The Buffalo Bills are playing for a spot in the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday. It’s hard to believe how far the team has come.
After notching home postseason wins against the Colts and Ravens, respectively, the Bills (13-3) will now travel to Kansas City where the Chiefs await. Will the Bills have enough to knock off the defending champs?
With that, here are eight things to watch for and a prediction ahead of the Bills’ AFC Championship game against the Chiefs (14-2):
Patrick Mahomes‘ health
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefsi. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
All week the health of quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been on the mind of everyone. Will he play? Most are anticipating he will, including Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott. Mahomes is currently in the concussion protocol, but there’s another issue to think about. Mahomes can run the ball and did so against the Bills in their Week 6 26-17 win. But he has a toe issue which has caused him to limp in recent weeks. Something to watch for as well.
Bills’ Josh Allen. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Not just Bills quarterback Josh Allen, but wide receiver Stefon Diggs also had a bad game, by their standards, against the Chiefs earlier this year. Allen had a season-low 122 passing yards and only completed half of his passes. If the Bills are going to win this one, Allen has to be better… and even though Diggs did score in Round 1, he has to improve on the 46 yards receiving he had as well.
Does health help the defense?
Matt Milano #58 of the Buffalo Bill. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
The Bills were beaten up by the Chiefs’ running game last time around. As a team, led by rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City had 245 rushing yards vs. the Bills in Week 6. In addition, tight end Travis Kelce had two touchdown catches. No. 1 wideout Tyreek Hill was held at bay, at least. Overall, not great games by the Bills defense, but they’ll undoubtedly be healthier this time around so that could play a big part in a potential improvement. Notably linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and cornerback Tre’Davious White were playing with injuries. In addition, linebacker Matt Milano didn’t play at all.
Time for a shootout?
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, left, greets Bills quarterback Josh Allen. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Are you ready for… a shootout? After a lower-scoring affair last week against the Ravens in a 17-3 win, and not exactly the biggest offensive explosion in Week 6, could the Bills and Chiefs have a shootout breakout on Sunday? 2020 final offense rankings in terms of yards per game:
Chiefs: 415.8 (1st)
Bills: 396.4 (2nd)
Does running game play any part?
Bills running back Devin Singletary. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
The Bills played their first game without Zack Moss since Week 5 on Saturday. Devin Singletary played little part, especially early. The first 20 plays called were all passing plays and in the game by Buffalo. Singletary averaged 3.6 yards per carry for the entire game. So against the Chiefs, who had the 21st and 26th ranked run defense the past two seasons, respectively, does the run game play any part for Buffalo’s offense? Keep an eye out for Allen potentially being used as a runner, too.
Many more fans in the stands
A general view of socially distanced Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders fans. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
For the game, the Bills have to be prepared to play a road game in the traditional sense, loud noises and all. After seeing first hand what a crowd of 6,700 can do to an opponent in Orchard Park the past two games, the Bills will have to be ready for an even larger crowd which will mostly be rooting for the other team. In total, between 16,000-17,000 fans will be at the upcoming AFC title bout. Does that increased number change things for the Bills? While teams are traditionally used to playing against much larger crowds, maybe there’s some rust involved with doing so since the 2020 season hasn’t seen many large crowds at games.
Will we see Sammy?
Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Will the Bills see their former first-round pick playing vs. them? Wide receiver Sammy Watkins has missed time recently with a calf injury and has been limited in practice this week. He will certainly be motivated to play his former team like everyone is, especially since he did not play in Week 6, either. Along with Watkins, another playmaker’s status to watchout for is Edwards-Helaire. As referenced, he tore up the Bills earlier this season but also did not play last week due to ankle/ hip injuries. He has also been limited in practice this week.
Who wins crucial down
Kansas City Chiefs’ Juan Thornhill, right, breaks up a pass intended for Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
The Bills and Chiefs are led by their offense. What’s the best thing an offense can do to help their defense? Score and stay on the field. Both of these teams do that well. The Chiefs were the NFL’s best third-down offense in 2020 while the Bills were fourth. What could play a part here as well is penalties, as the Chiefs took 105 total penalties this season, third-most in the NFL. The Bills were at 102. Those are potential drive killers or extenders.
Prediction: Chiefs 34, Bills 31
What a season it has been for the Bills and a trip to the Super Bowl would be the perfect way to cap it off. But the Bills are heading to Kansas City to face a team that lost only one game this year when their starters played. This KC team is loaded as a team can be and while the first game wasn’t quite a shootout, that’s the way the one is going to play out, we’ll predict. One can also envision another big game like last time for the Chiefs on offense… but not the one most are talking about. The run defense for the Bills has improved since Week 6, but overall throughout the entire year, their ability to cover tight ends hasn’t been consistent. Milano actually playing this time around helps, but Kelce is a beast that the Chiefs will feed over and over again. Naturally, if this prediction is wrong… good.