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Odds and Ends

Back Mahomes and the Chiefs at Arrowhead

by Kenny Ducey
Updated On: January 21, 2022, 1:32 pm ET

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The defacto AFC Championship Game is here between the Bills and Chiefs — two teams that would come in as heavy favorites to take out either the Bengals or Titans and head to the Super Bowl. With so much on the line and a tight spread, we're sure to get that first incredible playoff game we've been hoping for this winter. Let's find an edge.

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5) Total: 54

The Bills went into Kansas City in Week 5 and absolutely handed it to the Chiefs. They put up 315 yards through the air and 121 on the ground, taking the game by 18 points and stymieing the mighty Chiefs offense. Patrick Mahomes threw two picks and managed 272 yards, getting sacked twice.

There were many things about that game that don't ring true right now. First of all, that Chiefs team isn't this Chiefs team. Kansas City's defense has made great strides since the early part of the season and its offensive line, which had gone through a sort of rebuild, has really come together to protect Mahomes and give him time to throw.

Here's something else that isn't the same — the Bills are currently missing star corner Tre'Davious White. While they've managed to survive without him, we should consider that the games they've won since have come against Carolina, New England, Atlanta and the Jets. None of those teams exactly have amazing quarterbacks, and they're certainly not on the level of Mahomes. On top of that, the total QBR of their opposing quarterbacks has risen from 23.1 with White to 31.3 without him according to ESPN.

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One interesting note is how Buffalo has gotten by without White. It has increased its blitz rate from 23% to 33% to try and get by with a weaker secondary, and this is of particular concern against Mahomes. The former league MVP famously plays better against the blitz, thriving off his ability to throw on the run and let his talented receivers get open downfield.

I don't expect blitzing Mahomes to work, and I also don't know if Josh Allen and the Bills are ready for what could be a step up in defense from the Patriots. At the very least, Kansas City probably has the better pass rush.

The Bills had a great defense this year, but without White they're simply not as strong in the back which poses issues with a rush defense ranked 10th in DVOA. It's these small cracks in a seemingly-unstoppable team that lead me to believe the more-experienced Chiefs — who owned the Bills last season — get it done in one of the hardest venues to visit.

Edge: Chiefs ML (-125)

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Kenny Ducey

Kenny Ducey is a former member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, writing and editing for Sports Illustrated and Baseball Prospectus. His work also appears at DraftKings and The Action Network. Follow him on Twitter @KennyDucey.