This divisional game will prove many things for the Bills and Chiefs. First, can Mahomes win a playoff game on the road? This will be the first time in 12 playoff appearances (not including three Super Bowls) that Mahomes will be tested outside the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium and into the teeth of the Bills Mafia at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY. Can Josh Allen get over the Mahomes hump and lay claim he’s the next great quarterback?
The Southtown area of Buffalo is known for two things: snow and the Bills. This game could establish an overwhelming case for Patrick Mahomes as the greatest ever to play the game. It also has the potential to make a case for Josh Allen as a championship-caliber quarterback. A lot is on the line for both teams.
I don’t believe for a moment that the high stakes of this game are lost on Andy Reid or his staff. This moment will either prove the pundits are correct about the Chiefs this year and expose Brett Veach and his staff as having missed the mark in building this team or solidify the dynastic potential of the Kansas City Chiefs Football Club.
Regardless of the outcome, we will be treated to one of the most fantastic athletic competitions on live television. I am excited, as well as the Chiefs Kingdom is, for this game. As a fan and a writer, I can’t think of another game I have had such a feeling about. Okay, Super Bowl LIV was the other one because of the 50-year gap in championships.
At the risk of sounding like a homer, the Chiefs will win this game. I don’t know how convincingly, but I think they will. Last week’s tilt against the Dolphins showed us a lot of the potential and reminded us about how fragile this offense can be.
The bright spots were Rashee Rice putting up 130 yards on eight catches and Patrick Mahomes not throwing any picks. Isiah “Pop” Pacheco put another 89 yards on the ground and a score for good measure. Pop is coming into his own as an angry runner. The Chiefs need a similar number two running back and a Jerrick McKinnon-type for third downs. Hopefully, that will be addressed in free agency. Travis Kelce did put up 71 yards but also dropped three passes.
The dropped passes have plagued Kansas City all year, and I hope it won’t continue to haunt them this week. The Chiefs need to play a complete game. All three phases must be clicking, or this will be the last game of the season for them.
Even though the defense only sacked Tua Tagovailoa twice, they got in his grill five times, and the constant pressure from Steve Spagnuolo calling blitzes gave Tua happy feet for most of the game. The defense also came up big by limiting Tyreek Hill to 62 yards, and the one score Miami had come on Hill’s second effort when he scooted past Trent McDuffie.
L’Jarius Sneed is an actual shutdown corner. He constantly jammed up Hill at the line of scrimmage, so much so that Hill tweeted after the game that Sneed “jammed me to Cancun.” The Chief’s defensive secondary, I believe, is the best in the NFL. They have kept a lid on opposing receivers all around, and that’s why they had the 2nd ranked scoring defense during the regular season. The Chiefs also got their hands on six passes, including one interception by Safety Mike Edwards.
The Chiefs’ defense is ready for the Bills, and there’s a good chance that Spag’s defensive plan will include plenty of alternate looks that confuse Josh Allen. However, when Allen gets spooked out of his designed plays, he will make the defense pay with his running ability.
If he decides to take off, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City defenders reintroduce Josh Allen to the hard turf at Highmark. Remember the adage: it’s hard to beat the same team twice a season. Allen and company barely won the last game, but for the Kadarius Toney lining up in the neutral zone penalty.
Mahomes is the ultimate playoff competitor. He approaches and prepares for the post-season like a thoughtful general. While Andy Reid and staff prepare the game plan, Mahomes is preparing to execute based on what is presented at the line of scrimmage. Watch and see if he changes plays after lining up. I guarantee he will. These are the games in which Reid typically unshackles Mahomes because of what QB1 is seeing.
Buffalo will try some things to confuse Mahomes. Head Coach Sean McDermott will call a defense that will work to get Mahomes off his game. The only problem is McDermott must think of the whole team. His defense is banged up and will likely end up chasing a reinvigorated and motivated Kansas City offense. Don’t forget, the Chiefs are 2.5-point underdogs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out” for that reason. Buffalo may find out early.
The Bills have the home-field advantage, but that also leaves them with all the pressure, with terrible weather and a depleted line-up on a short week. I don’t plan on seeing the Chiefs lay down on this one. Both teams will fight hard in this game. Kansas City has enough in the tank to pull this game out. Like I said last week, they may pull out things we aren’t expecting. Could it be a more profound playbook game plan? Could they reconfigure looks and execute more effectively?
No matter what, this game will entertain. Buffalo will throw every possible playmaker at Mahomes and company. Look for DL Ed Oliver and DE Leonard Floyd to try to get Mahomes. LB A.J. Klein will try to disrupt the running game in the secondary. Safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde will try to disrupt the passing game along with CB Dane Jackson. The Bills still have some juice on defense, and Andy Heck’s crew needs to be ready for the onslaught.
I expect both teams will play to their strengths. It comes down to who wants it more. The Chiefs have something to prove to the NFL. The naysayers have been vocal all season. I love it when Patrick Mahomes reminds the league of why the Chiefs are relevant now and why they will be relevant for years.
Chiefs 28, Bills 17