Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
11:40pm GMT Sunday – Sky Sports & Gamepass
After 19 pulsating weeks of action the cream of the AFC remains. Its been a while since we have seen the Buffalo Bills at this stage of the season, in fact you have to go all the way back to 1993. As for the hosts, its the 3rd straight year that this game is at Arrowhead. Will that advantage be enough for the Kansas City Chiefs to punch a ticket to the Super Bowl to defend their title? The Chiefs are a three-point favorite going into the weekend and should be a little fresher, having had a bye on wildcard weekend in the expanded playoff format for the 2020 season. The Bills have already dispatched of the Colts and Ravens in the post season whilst the Chiefs have played just the once, defeating the Browns in divisional weekend action.
Taking my personal bias aside this is the AFC title game that most neutral fans wanted to see. The number 1 and number 2 seeds square off in what should be an offensive explosion – provided, of course, that Mahomes is as close to 100% as possible for Sunday. Mahomes played with a noticeable limp against the Browns after picking up a knock at some point in the first half. He has since been diagnosed with Turf Toe which is far from ideal for the oft mobile QB. It could have beena whole lot worse though as things turned ugly however after half time in that game as Mahomes was tackled on a quarterback keeper by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson. The hit looked fairly innocuous but the reigning Super Bowl MVP was slow to get up and was noticeably dizzy when he indeed did. Unsurprisingly he was ruled out for the remainder of the contest but has since comfortably concussion protocol (perhaps too comfortably). His overall picture of health will have an effect on the Chiefs’ offense obviously. This however is a team with more weapons than most, and if Chad Henne enters the game under center, it’s not like the reigning champs are without realistic hope. It was his run on 3rd and 14 pretty much punching their ticket to the title game with that uncharacteristically long run.
Travis Kelce has put together a hostoric season at the tight end position and is equally versed in being a genuine downfield threat for Mahomes or a nice safety valve for Henne, capable of racking up YAC. Kansas City will likely deploy Tyreek Hill all over the field, just as they did a week ago. He caught the game clinching 4th down play against the Browns from the slot but he will see plenty of work outside. Expect to see him aslo taking snaps as a running back on designed jet sweeps, as the team is still without rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire due to an ankle injury. Hill and Mecole Hardman are both effective on these type of plays and have speed that is largely unmatched.
Defensively the Chiefs played a lot of man coverage against the Browns who aren’t known for having the most explosive receiving core. The Bills represent a whole different challenge however so the likes of Breshan Breeland and Tyran Mathieu best bring their “A” game. Mathieu was all over the field a week ago and had a key interception in the 3rd quarter. With the Buffalo run game basically non existent it will be all about the Chiefs secondary which has performed better than its run stopping package throughout the course of the season.
The Bills have almost stumbled through the first couple of round of the playoffs. They did however get a big day from Stefon Diggs against the Ravens as he registered eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Diggs has been the key piece of the Bills’ offence all season long. His off season acquasition from the Vikings must surely go down as one of the best bits of business in recent time. Josh Allen knows he can turn to his favourite target to make plays against any corner in the league. With John Brown back on the opposite side, the Bills look good on the boundary.
Over the middle however Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis were both held without catches against the Ravens. The tight end group is far from stellar and isn’t really part of the regular game plan. Buffalo has practically abandoned the run game, although Devin Singletary will get a handful of touches. Although more limited this year look to also see a handful of Josh Allen designed runs, along with some scrambles out of the pocket. You have to feel that more is required from this group as a whole as opposed to just relying on the brilliance of Diggs and Allen.
The Bills defence has taken a step back if anything this year. That said they delivered a brilliant performance against Baltimore. The highlight was of course Taron Johnson’s 101-yard pick-six. He was arguably the best player on the field against the Ravens. The Bills’ secondary on its day is the best group left in the playoff field. Tre’Davious White bounced back from a rare off night against the Colts and played at an All-Pro level against the Ravens. The dynamic safety tandem of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are ball hawks who seemingly are always poised for a big play. If Kansas City is without Mahomes, Buffalo’s secondary will be feasting for turnovers.
Writers Pick – Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)
I have picked the Chiefs all year long and if Mahomes is close enough to 100%, this is still the most dangerous team left in the playoffs. There isn’t a single defence in the league that can contain for Kelce, while Hill and Hardman’s are essentially sprinters that catch who have to be accounted for, regardless of who’s playing at quarterback. Kansas City defeated Buffalo earlier in the season, and though Buffalo has improved significantly since the Oct. 19 loss, it exploited its secondary better than any team in the league. If experience indeed does matter, the 14-2 Chiefs are as equipped as anyone to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl again.
The Bills on the other hand are the hottest team in the league and have now proven they can win any type of game. If the game develops into a shootout they are one of the few teams equipped to go toe-to-toe in an aerial fireworks show. Buffalo’s defence is quietly improving week to week and is back to playing playing like an elite unit. When both sides of the ball are firing you can easily make a case for them being the leagues most rounded team. Buffalo hasn’t lost since the “Hail Murray” back in November, and it will take Kansas City’s best performance levels to knock them out of the playoffs.
Buffalo Bills 34 – Kansas City Chiefs 40 (Overtime)