|40.6%||11||Opp. Rush %||42.1%||19|
|59.5%||22||Opp. Pass %||58.0%||14|
Against The Spread
Chiefs ATS at Home: 3-6
Bills ATS Away: 4-3
Chiefs ATS as Favorite: 6-9
Bills ATS as Underdog: 4-1
Sunday is the third straight AFC Championship Game for the Chiefs in as many years with Patrick Mahomes as their starting quarterback.
Like the NFC game, this is also a rematch from a Week 6 matchup when the Chiefs went into Buffalo and won 26-17.
That game was unique in a few areas. For one, it was originally scheduled to be a Thursday night game and then was moved back to Monday to COVID. On the field, we also saw the Bills alter their approach to facing Kansas City.
As our Dan Pizzuta has pointed out, there is no good way to defend the Chiefs. Buffalo went out of their way to play two-high safeties on 68.0% of their snaps as opposed to 34.0% otherwise in other games. Inviting the Chiefs to run, Kansas City obliged, rushing a season-high 46 times for 245 yards and a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, Buffalo — a team that called just one running play the entire first half last week versus Baltimore — ran the ball on 46.0% of their play calls, their third-highest rate in a game this season. Limiting possessions on both sides of the ball is not overly effective. Kansas City had the ball for 37:45 in the game and still scored on five of their eight possessions with just two punts.
There are a few reasons to believe neither approach offensively nor defensively will be a part of the rematch.
The Chiefs have skewed pass heavy since then regardless of teams playing them in a similar fashion. As Pizzuta pointed out in that article, a number of teams have attacked the Chiefs similarly and no team has thrown the ball more on early downs outside of the fourth quarter than the Chiefs at 68%. Kansas City has picked up a number of offensive line injuries and their backfield rotation is shaken up after rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed 26 times for 161 yards in that Week 6 game.
Defensively for Buffalo, Matt Milano and Trent Murphy did not play in that early-season game while on offense they were without Jon Feliciano and Josh Allen was apparently still working his way through a shoulder injury he suffered two weeks earlier.
Since that Week 6 loss, the Bills have gone 11-1 with that lone loss coming on the “Hail Murray” in Arizona. They have eight wins by double-digit points over that span, the most in the league.
While the Bills are hot, the Chiefs have won 11 straight games themselves when throwing out Week 17 when they rested a number of players. Kansas City has not covered a point spread or won by more than six points in a game since Week 8 against the Jets. The Chiefs have also been lackluster at home of late, scoring 22, 17, and 22 points over their past three home games (throwing out Week 17). Their wins have been much closer, but they are still wins and the Chiefs have closed out games.
Patrick Mahomes: After being forced out of the game last week in the third quarter, Mahomes must go through the concussion protocol this week to be cleared for Sunday. We will have to keep tabs on that throughout the week, but the seeds have already been planted that Mahomes has a neck injury. Nearly the entire world expects him to be available by the time we get to the end of the week.
Even exiting last week’s game early, Mahomes still posted 21.6 fantasy points, completing 70% of his passes for 8.5 yards per attempt while tacking on a rushing touchdown.
When these teams played earlier in the season, Mahomes completed a season-high 80.8% of his passes for 8.7 Y/A, although his average depth of throw was just 6.5 yards due to all of the shell coverage and Cover 2 the Bills played. Mahomes attempted just two passes in that game on throws 20 or more yards in the air. Despite the run-heavy approach and lack of downfield passing, Mahomes still posted 20.6 fantasy points.
Buffalo’s pass defense has picked up as the season has progressed. Since their Week 11 bye, they have allowed a 58.7% completion rate and 5.9 Y/A after a 67.9% completion rate and 7.6 Y/A prior, but Mahomes is far and away the best passer they have faced over that span.
Josh Allen: A lot has been made out of Allen’s Week 6 performance versus the Chiefs when he completed a season-low 51.9% of his passes for a season-low 4.5 yards per pass attempt. While his shoulder injury has been cited, and the weather (there was rain although Mahomes was fine and there was almost no wind), the Chiefs defense also deserves credit for their ability to disrupt Allen.
We highlighted it last week, but the one bugaboo through this incredible season for Allen is that he can still be flummoxed by pressure. If the pressure can get home, Allen was one of the most impacted passers under pressure versus throwing from a clean pocket. Under pressure this season, Allen’s yards per attempt dropped 2.0 yards and his completion rate decreased by 29.6%. Those marks were the 25th and 36th largest declines in the league.
