The AFC’s two best teams have arrived on a collision course: Can Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills knock off the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs?
The NFL’s decision to expand its playoff format for the 2020 season is already paying dividends for the league, and now we’re down to the final four in what’s been a thrilling postseason to date. During an exciting divisional round, the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs fended off a valiant comeback attempt from the Cleveland Browns to advance to the AFC Championship Game against the Bills.
[Watch the NFL Playoffs on DAZN: Get DAZN free for 30 days and stream the game live]
Patrick Mahomes left the game in the third quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and was subsequently ruled out of the game. Mahomes’ status remains unclear and it will certainly dictate how the AFC title game goes. If Mahomes is cleared for Sunday, the Chiefs’ offense should be able to go possession-for-possession with a Bills unit that can score on anyone. Buffalo’s defense played its best game of the season, completely shutting down Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in a 17-3 victory.
Meanwhile in the NFC, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers routed the Los Angeles Rams to set up a showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although the COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat to disrupt the playoffs, each of the four remaining teams survived the divisional round with the Super Bowl now in clear view.
Division Round Preview: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
FOXBOROUGH, MA – DECEMBER 28: Josh Allen #17 celebrates with Stefon Diggs #14 of the Buffalo Bills after Diggs’ touchdown during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs will be counted on to lead the Buffalo Bills past the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Date: Sunday January 24 at 6:40 p.m. ET
How to watch: Live on DAZN
This is the AFC title game we’ve all been waiting for, as the conference’s top seeds square off in what should be an offensive explosion – provided, of course, that Mahomes is indeed healthy for Sunday. Mahomes played with a noticeable limp against the Browns and was relatively undeterred for most of the contest. During the third quarter, however, Mahomes’ head slammed violently against the turf after getting tackled by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson, and the reigning Super Bowl MVP was slow to get up before being ruled out in the concussion protocol. His status will have a profound effect on the Chiefs’ offense, but this is a team with more weapons than anyone, and if Chad Henne is under center, it’s not like the reigning champs are automatically out of it.
Travis Kelce is regarded by some as the best non-quarterback in the NFL and Kansas City’s superstar tight end can serve as a genuine downfield threat for Mahomes or a nice safety valve for Henne, capable of making plays after the catch. Kansas City will likely deploy Tyreek Hill all over the field, in multiple roles, playing in the slot, or as the “X” receiver, or 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’s game-breaking speed is an element no defense can prepare for.
Buffalo’s prolific passing game was its strength all season, but the defense submitted a standout performance against Baltimore — a game plan so strong, that it very well could be the determining factor in defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier winning the Texans’ head coaching job. Taron Johnson’s 101-yard pick-six will go down as one of the brightest moments in Bills’ history and the slot cornerback was the best player on the field against the Ravens. The Bills’ secondary is the best one left in the dance, as Tre’Davious White bounced back from a rare off night and played at an All-Pro level, while the dynamic safety tandem of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have rarely been better. If Kansas City is without Mahomes, Buffalo’s secondary will be feasting for turnovers. If Mahomes is available, however, he’ll give Buffalo all it can handle, and Hyde in particular will have to be aware of Hill or speedy receiver Mecole Hardman bursting free on go routes.
Watch the NFL Playoffs on DAZN: Get DAZN free for 30 days and stream the game live]
Although Buffalo’s offense largely stalled against Baltimore, Stefon Diggs came to the rescue with eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Diggs is the engine of the Bills’ offense — when nothing is working, Allen knows he can turn to his favourite target to make plays against any corner in the league. Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis were both held without catches against the Ravens, something that can’t happen against the Chiefs if they are to advance to the Super Bowl, but Diggs and John Brown were good enough for the Bills to emerge with a two-touchdown lead. Buffalo has practically abandoned the run game, although Devin Singletary will get a handful of touches, while Allen will contribute with some designed runs, along with some scrambles out of the pocket.
If Mahomes is healthy, this is still the most dangerous team left in the playoffs, there’s not a single defence in the league that can contain for Kelce, while Hill and Hardman’s world-class speed 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.
Bills will win because
They are the hottest team in the league and have now proven they can win any type of game. Usually a shootout against the Chiefs is inadvisable at best, and reckless at worst, but the Bills, along with the Packers, are one of the few teams equipped to go toe-to-toe in an aerial fireworks show. Buffalo’s defense is quietly playing like an elite unit again and with both units firing on all cylinders, it’s hard to envision a more well-rounded team. Buffalo hasn’t lost since Nov. 15., and it will take Kansas City’s A-game to knock it out of the playoffs. If Mahomes is out, advantage, Bills.
What’s the NFL Playoffs schedule in 2021?