The highly anticipated AFC Championship Game rematch is what NFL fans wished for, with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs seeking a conference title game defense against the Buffalo Bills -- the league's hottest team remaining in the postseason. Buffalo's only loss since falling to Kansas City in Week 6 was on a Hail Mary throw from the Cardinals' Kyler Murray on the final play of the game, showcasing how good the Bills have been since that defeat.
If there's any team that can take down the Chiefs' potential dynasty, it's Josh Allen and the Bills -- which makes this matchup the game of the day on a loaded conference championship Sunday. Both these teams -- and this AFC Championship Game matchup -- have significantly changed since their meeting in October. Here's how both the Chiefs and Bills have changed since that Monday night showdown in Week 6.
Patrick Mahomes' foot
Forget about Mahomes in concussion protocol, Mahomes is also reportedly battling a foot injury that could limit his mobility -- a crucial part of what makes him the NFL's best quarterback. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid doesn't seem too concerned if Mahomes can't run like he usually does. This is the AFC Championship Game, after all.
"Listen, it's hard to stop somebody from using their legs and running when they choose to run," Reid said to reporters this week. "So, if he can't do that, he's probably not past the protocol to be able to do that. So, that's kind of how that rolls. You don't want to put him out there if he can't move."
It's a one-way street regarding Mahomes this week. If he does play, the Bills defense will have an advantage if Mahomes is limited.
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Josh Allen's performance
Allen has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the game in 2020, but his Week 6 performance against Kansas City was arguably one of his worst games of the season. In not so ideal weather conditions, Allen completed a season-low 51.85% of his passes for a season-low 122 yards in the loss, signaling Buffalo's worst offensive performance of the season. The 73.4 passer rating was Allen's second-worst of the year.
Based on the way Allen has played this year, it will be hard for him to be worse than he was in Week 6.
The Bills have improved
Buffalo is 11-1 since the loss to Kansas City, emerging as one of the best teams in the NFL. The Bills have won eight in a row and seven of those contests are by double digits. The game against Kansas City was an anomaly compared to what the Bills defense really is.
The Bills allowed a season-high 245 rush yards and allowed the Chiefs to own the time of possession in the loss (Chiefs held the ball for 37:45 compared to the Bills' 22:15), a game where Buffalo did not have starting linebacker Matt Milano available. Since that game, the the Bills have held teams to 119.2 rushing yards a game. Buffalo allowed just 21.3 points per game and 343.9 yards per game against teams not named Kansas City, a team the Bills allowed 26 points and and 466 yards against in Week 6.
Buffalo averaged 26 points per game in the first six games, but averaged 34.5 points per game over the final 10 games. Buffalo is a much better team than the one that played against Kansas City in Week 6.
The story of the first matchup was the dominance of Edwards-Helaire, who rushed for a career-high 161 yards in the Chiefs' win. Edwards-Helaire was in contention for rookie of the year when he had that breakout performance, the third-highest single game rushing performance by a rookie in franchise history. Edwards-Helaire didn't even rush for 161 yards over the next four games, and his highest rushing yardage total the rest of the season was 79 -- the game where the he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 15 and hasn't played since.
While Edwards-Helaire's injury designation has not been revealed, he "got some work" in Wednesday's practice according to Reid. We'll see if Edwards-Helaire plays Sunday or not, but the Chiefs rushing attack has another option that didn't play in Week 6.
Bell was not available for the first matchup with the Bills, even though he signed with Kansas City four days before the game (couldn't play due to the NFL's COVID testing procedures). Bell recorded 15 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown in a Week 15 win over the New Orleans Saints, but only has nine carries for 36 yards since. He only had two carries for six yards in the AFC divisional round win over the Cleveland Browns while taking a backseat to Darryl Williams (17 carries, 94 yards).
Even though Bell appears to be out of the rotation, Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy always have a plan in place regarding the running back rotation. Don't be surprised if Bell plays a major role Sunday, whether Edwards-Helaire plays or not.
No COVID rescheduling of the game
The Chiefs-Bills meeting in Week 6 was rescheduled to a Monday night due to the Tennessee Titans COVID-19 outbreak (the first major COVID outbreak in the 2020 season), which caused the first schedule reshuffling. The Bills had their Week 5 game against the Titans in Nashville moved from Sunday to a Tuesday, which caused their originally scheduled "Thursday Night Football" matchup with the Chiefs to be moved to Monday night -- keeping the game in front of a national audience.
The timing did affect the Bills, who put up a season low 206 yards of offense in the 26-17 loss. Buffalo also had a season low 122 pass yards in what was Allen's worst game of the year.