Image Credit: © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Yet another rematch of the Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs. Although these two teams aren’t as familiar with one another as the Bills and Patriots are, there is plenty of recent history in this matchup. Bills Fans remember a sour end to the season last year when the Chiefs toppled the Rumbling Herd 38-24 in the AFC Conference Championship game.
On the one hand, the Bills have already gotten their revenge by beating the Chiefs down 38-20 in Kansas City during Week 5. But the heartbreak remains. Winning a regular-season game means nothing once the playoffs are here. It’s always about the next one.
Only now Bills Mafia has the advantage and confidence inside, knowing they can dominate the Chiefs and even disrupt Patrick Mahomes, forcing turnovers. In Week 5, the Bills forced the Chiefs to turn the ball over four times, which tied for their most giveaways all season. With just one multi-interception game in his next 13 starts, Mahomes has since bounced back and even worked his way back into the MVP conversation.
Conversely, Mahomes was never tasked with facing another defense as strong as Buffalo’s. The Bills may have actually found some ways to consistently fluster Mahomes, which could carry over into this matchup.
Buffalo Bills Divisional Round game details, where to watch
- Sunday, January 23, 2022
- Start time: 6:30 PM ET
- TV channel - CBS, Paramount+
- Location - GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Matchups to watch
- Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde vs. Patrick Mahomes
Despite throwing a career-high 13 interceptions in 2021, six of them were tipped by a Chiefs player before getting picked off. According to Next Gen Stats, passes thrown by Patrick Mahomes averaged a 2.3 interception probability this season, which was the best mark in the NFL.
One of the ways teams have adjusted their coverage is by not blitzing him. Mahomes was blitzed on just 12% of his dropbacks, again the lowest rate in the NFL.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Bills blitzed 157 times in 2021, ranking 15th in total blitzes. We get a clearer picture when looking at their blitz rate, which measures how often a team blitzes per dropback. In this category, the Bills rank 13th, meaning they prefer to blitz fairly frequently.
The good news is, they’re effective. According to PFR, the Bills ranked No. 1 in the NFL in hurry percentage at 15.4%. It’s a full two percentage points ahead of the next-best team. They also had the best QB pressure rate according to PFR. Meanwhile, ESPN’s advanced stats suggest the Bills rank sixth in “team pass rush win rate.”
The Bills, as you very well know, excel at creating turnovers, ranking seventh in percentage of drives ending in an offensive turnover. Another, more impressive area of strength is ranking first in the NFL of the percentage of drives ending in a score, where the Bills’ defense allows points on just 28% of opposing possessions. The Detroit Lions ranked dead-last for comparison, allowing opponents to score on a whopping 48.9% of their possessions.
To top it all off, the Bills intercept passes on 3.6% of opposing passing attempts, which is the third-best rate in the NFL.
Of course, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are major reasons why. Poyer’s breathtaking interception in the Wild Card game was the most recent example of how quickly he can cover large amounts of grass. He’ll be asked to do much of the same when tasked to cover playmakers such as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
- Bills in pass coverage vs. Travis Kelce
While the Bills did a good job containing Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in Week 5, holding him to six receptions on ten targets for 57 yards and a touchdown, the three-time All-Pro practically wrecked the game during last year’s Championship game.
- Travis Kelce against Bills during 2021 playoffs - 13 receptions, 118 receiving yards, two touchdowns
The Bills have greatly improved after allowing the second-most yards to tight ends a year ago, allowing the fifth-fewest yards in 2021. But Kelce is a unique breed, one of the best in the game. One of the biggest keys to victory is preventing Kelce and Tyreek Hill from doing damage after the catch. This is where the Bills need to improve, missing the 10th-most tackles in the NFL as a team. If they don’t wrap up and bring the Chiefs’ playmakers down on the first attempt, things could get ugly once again.
- Bills run-stoppers vs. Jerick McKinnon
Forced to reach into the depths of their running back room with Clyde Edwards-Helaire nursing a shoulder injury, Jerick “Jet” McKinnon stepped up in a big way to help the Chiefs advance to face the Bills.
McKinnon racked up 142 yards from scrimmage on just 18 touches. That type of performance is something of a dream for Bills Fans to think of. McKinnon possesses the road-runner speed and agility that the Bills’ rushing attack lacks.
After such a performance, the Chiefs are expected to lean more on McKinnon going forward, still mixing in CEH if he’s healthy once again. This alone presents a different challenge for the Bills to defend. Usually shading most of their coverage toward Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, McKinnon’s game-breaking speed will force Leslie Frazier’s crew to leave more linebackers and safeties tasked with preventing McKinnon from making one cut and sprinting for 6.
McKinnon’s sudden emergence is an unfortunate factor to deal with, but if he’s not accounted for, the Bills could find themselves playing catchup instead of chewing out the clock late in the game. We’d much rather have Mahomes pressing than force Allen into uncompromising situations yet again.
© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Bills Divisional Round game prediction
- This season’s record: Buffalo Bills 11-6 AFC East champions
- Kansas City Chiefs: 12-5, first place in AFC West
You might as well call this an AFC Conference Championship rematch. If one were to ask who the favorites are coming out of the AFC, most would point to the Bills or Chiefs.
While the Bengals still have to face the Titans, the Bills-Chiefs matchup represents the true contenders in the conference. These high expectations make this the playoff game of the week. Whoever wins may very well end up as the eventual AFC representative in the Super Bowl.
They’re high expectations, but there’s been zero indication that this team’s leaders aren’t prepared for it. Look at offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for example. He’s one of the highest-regarded head coaching candidates in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, same exact story. Leslie Frazier is on the shortlist of several organizations looking to hire their next head coach, and he actually has three full years of experience at the helm.
But it’s not just the coaches making the calls. The players are more than prepared to take down the Chiefs in the playoffs. Don’t you think Josh Allen will have a chip on his shoulder this time around? Last year we saw the team lose their composure with the game mostly out of hand. One full year later, they won’t make the same mistakes.
Being that they’re the No. 2 seed, compared to Buffalo being No. 3, and with the Chiefs having home-field advantage and 70,000-plus fans at Arrowhead who will be roaring at full capacity, the Vegas oddsmakers have Kansas city favored by 2.5
Win or go home always creates the most suspense, and with their recent history, this game could go either way. The Bills are the hotter team coming into the matchup, but the Chiefs haven’t struggled by any measure as of late either.
Don’t get discouraged if the Chiefs get out to an early two-possession lead. While it’s not what anyone would want, the Bills have proven, they aren’t afraid to sling it all across the yard. Is there anyone else you would trust more when needing a comeback? Not me. I’m handing the keys to Josh Allen and plopping down on the couch with some snacks and beverages.
Last week’s 30 point blowout was incredible, but Mahomes isn’t anything close to a rookie. Fans tuning in should expect a very competitive battle down to the final whistle, with the Bills coming out ahead, going 2-0 against the Chiefs dating back to Week 5.
Josh Allen will put up 400-plus total yards, factoring in his ability to perform magic anywhere he goes. The Bills will force three Chiefs turnovers, setting up the Bills to host the Bengals in Buffalo. See you next week!
Game prediction: 34-27 Bills victory