would send a safety into the box when Mahomes was under center. The Bills sold out more explicitly against the run against the Ravens, and it worked.
Without Edwards-Helaire to pound the ball, the Bills will have more of an edge on defense. Their offense can also move the ball quickly down the field, and Josh Allen is an extremely mobile quarterback. If you like Buffalo, you see their offense coming out even more aggressively than they did against Baltimore, when they hardly ran the ball at all, and found success down the field.
Why the Chiefs Will Win
Kansas City, on the other hand, blitzed Josh Allen 15 times on 31 drop-back plays. Allen was not sacked, but he only averaged 3.4 yards per pass attempt on those plays. The blitzes kept Allen from scrambling. The O-line had a hard time managing the blitzes, but guard John Feliciano has since returned, and Buffalo’s pass protection has improved significantly since then.
The Chiefs were also aggressive with their pressure calls, going with man coverage a lot in the first half. He left a safety in the middle of the field to help with crossing routes, which were still open, but Allen had a hard time with accuracy.
That was in Week 6; since then, Allen has figured out the accuracy problems and has become a surgeon again. If you like the Chiefs, you think Mahomes will be back (and he is expected to practice on Wednesday), and you think that the Chiefs’ offense will still reliably move up and down the field, even though it will be slower than usual, as in Week 6.
The Final Word
Buffalo has looked better than Kansas City the second half of the season and through the postseason. Mahomes may return, but it’s unlikely that Edwards-Helaire will.
This makes the Chiefs’ offense more one-dimensional, which allows Buffalo to think about dialing up some blitzes against ‘a Mahomes’ who may be more reluctant to take off after having his bell rung by the Browns. I like Buffalo to pull off the road upset.
Jazz Sports Free Pick – Buffalo Bills +3
*Odds are subject to change.