In that Week 6 matchup, the pressure was a major issue. Allen was not sacked in that game, but he was under pressure for a season-high 54.8% of his dropbacks in that game, which was also the highest rate for any quarterback in Week 6. Under pressure in that game, Allen completed 4-of-13 passes for 44 yards with a touchdown and interception. When kept clean, Allen was 10-of-14 for 78 yards and a touchdown. Throw the shoulder injury and the rain excuses out from Week 6, the Bills just need to keep Allen clean on Sunday to access the best of their breakout passer.
Chiefs RBs: Despite logging some limited practice time last week, the Chiefs still held out Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has not played since Week 15 with hip and ankle injuries.
In his absence, the team leaned on Darrel Williams played 79% of the snaps and handled 17-of-19 backfield touches for 94 yards.
During the regular season, the Bills allowed 4.53 YPC to backs (21st) and 13.9 rushing points per game (22nd). They were susceptible to allowing big gains, ranking 31st in the league in carries to gain five or more yards (40.8%) and 25th in carries allowed to gain 10 or more yards (13.8%).
But through two games in the playoffs, Buffalo has allowed 5.0 YPC to backs. While they have lowered their rate of runs allowed to gain five or more yards (37.7%) in these two games, 17.0% of the backfield carries have gained 10 or more yards. To their credit, Buffalo did hold both Jonathan Taylor (3.7 YPC) and J.K. Dobbins (4.2 YPC) under their season average at the end of the day.
When these teams met back in Week 6, Kansas City backs accrued a season-high 40 touches for 227 yards. Even if Edwards-Helaire is back on the field, we cannot expect him to log another 30 touches and we should still see Williams handle a number of opportunities.
Devin Singletary: Singletary logged 84% of the offensive snaps last week with Zack Moss sidelined, giving him 89%, 89%, 63%, and 84% of the snaps in the four games that Moss has missed this season.
He also accounted for 83.3% of the backfield touches. The downside is that the Bills had no interest in using their backs against Baltimore as Singletary still only managed 10 total touches for 37 yards. The Bills called just one rushing play in the first half. This is not uncommon for the Bills as Buffalo running backs produced just 20.2% of their non-passing fantasy points this season, the lowest rate for any backfield in the NFL.
That could shift some here if adapting to their opponent as 35.6% of the fantasy points allowed by the Chiefs this season have gone to running backs (the sixth-highest rate in the league and behind only the Packers among playoff teams). The Chiefs allowed 4.5 yards per carry to backs (20th) and allowed 141.8 total yards per game to opposing backfields during the season (28th), with eight different backs hitting 100 yards from scrimmage, but allowed just 10 touchdowns to opposing backs, which was tied for second in the league.
But when these teams met in Week 6, Buffalo backs totaled just 16 touches for 55 yards.
Tyreek Hill: Hill continued to do heavy lifting in the Divisional Round, securing 8-of-10 targets 110 yards, the most catches and yardage he has posted in a game since his 13-269-3 bonanza in Week 12.
Buffalo has done a good job limiting Hill from beating them in their limited sample facing him on the field. In two meetings versus the Bills, Hill has had games of 7-41-0 and 3-20-0, seeing a season-low three targets when these teams met back in Week 6. That also came during a stretch when Hill topped six targets just twice over his opening eight games of the season. The Chiefs have done a much better job of feeding Hill over the back half of the season, with him receiving double-digit targets in six of his past eight games.
One other interesting component of that first game is that although Hill did next to nothing tangible, he ran 24 routes from the slot while all other Kansas City wideouts ran 23 combined. The slot is where we have wanted to attack Buffalo more this season, so if that happens again, it will be easy to see Hill turn in a better game in this rematch.
Buffalo is seventh in the league in receptions allowed to opposing WR1 (4.8 per game) and 10th in yardage allowed to those wideouts per game (63.3), but did allow opposing lead wideouts to catch eight touchdowns (21st).
Stefon Diggs: This game features the two best wide receivers in the AFC this season. Diggs is on a tear. After catching 8-of-11 targets for 106 yards and a score last week, Diggs has now matched an NFL record with six or more receptions in 15 consecutive games played.
Diggs now has reached 100 yards in five of his past six games played with at least 92 yards in nine of his past 11 games. He is also finding the end zone. After scoring just four times through his opening 12 games of the season, Diggs has scored six times over his past six games with a trip to the end zone in four of those games.
