To cap off Conference Championship Sunday, we will see the AFC’s two best teams as the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs host the second seed Buffalo Bills. For Kansas City, this is their third consecutive appearance in this game, and are hoping to emulate what happened last year when they advanced past this round on their way to a Super Bowl victory. For Buffalo, their magical season continues, as they are in their first Conference Championship game in 27 years when they played this same franchise at Rich Stadium in 1994. Both teams played earlier in the 2020 season in Week 6 and will look to learn from their previous mistakes to earn a trip to Super Bowl 55.
– AFC CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY FOOTBALL PREVIEW –
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
Bills (+3) at Chiefs (-3) | Over/Under: 53.5
Even with all the variables in the air, Vegas sees the Chiefs as a three-point favorite on Sunday as they welcome the Bills to town. Kansas City has had multiple close games this season (four victories by three points or fewer) so this line both respects the legitimacy of Buffalo’s chances to win in Arrowhead and also points to the likelihood that this will be a close contest. While the prospect of taking the Bills and the points seems intriguing, in a game of this magnitude it is best to put your bets on the team you think will win outright, especially with a spread this small. Take the Chiefs and the Over this week. If you’re interested in placing a wager on this game, I would sign up for Fanduel or DraftKings Sportsbooks. They’re very trustworthy, you can read about Fanduel Sportsbook Review and DraftKings Sportsbook review over at BettingData.com
The biggest storyline this week across the NFL will be the health of Patrick Mahomes leading up to game time on Sunday. After taking a hard hit against Cleveland last week, Mahomes will need to clear the NFL’s concussion protocol before he can return to action on Sunday night. All signs are currently pointing to him being ready to go this week but there are lots of factors still in play and his status won’t truly be known until later this week. If Mahomes is unable to suit up, the Chiefs will be relying on veteran journeyman Chad Henne to lead them to victory. Henne saw his first playoff snaps last week so it will interesting to see how he adjusts from seeing limited action on the field over the past six years to suddenly starting the most important game of his career.
But, even if Mahomes is active and ready to go, he will have to be at peak performance to contend with Buffalo’s high octane passing attack as well as their stout defense. The Bills’ secondary was able to clamp down on Baltimore last week after allowing Philip Rivers to throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns on Wild Card weekend so they will also need to be at their best whether Mahomes is in or out.
In continuation with his MVP-level regular season, Josh Allen has been phenomenal in the playoffs and being a key catalyst for why Buffalo has made it to the Conference Championship game. He will need to sustain these successes whether he is facing Mahomes or Henne. When these teams played in Week 6, Allen had one of his worst games of the year as Kansas City was able to find ways to limit him to a season-low of 166 yards combined through the air and on the ground. Now, the Bills are playing like an entirely new team since that game so it is very unlikely that the Chiefs’ defense will be able to match that production, but it is worth noting that they may have some tricks up their sleeve come Sunday.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a strong start to his rookie campaign, ranking as the RB12 during his first twelve weeks and looking like a key contributor to one of, if not the best, offense in the NFL. But, he was not able to finish out the season due to suffering an ankle injury in Week 15 and has missed every game since. With Edwards-Helaire out, Kansas City has relied on a committee of Darrell Williams, Le’Veon Bell, and Darwin Thompson with Williams securing a majority of the work last week against the Browns. The Chiefs will likely look to this group again Sunday as Edwards-Helaire’s status is still questionable at this point. Whether he is in or out this week, the Kansas City backfield will have a great matchup and will look to use that to their advantage to aid their man under center. Buffalo has allowed an average of 118.5 rushing yards per game to opposing backfields in their playoff games this year and will need to keep things contained if they want to have a shot at winning on Sunday.
Buffalo got a big boost last week with a solid performance from John Brown, who had eight receptions on eleven targets for 62 yards. Brown was able to help fill the void left by Gabriel Davis, who injured his ankle early in the game but was able to return in a limited role. Both players, along with Cole Beasley and Stefon Diggs will continue to be vital parts of the Bills’ offense as they try to keep up with the Chiefs on Sunday night. Diggs is a star and a lock at this point to have a great game but the question remains on who will be the true second option for Allen. Brown has been great in spurts this season but has missed a lot of time this season due to injuries. Davis has also played well in his rookie season, in a limited role. Beasley, for as talented as he is, has not been able to put together two solid performances back-to-back since Weeks 6 and 7. Look for all three to be used with Diggs and Brown once again leading the way this week.
Even with an injury to his gunslinger counterpart, Tyreek Hill still managed to catch eight passes for 110 yards last week, two marks he has not hit since Week 12. The rest of the wide receiver group saw a dip in their numbers as Henne only attempted eight passes once he was in the game. It goes almost without saying that having Mahomes under center will make this wide receiver group better, but the opposite will need to be true for Henne to have a successful game if he is the one who gets the start. If Hill, along with Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson, can maximize the space and matchup problems they can create on the field with their speed and agility, Henne will have a much easier time running the offense to the levels Chiefs fans have grown accustomed to.
Travis Kelce continued his dominant streak this year, finishing as the TE1 (in PPR scoring formats) for the fifth consecutive season. What made this one even more impressive is that he put 312.8 total fantasy points in the 15 games he played in 2020, making him the first tight end to finish their season with 300+ total fantasy points since Jimmy Graham did way back in 2012. Kelce will once again be a valuable weapon on Sunday night for Kansas City and should be expected to be the main target regardless of who starts at quarterback.
In this matchup, we will see two teams that have similar talent levels and philosophies: score quickly and score often. The Bills and Chiefs have been among the top tier of teams in the NFL this year so it is no surprise they made it to the Conference Championship. Either team would be an adequate representative of the AFC in Super Bowl 55 but unfortunately, only one team will advance past Sunday’s game. To me, with both playing at such a high level, this game will come down to whoever can spring on their opponent’s missteps and cash in on any turnovers or advantageous field position gifted by their opponent. This game will also likely come down to which offense has the ball last and can seal the game with one final drive. Given the pedigree we have seen in recent years, along with the home-field advantage, I see both of these factors going in Kansas City’s favor and ultimately leading to victory by a score of 34-24.
Brandon Sysak is an staff writer for Gridiron Experts. I have been covering different aspects of the NFL, fantasy football and the NFL Draft since 2017. I am originally from Midland, MI but now reside in the Cincinnati, OH area. I began my career with Gridiron Experts covering the 2017 College Football National Championship.