2021 AFC Championship preview: Bills vs. Chiefs

Without a doubt, the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs were the two best teams in the AFC, so it was only fair that they meet for a second time in 2020.

The Bills’ road to their first AFC title game since Jan. 23, 1994 wasn’t easy as they were in a highly-competitive affair with the Indianapolis Colts, which they won 27-24. The elements deterred Buffalo from having great success through the air against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional round, but thanks to an end zone to end zone pick-six from cornerback Taron Johnson, the Bills were able to glide to a 17-3 win.

For a third-straight year, the Chiefs earned their way to the AFC Championship after one of the ballsiest fourth-quarter performances in playoff history from backup QB Chad Henne. Henne entered in the divisional matchup against the Cleveland Browns after Patrick Mahomes went out with a concussion.

With two minutes to go, Kansas City had their backs against the wall on a 3rd & 14. They needed a first down to seal the deal or punt the ball back to a hungry Browns’ offense. Instead of finding a receiver, Henne decides to scramble and he gets all the way to the marker, but is ruled inches short. Now, most coaches would hesitate going for it and just punt the ball to avoid handing good field position to their opponents — not Andy Reid. He calls on Tyreek Hill for an out route and Henne finds him perfectly to seal the deal and win one of the great playoff games in recent memory.

Neither journey to Sunday was easy for the top-two seeds, which is why the game becomes even more intriguing to watch. However, with the potential of foul weather hitting Arrowhead Stadium at kickoff, it will be an uphill battle for Buffalo.

Kansas City is set up well to advance to their second-straight Super Bowl. Mahomes may not be 100% as lingering issues from the concussion and a turf-toe injury could have an effect on him. However, Sunday will see the return of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who’s had a phenomenal rookie season in both the running and pass-catching game. Even if he can’t play many snaps, the Chiefs can still eat clock and use their running game in the potentially bad conditions with RB Darrel Williams or run WR toss-offs to either Hill or Mecole Hardman, who can both create big plays from the backfield.

The Bills are the opposite offensively. They do not have a set rushing attack that can eat clock and keep Mahomes and co. off the field. Against the Ravens, Buffalo only ran for 32 yards on 16 carries. Josh Allen was able to do enough through the air to nab the win, but Devin Singletary and Buffalo’s O-line will have to set the tone and punch through KC’s defense. Buffalo’s time of possession in that win was 24:27. Comparatively, the Chiefs had a T.o.P. of 30:37 against Cleveland.

Defensively, Buffalo will have to make a big play in their secondary, similar to Johnson’s pick-six. They don’t have the defensive front to break through KC’s stout offensive line. They are going to have to risk it and call potential safety or cornerback blitzes to get constant pressure on Mahomes, but that is where he will gash Buffalo for big plays. Buffalo’s best option is to double up Travis Kelce and play contain so that he has to remain in the pocket.

On KC’s side, Frank Clark and Chris Jones will be able to create a ton of pressure on Josh Allen and force him to either throw the ball where he doesn’t want to or pick up huge sacks. Stefon Diggs will obviously be the No. 1 target for Allen, so Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward will need to do everything they can to take away Diggs’ ability to get open.

It’s going to be a tight, high-scoring affair. However, the Chiefs have been there and done that. As long as Mahomes doesn’t face a setback with the turf-toe injury, I believe KC is walking back to the Super Bowl.

Prediction: Bills 24 – Chiefs 41

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