The Chiefs will be playing in their third consecutive AFC championship game when they host the Bills on Sunday (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS). The reigning champions and conference top seed are two wins away from repeating in Super Bowl 55.
Kansas City is in the playoffs for a sixth straight season. Meanwhile, second-seeded Buffalo is in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons after breaking an 18-year drought in 2017.
The Chiefs last lost in the playoffs two years ago against Tom Brady’s Patriots. Will Josh Allen’s Bills deliver the same result in Arrowhead Stadium, fresh off their first two playoff wins in 25 seasons?
Assuming Patrick Mahomes returns from the head/neck injury that kept him out late of the Chiefs’ 22-17 win over the Browns in the divisional round, it will be a battle of passing quarterback heavyweights between him and Allen.
When the teams met in Week 6 of the regular season, the Chiefs won 26-17.
Here’s how Buffalo and Kansas City stack up against each other in all three phases.
Bills vs. Chiefs picks, predictions
Bills running game vs. Chiefs run defense
The Bills had the No. 20 rushing attack in the NFL in 2020, getting a little better down the stretch and getting a boost from the legs of Allen, who leads the team in rushing so far in the playoffs. The Chiefs ranked No. 21 against the run during the regular season. The Bills managed only 32 yards on 16 attempts against the Ravens in the divisional round. The Chiefs gave up 112 to the Browns, at a clip of 5.1 yards per carry.
Buffalo and Kansas City both tend to abandon the run when it’s not working early. The Bills are comfortable keeping the ball in Allen’s hands, knowing that he can often be their best rusher with his legs. But they are down to Devin Singletary to trust in the traditional attack with rookie running back Zack Moss done for the season with his ankle injury.
The Bills aren’t the best ball-control team and won’t be grinding away at the Chiefs’ biggest weaknesses. They will take the approach of being aggressive with Allen to the point he can try to outduel Mahomes in a high-scoring affair. Advantage: Chiefs
Chiefs running game vs. Bills run defense
The Chiefs aren’t known as a running team, either, but they finished in the upper half of the league, ranking No. 16 and averaged a healthy 4.5 yards per carry. The Bills ranked No. 17 against the run during the regular season. That was third-worst among playoffs teams behind the Titans and Chiefs.
There’s a chance rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire returns, but if not, the Chiefs would be fine pounding away with Darrel Williams, who needed only 13 carries to get 78 of his team’s 123 yards against the Browns, outproducing Nick Chubb. In the first meeting, the Chiefs ran for 245 yards, with Edwards-Helaire getting 161 of them. Because of the running game having so much success to complement Mahomes, they held the ball for nearly 38 minutes.
The Bills held their own against the Ravens’ mighty rushing attack, but they still gave up 150 yards to mostly Lamar Jackson and Baltimore’s backs. Before then, the Colts ran for 163 yards off 30 attempts in the wild-card meeting. Edwards-Helaire and Williams can be handfuls with hard-charging between the tackles. The running of Mahomes and backup Chad Henne were timely factors against the Browns. The Chiefs’ offensive line has done a good job adjusting to injury and is imposing its will again. Advantage: Chiefs
Bills passing game vs. Chiefs pass defense
The Bills weren’t far behind the Chiefs in prolific passing during the regular season, finishing two spots lower at No. 3. They draw the No. 14 pass defense here. The Chiefs haven’t gotten a lot of sacks (32) but they feature good inside-outside pressure with Chris Jones and Frank Clark in front of a versatile playmaking secondary led by Tyrann Mathieu. The Chiefs contained the big plays from Stefon Diggs and others in Week 6 but had their biggest (typical) struggles in the red zone.
The Chiefs can throw different coverage and pressure looks at Allen. Those were effective in keeping him off-balance in the first meeting. They can make the middle of the field daunting and be more calculated with their blitzes knowing his success rate against them.
Allen was great against the Colts and shaky against the Ravens. He may see the middle covered often, but he should do more downfield damage this week. The Bills also should have some big-play confidence after some of the Browns’ success at wideout against the Chiefs last week. Advantage: Bills
Chiefs passing game vs. Bills pass defense
The Chiefs’ top-ranked passing offense will try to stay hot against the No. 13 pass defense. They face an Bills inconsistent pass rush that isn’t much better than the one they saw from the shaky Browns last week.
The Bills had multiple lapses in coverage against the Ravens last week and were fortunate that Jackson and Tyler Huntley weren’t able to take advantage. The same won’t happen with Mahomes, so top cornerback Tre’Davious White needs more secondary help, especially inside from nickel back Taron Johnson and safety Micah Hyde when the Chiefs spread the field.
The Bills struggle more than most teams to cover high-quality tight ends and Travis Kelce has been the best of the best this season. He burned them for five catches, 65 yards and two TDs in Week 6. Tyreek Hill was limited to only 20 yards receiving in Week 6 as the Bills worked to take away the big play, but the Chiefs can scheme him open for deep shots or chances to run into open field after short passes. When Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are the on the field with Kelce and Hill, the Bills simply cannot put out the right combination of size, speed and quickness to slow all of them down for Mahomes. Advantage: Chiefs
The Chiefs tend to push all the right buttons with their personnel usage and play calling. Hill and Mecole Hardman provide wrinkles in the running game. The defense has developed better depth in the front seven, providing more creativity there, too. The Bills have their version of occasional big playmakers in wide receivers Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie. They also have been on a stretch of scoring defensively. The Bills have the confidence but the Chiefs are completely unflappable. Advantage: Chiefs
The Chiefs and Bills both have good kickoff return games with Hardman and Andre Roberts, respectively. The Bills are a little better at fielding punts and they have the punter edge with Corey Bojorquez vs. Tommy Townsend. The Chiefs have a money kicker in Harrison Butker with good range, but rookie Tyler Bass is headed to a long career with his accuracy in tougher conditions, too. Advantage: Bills
Reid is on fire coaching with his decision-making and motivation. Bieniemy and Steve Spanguolo are coming up with the ideal complementary concepts offensive and defensively. Reid’s former mentee Sean McDermott is also calling the right shots for his team, with huge schematic help from coordinators Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier. McDermott has been a rising star since getting the Bills’ gig, but Reid has greater big-game experience and the ring. Advantage: Chiefs
Mahomes and the Chiefs want to go down as one of the league’s all-time great teams and work to build a dynasty with a follow-up Super Bowl victory. The Bills have good mojo, too, as they try to restore the Super Bowl glory days with Allen. They have felt like they’ve gotten better all season and will take a fearless swing as underdogs. But the Chiefs are the new Patriots in the AFC with their intimidation factor and consistent execution in big moments. Advantage: Chiefs
AFC championship game prediction
The Chiefs (-3, 54 o/u) match up very well against the Bills because their run defense won’t get exploited as much as their passing offense won’t be slowed down much. Allen may try to play Mahomes’ big-armed, athletic game, but Mahomes is better performing against a lesser degree of difficult. Kelce and the running game get some help from Hill or Hardman on a homer run, while Allen faces intense pressure in a one-dimensional attack while playing catch-up. The Chiefs flip the script and limit the time Allen is on the field while they turn in another complete effort to lift up Mahomes.
Chiefs win 30-17 and cover the spread.