This is the second time the Chiefs will have faced the Bills this season and the fifth time they’ve faced Buffalo in postseason play dating back to 1966. Once again, you can toss out all the history between these two teams. During the playoffs, anything can happen. Both clubs will be highly motivated to get the win as the winner claims the right to host the AFC championship game.
With all of that in mind, here are three things that we’ll be keeping an eye on during the course of the game on Sunday:
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The Chiefs opened as 2.5-point favorites over the Bills, but the line has since lessened to 1.5-point favorites. Since Patrick Mahomes became the starting quarterback in Kansas City in 2018, the Chiefs have never been less than a 2.5-point favorite at home. That’s in a total of 37 games played at Arrowhead Stadium, including playoff games.
Mahomes has never been an underdog at home. While that technically remains true here, this is the closest the team has been to an underdog at home since he’s been the starter. As 1.5-point favorites, they’re practical underdogs heading into this game. The media-contrived narrative that this is the time for the Bills and Josh Allen doesn’t make it feel any less like the Chiefs are underdogs at home either.
This K.C. team tends to play some of their best football when they’re doubted. We’ll see if that’s the case when they take the field Sunday afternoon.
Not the same Chiefs team (especially on defense)
AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann
It might be an NFL cliche, but this is not the same Chiefs team that the Bills faced back in Week 5.
Chris Jones and Charvarius Ward, arguably two of the team’s most important defensive starters, sat out with injuries. Juan Thornhill played just 44% of the snaps on defense while Daniel Sorensen played 100% of the snaps. Sorensen was the punching bag for Buffalo in that game. He surrendered two long receptions for 114 yards and a score, accounting for more than a third of Josh Allen’s passing yards. Thornhill has since replaced Sorensen as the starting free safety on defense.
Perhaps the most important difference on that side of the ball might be the addition of Melvin Ingram. He’s been called the catalyst behind the Chiefs’ defensive turnaround. He also happened to dominate the Bills back in Week 1 when he was with the Steelers, notching five pressures against LT Dion Dawkins.
Moving to the offense, the Chiefs have become entirely more well-rounded than they were back in Week 5. Patrick Mahomes is spreading the ball around to many different receivers and not feeling the pressure he was early in the season to push the ball down the field. The offensive line is much sturdier than it was in the early goings of the season when they were still building chemistry. That is especially true in the run game.
Will these changes make a big difference this time around? It feels like they have the potential to turn the tides for Kansas City.
Josh Allen vs. the Chiefs' blitz
AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann
Steve Spagnuolo loves to blitz.
It’s no secret that Spagnuolo is aggressive with his pressure packages and in games where it can be seen as an advantage, he tends to blitz frequently.
Among the remaining playoff QBs, Bills’ Josh Allen has the worst passer rating and EPA per play against the blitz. He also struggles the most with man coverage, which the Chiefs play at a higher rate than any remaining playoff team. This is a combination that is ripe for Kansas City playing their type of game on defense and being able to find success.
While Allen isn’t the best passer under blitzing pressure, there is some risk associated with blitzes with man coverage. If you don’t bring him down or force an errant throw, he’ll be taking off and torching you on the ground with his legs. The defense will need to be disciplined with those pass-rush lanes or they run the risk of surrendering a big play on the ground.
Expect the defense to live and die by the blitz in this one. Calling them in the right spots and making sure they’re effective could be the difference between a win or a loss.