This AFC Championship Game will be headlined by both quarterbacks -- who arguably have two of the best arms in the entire NFL -- in Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, as the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs go head-to-head at Arrowhead Stadium with a trip to Super Bowl LV on the line.
Mahomes will be playing in his third consecutive conference championship, while this will be the first for Allen -- who has brought the Bills to the AFC title game for the first time since 1993 (Allen was born in 1996).
When these two teams met back in Week 6 during the regular season, it was Mahomes' Chiefs that got the better of the Bills, 26-17. How will this game turn out with the stakes as high as they possibly could be? We're about to find out.
Before we preview this game further, let's make sure you know how to catch all the action on CBS All Access. Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, and Tracy Wolfson will be on the call.
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In their previous matchup back during the regular season, Buffalo's inability to slow down rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a major factor in their losing effort to the Chiefs. In that game, the first-round rookie rushed for 161 yards on 6.2 yards per carry and also caught all four of his targets. Since then, however, Edwards-Helarie has been inactive dating back to Week 15 due to ankle and hip injuries and the Chiefs have not had a player total over 100 yards rushing since. While they may dodge the rookie in this matchup, they could still end up having their hands full with Darrel Williams, who has proven to be a solid replacement coming out of the K.C. backfield. Buffalo was able to earn a win over the Ravens in the divisional round but they did allow 150 yards on the ground on 4.7 yards per carry, so that area will be a spot where Andy Reid may want to attack again on Sunday no matter who he has available.
Meanwhile, the daunting task for the Chiefs defense will be trying to slow down Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Kansas City likely won't find much success stopping Diggs in man coverage as he's totaled 64 receptions for 919 yards in those one-on-one situations this year (including playoffs). While the easy solution would be to shift more coverage towards Diggs, Buffalo does have weapons like Cole Beasley, John Brown, and others that have the ability to break a game open as well, which creates quite the double-edged sword for any secondary.
As for Allen, he's enjoyed a wonderful breakout this season and has shown that he can move the chains in a number of different ways. Of course, most defenses will try to bring pressure on a quarterback in an attempt to slow him down, but that may have the opposite impact on Allen, who thrives in that setting. When defenses have pressured him with five or more rushers this season (including playoffs), Allen has 139 completion for 1,723 yards, which are both first in the NFL. His 15 passing touchdowns under the same circumstances rank tied for third in the league.
Of course, Patrick Mahomes is no walk in the park for Buffalo's secondary either. However, the health of the defending Super Bowl MVP drastically impacts how this game is viewed. If he's 100% and looks like the quarterback that we saw in the first half last week, we could be in for quite the shootout. In that first half against Cleveland, Mahomes was setting himself up for a monster game, passing for 233 yards on 19 completions and two total touchdowns.
In that Week 6 win, the Bills elected to not blitz Mahomes at all, which makes sense when you see that his pressure stats are similar to, if not better, than Allen's. While Mahomes is dangerous no matter where he is on the field, keeping him inside the pocket is the best option in this game of pick your poison. He has a better passer rating, air yards per attempt average, and TD-INT ratio when outside of the pocket as opposed to being inside. With that in mind, you could see a similar conservative effort by the Bills front in this matchup on Sunday.
The NFL odds over at William Hill Sportsbook have the Bills as a three-point underdog as they head into Kansas City to square up against the defending champions. I like the dogs in this matchup and it really centers around Kansas City's inability to separate as of late. While they may have won their last eight games with Patrick Mahomes under center, those wins have come by six points or fewer. With Josh Allen and Bills white-hot coming into the AFC Championship, they have the quarterback and weapons to go toe-to-toe with Kansas City's offense. To see what the other CBS Sports experts think of this matchup, click here.