The Chiefs are seventh in the league in points allowed per game to opposing WR1 (13.8 points per game) and held Diggs to 46 yards back in Week 6, his second-lowest total of the season, but Diggs did still catch 6-of-8 targets with a touchdown.
John Brown: After being blanked on four targets in the Wild Card Round, Brown bounced back to catch 8-of-11 targets for 62 yards against the Ravens. The 29.7% target share that Brown had last week was a season-high and just the fourth game this season in which he received more than six targets in a game.
Brown has yet to hit 100 yards in a game this season. When these teams played in Week 6, Brown secured none of his four targets. He played 96% of the snaps, but was playing through injury and outright missed the following game.
The Chiefs were solid against opposing wideouts this season, allowing a 59.6% catch rate on wideout targets, which was second in the NFL and 7.5 yards per target to the position (fifth). Browns wideouts caught 13-of-18 targets for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs last week.
Cole Beasley: A week after Brown put up a goose egg, it was Beasley’s turn this past week as he failed to catch either of his two targets. Those two targets matched a season low. Although he is playing through a late-season knee injury, Beasley still ran a pass route on 72.5% of the team dropbacks after 78.0% in the Wild Card Round. His lack of opportunity was just happenstance.
Running 90% of his routes from the slot, Beasley is second in the league in slot receptions (85) and the only wide receiver to have over 1,000 yards from the slot (1,005) on the year. Chiefs cornerbacks allowed just one touchdown in slot coverage this season while allowing four total touchdowns from the slot this season on their 30 passing touchdowns surrendered.
Gabriel Davis: Davis was also shut out last week on four targets. After running a pass route on 58.5% of the team dropbacks in the Wild Card Round, Davis ran a route on just 32.5% of the dropbacks last week.
In 11 games played with John Brown active, Davis is averaging just 2.9 targets per game with two or fewer receptions in eight of those games. He leads the team with a 17.4 average depth of target and 17.5 yards per reception if chasing a big play. The Chiefs are seventh in the league in completion rate on throws over 15 yards downfield (37.6%), but did allow eight touchdowns on those attempts, which was tied for 14th.
Chiefs WRs: The Chiefs held out Sammy Watkins last week as he is still recovering from a calf injury. We will follow his status throughout the week. If available, Watkins only managed a 37-421-2 line in 10 games this season while averaging a career-low 11.4 yards per reception, but he has typically shown up in the postseason for the Chiefs. In five career postseason games with Kansas City, Watkins has had a low of 9.6 PPR points with games of 6-62-0, 4-114-0, 2-76-0, 7-114-1, and 5-98-0.
With Watkins out, Mecole Hardman ran 34 pass routes (4-58-0), Demarcus Robinson 31 routes (1-14-0), and Byron Pringle 18 routes (2-14-0).
Hardman has four or fewer receptions in every game but one this season, but has been more involved than Robinson to close the season. Over the past three games with this offense intact, Hardman saw 19 targets compared to just seven for Robinson if chasing an ancillary piece of Mahomes. Hardman has also run 53.6% of his routes from the slot compared to just 15.6% for Robinson, the area where we have targeted the Bills more with wide receiver production this season.
Travis Kelce: Kelce continued to wreck the middle of the field, catching 8-of-11 targets for 109 yards and a touchdown last week against the Browns. Kelce has found the end zone in each of the past five games and have secured seven or more receptions in nine straight games. Over those nine games, all those receptions have resulted in six 100-yard games with another falling just short with 98 yards.
When these played in Week 6, Kelce caught 5-of-7 targets for 65 yards and two touchdowns. Opposing teams have targeted their tight ends 23.6% of the time against the Bills, which is the fourth-highest rate in the league. On those targets, the Bills rank 23rd in catch rate (70.3%), 20th in yards per target (7.6 yards), and 18th in touchdown rate allowed (6.8%) to the position.
After allowing Colts tight ends to catch 14-of-16 targets for 136 yards and a touchdown in the Wild Card Round, Buffalo did do a great job in limiting Mark Andrews last week to just a 4-28-0 line on 11 targets.
Dawson Knox: Knox has reached double-digit PPR points just twice all season with more than two receptions in just two games. He is third on the team in end zone targets (six) if chasing a touchdown opportunity attached to Allen.
More Conference Championship Round Fantasy breakdowns from The Worksheet:
TB at GB | BUF at KC