The next chapter in the great rivalry of young quarterbacks continues as Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills head West to Missouri to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs today (6:30pm ET Sunday; Live on TV: CBS).
While Mahomes and company may be looking for revenge for an early-season loss to Buffalo, Allen will be looking for redemption for last season’s AFC Championship loss against Kansas City. This is a rematch you won’t want to miss.
From Not-So-Wild Cards to Divisional Upsets
The NFL’s wildcard weekend gave way to a series of major blowouts as top seeds emerged victorious in all but two of the weekend’s six matchups. Coincidentally, the two games that saw the lower seed win, were the only two closely fought, competitive games of the first round. But where the wildcard round failed to provide a proper dose of excitement, the divisional round has so far made up for it. In both of Saturday’s divisional rounds, not only did the game come down to a game-winning field goal in the closing, but both games also resulted in the highest remaining seeds going down. Both the Green Bay Packers, top seed in the NFC, and Tennessee Titans, top seed in the AFC, fell in dramatic fashion.
Today’s divisional round matchups are on paper, just as anticipated and expected to be perhaps just as close. In the NFC, the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers go into their contest knowing that if they win, they’ll host the NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers. The same goes for the Bills and Chiefs as the winner will host the AFC Championship against the Cincinnati Bengals. And yes, Saturday made it seem like home field advantage wasn’t much of an advantage at all, but when it comes to the Chiefs and Bills, it could be a much different story. Anyway, on with our big-game predictions and picks for this preview.
Can the Bills Record Historic Win Over Mahomes?
On October 10th, the Bills got a reminder of just what it is like to play at Arrowhead, one of the NFL’s fiercest stadiums. Except unlike in the playoffs the year prior, in less than ideal conditions the Bills persevered, defeating the Chiefs by a whopping 18 points. It is worth noting, however, that this game came before Kansas City made a season-altering turnaround. It is also worth noting that the loss was the Chiefs only home loss on the season and only their third home loss in the last two seasons.
As easy as it would be for the Bills to rest on their laurels, beating Kansas City at home, for the second time this season, will be an arduous task. The Chiefs don’t lose to opponents twice. It has only happened once in the Mahomes era and that was against the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots, who went on to reach the Super Bowl that year. Mahomes has never lost to the same team twice in one season at home.
The Chiefs and Andy Reid are known for making adjustments and they did just that in the 2019 season. After losing to both the Houston Texans and Titans in the regular season, the Chiefs handedly defeated both in the playoffs en route to winning the Super Bowl. The Bills would be wise to take note of these games as they are the quintessential example of just how good Kansas City is at learning from their rare losses.
Now, that’s not to say that Buffalo can’t become the first team to beat Mahomes twice at home. If anyone is equipped to do so, it probably would be the Bills. Much like the Chiefs earlier this season, the Bills are a different team too. Because after the Kansas City win, the Bills sort of stumbled, going on to lose five of their next eight. It wasn’t a great stretch at all but after an overtime loss to the Buccaneers, the Bills righted their ship, winning their last four games to enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams. The Bills are healthy and are playing some of their best football, scoring over 27 points in each of their last five games. This includes a 47-point domination over the Patriots, in which the Bills recorded what is being called the NFL’s first-ever perfect game (seven possessions, seven touchdowns). If ever there was a team that is prepared to go shot for shot with the Chiefs’ next-level offense, it is the Bills.
Beyond Mahomes and Allen, Who Will Step Up?
We all know the prevailing storyline heading into this one. In 2017, with the 10th pick in the NFL Draft, the Chiefs, who had ironically enough acquired such pick thanks to a trade with the Bills, drafted Mahomes to be their QB of the future. A year later, with the seventh overall pick, Buffalo drafted Allen to do the same. There is no question that both these QBs have lived up to their draft selection and then some. And now, with back-to-back playoff appearances against each other, some are even likening this budding rivalry to the next Tom Brady-Peyton Manning, who faced each other in the playoffs five times during their future Hall of Fame careers.
We may be a while away from Brady-Manning levels of success for these two, but it is certain that both Allen and Mahomes have had great young careers so far, with nowhere to go but up. But a football team is not just a QB, even as great as these two are. It comes down to the other players on the field and for the Bills and Chiefs, today’s Sunday showdown could well come down to which offensive players step up. Both the Bills and Chiefs have top-eight NFL receivers to turn to with Stefon Diggs (BUF) and Tyreek Hill (KC) both recording 100-catch, 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Both the Bills and Chiefs also have reliable tight ends. Travis Kelce’s prowess has long been known as he has emerged as the top tight end in the league. But Buffalo’s Dawson Knox has been a favorite of Allen and has stepped up huge when the Bills have needed a big play.
Where the biggest difference and therefore biggest X-Factor may be, is in the running game. The Chiefs will be without Darrel Williams, who stepped up well in Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s absence. Well Edwards-Helaire is back and that’s a plus, but Williams was a dynamic playmaker in his own right, rushing for 558 yards and scoring six touchdowns. His absence will be felt for KC. On the other end of the ball, is the player who could decide the game in Buffalo’s favor. Just over 800 yards on the season may not seem like a lot for a starting running back, but Devin Singletary has saved his best work for last. After opening the season with back-to-back games rushing for over 80 yards, Singletary struggled for the bulk of the season. But as Buffalo heated up, so did he, perhaps not coincidentally. Singletary has rushed for over 70 yards in three of his last four games, including last week’s drubbing of the Patriots. He also had two touchdowns in that outing.
We know these teams will be pass-happy and pass-heavy but you can never underestimate a good rushing attack. The Bills seem slightly more poised to have that with the injury to Williams in KC.
Buffalo Bills vs KCC Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict For this NFL Playoff Matchup Preview
In what is likely to be the closest line of these playoffs, Bills/Chiefs opened at -2.5 for KC but has dropped to as low as -1, which is almost nothing. The over/under, which rose as high as 55 at one point, has settled in at 54.5 generally with the major online sportsbooks for USA players, but 54 in a place, another incredibly massive margin. But we’ve seen what these offenses can do so that total shouldn’t scare you away. And dare we say it, we’re actually going to advise the over.
Both the Bills and Chiefs are scoring juggernauts so it’s hard to believe there will be too many possessions without points being put on the board. As for the spread, it’s a tough call. Almost a coin toss at this point. We are giving the slightest of edges to the Chiefs here. As mentioned in this preview above, no one has beaten KC twice at home in the same season during the Mahomes era, and that certainly doesn’t feel like it’s happened by accident. So take the Chiefs and the points at Arrowhead.
Here is a summary of those predictions and advised betting picks at best odds and lines available:
- Bet KCC -1pt on the spread @ -115 with BetOnline.
- Go over 54pts @ -110 with EveryGame (formerly Intertops).
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.