Chiefs slight home favorites ahead of Bills rematch
The debate about who is the better AFC quarterback, Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, plays out Sunday with another duel in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Buffalo Bills claimed a convincing 38-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5 and return to the scene Sunday at Kansas City, Mo., where the Chiefs have won five straight postseason games.
The Chiefs opened as 2.5-point favorites at PointsBet, but the line has moved to 1.5 with Kansas City backed by 56 percent of the bets and 64 percent of the money. The line is also 1.5 at DraftKings, where it’s the Bills who have been backed by 51 percent of the bets and 56 percent of the money.
Mahomes ascended quickly to elite status by leading the Chiefs into the AFC championship game each of his first three seasons as a starter and split two Super Bowl outcomes the last two years.
His motivation surfaced in the wild-card round last week when Mahomes directed Kansas City on six straight touchdown drives, including five scoring strikes, in toppling Pittsburgh 42-21.
“I really like winning,” Mahomes said when asked if he can summon a special gear. “That’s the end of it.”
His 404-yard passing performance was tops for any NFL quarterback in the wild-card round but now he faces a talented Buffalo back end that features Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.
“They’ve done everything that we’ve asked and they’ve gone above and beyond, really,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said of his talented safeties.
Allen also fired five scoring strikes and drove Buffalo to touchdowns on all seven of its non-kneeling possessions as it walloped New England 47-17. Yet Allen, despite the victory in Kansas City in Week 5, knows what’s at stake in another showdown against Mahomes and the Chiefs.
“They’re what we aspire to be,” Allen said, mindful the Bills fell to the Chiefs, 38-24, in last year’s AFC championship game at Kansas City.
The Kansas City defense Allen opposes has improved dramatically since the Week 5 mismatch, when the Chiefs played without starters Chris Jones and Charvarius Ward and had not nabbed key midseason acquisition Melvin Ingram. Since then, the defense has sparkled.
“I wouldn’t say we owe them one,” Ingram said. “We’re just going to try to win a playoff game and I’m only trying to be a piece to the puzzle.”
After an abysmal start that found the Chiefs ranked 30th or worse against the run and pass during a 3-4 start, they transformed to win 10 of their last 11. They have not been as careless with the ball, though they did allow the Steelers a touchdown return last week by fumbling a sloppy handoff.
Allen poses a complete threat whether throwing the football or taking on tacklers, either by design or improvisation. He completed 21 of 25 passes in the rout of the Patriots while adding 66 yards on just six carries. Yet he understands the Chiefs will offer wrinkles different from Week 5.
“They’re throwing so many looks at quarterbacks right now and bringing pressure from everywhere imaginable,” Allen said.
Allen noted the difficulty in playing on the road before a Kansas City fan base accustomed to postseason success, but the taste of falling short of a Super Bowl bid a year ago remains bitter.
“We don’t want to have that feeling that we had there last year,” Allen said. “We know our season ended there last year and now we have to do everything in our power to put our foot forward and make sure it doesn’t end there this year.”
Buffalo finished as the NFL’s top-rated pass defense while also securing 30 takeaways. Yet the Bills are without Tre’Davious White, who has been out since Week 12. Mario Addison is dealing with a shoulder strain suffered against the Patriots.
Kansas City continues to assess Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder), though he is practicing. Jerick McKinnon stepped up against Pittsburgh and provided 142 yards on 18 touches. McKinnon’s impact could be critical again with Darrel Williams nursing a sore toe.
–Field Level Media