There is plenty of recent history between these two emerging AFC rivals. Almost one year ago to the day, Kansas City earned its second consecutive Super Bowl appearance with a 38-24 victory over Buffalo in the AFC Championship Game. While they responded with a 38-20 win in Week 5 this season, it won’t mean anything if this Bills at Chiefs playoff duel ends with Bills Mafia disappointed again.
Bills at Chiefs odds, game information and line
|Sunday, January 23||6:30 PM||NBC|
- Bills at Chiefs point spread: Chiefs -2.5
- Over/Under: 53.5 points
- Money line: Chiefs (-140), Bills (+120)
Down below we offer four bold predictions for this AFC Divisional Round matchup between the Bills and Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday Night Football.
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Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen builds off WC performance, slices up Kansas City secondary
After an inconsistent regular season, flashing between MVP-caliber play and being a turnover machine, Josh Allen dominated the New England Patriots. He proved his earlier performance against Bill Belichick (314 passing yards, 3 TDs) was no fluke, beating New England’s defense in the Wild Card round for 308 yards and five touchdowns.
Many will point to how things played out in the last playoff meeting with Kansas City. The All-Pro quarterback completed just 58.3% of his 48 attempts, took four sacks, threw an interception and finished with a pedestrian 80.8 QB rating. But there are a lot of reasons to believe things play out differently this time around.
Kansas City will likely change its game plan from Week 5. Steve Spagnulo. As Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar explained in October, Steve Spagnulo didn’t blitz Allen enough in that loss. While the Bills’ star thrived when facing five-plus pass rushers in 2020, per Pro Football Focus, he ranked 24th in completion rate (45.4%) and 14th in QB rating (74.0) when blitzed in 2021.
But there’s a reason we’re picking Allen to thrive in this matchup. Spagnulo might feel very confident in his pass rush, enough so to not send defensive players who are smaller than Allen at him thus leaving spaces in coverage. It’s because Kansas City’s secondary is a problem. Late in the season, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert combined for 651 passing yards and six touchdowns against Kansas City.
Stefon Diggs is going to cause problems for the Chiefs and improvements from Gabriel Davis and Dawson Knox also make them weapons. Combine that with Allen’s Cam Newton-like rushing ability, it’s too much for Spagnulo’s defense.
Travis Kelce comes through with 100-yard game
It’s fair to say we’re expecting plenty of points in a Bills at Chiefs shootout. Every time these two teams meet, both quarterbacks put their unmatched arm strength and athleticism on display. Buffalo will need to focus its efforts on containing either Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce in this game. We’re betting on that attention going to Hill.
During the season, the Bills did a nice job containing tight ends. They allowed the fifth-fewest average receiving yards (36.6) and second-fewest receptions (3.06) per game. But they do have a problem. When quarterbacks threw to the tight end, they averaged 11.98 yards per catch (fifth-worst in NFL). That doesn’t bode well against Kelce, a YAC monster.
Kelce went off for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the 2021 AFC Championship Game. When he faced Buffalo this season, he chipped in 57 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. The future Hall of Famer is healthy and we’re banking on some huge numbers Sunday.
Patrick Mahomes throws two interceptions, including game-sealing pick
Mahomes captured the attention of the NFL world with a passing clinic against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A 404-yard, five-touchdown performance to kick off the Chiefs’ playoff run understandably got everyone excited. If the most physically talented quarterback in NFL history is on his game, no one is stopping Kansas City.
But there’s a problem. We’ve seen far too often this season that Mahomes can’t sustain that level of play. A five-touchdown showcase against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 10 was followed by a two-game stretch with just a 57.6% completion rate, a 65.6 QB rating and zero touchdowns. Another thing to keep in mind, he was worse at home (89.5 QB rating, 15-7 TD-INT) than on the road (108.0 QB rating, 22-6 TD-INT) in 2021.
- Patrick Mahomes stats vs. pressure (PFF): 69.8 QB rating (16th), 9-5 TD-INT ratio, 42.% completion rate (27th) in the regular season
Mahomes’ issues when under pressure this season could be a problem. Leslie Frazier’s defense excels because it can create pressure without needing to constantly send extra defenders. It’s because the Bills’ defensive coordinator knows his secondary can hold its own in coverage.
While Mahomes had one of the lowest interception totals across his first two seasons, there was a lot of luck involved. The gunslinger threw more picks this season (13) than he combined for from 2019-’20 (11). Meanwhile, Buffalo’s defense posted the third-highest interception rate (3.6%) in the regular season.
An early interception from Mahomes is very possible, helping Buffalo take an early lead. The former NFL MVP will settle down after that, taking what the defense gives him and hitting deep shots when necessary. But with the game on the line in the closing minutes, a deep shot will be picked off and seal this Bills at Chiefs clash.
Bills at Chiefs prediction: Bills 31, Chiefs 27
This game will live up to the hype. While NFL fans might not get a crazy 42-35 shootout with a late touchdown delivering a playoff classic, no one who loves football will be disappointed. Bills at Chiefs will certainly come down to the fourth quarter.
There is a path for Kansas City to win. If a great offensive line protects Mahomes and he can operate in a clean pocket, you can bet on him finding Hill and Kelce to make plays. But in a high-scoring game with two elite quarterbacks, the better defense that can do just enough swings this matchup. Ultimately, we give that edge to Buffalo. One thing is almost certain, the winner will win the AFC title game next round and head to Los Angeles for a fantastic Super Bowl.