AFC Championship Preview 2021

Josh Allen
Josh Allen
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

This year's AFC Championship Game, like the NFC Championship Game, is a rematch of a Week 6 game. Buffalo's first contest with Kansas City was much closer than the first meeting of Green Bay and Tampa Bay, and ended with Kansas City taking a 26-17 victory. This week's game may be similar, or it may be completely different. We may be able to learn something about each team's strategy by looking back at the Week 6 meeting. But what we definitely know is that these are not quite the same teams that met on that rainy October night in Buffalo.

In particular, the Buffalo defense has been much better in recent weeks while the Kansas City defense has declined. Buffalo ranked 30th in defensive DVOA for Weeks 1-6 at 13.2%. Since Week 7, and including the playoffs, Buffalo ranks sixth in defensive DVOA at -12.5%. Kansas City's defensive decline is clearer if we look just at pass defense. For Weeks 1-6, through that first meeting with Buffalo, Kansas City ranked fourth against the pass at -8.5% DVOA. Since Week 7, Kansas City ranks 19th at 9.8% DVOA against the pass. That includes last week's game against Cleveland, which was their best defensive performance of the last couple months.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether the Bills can slow down the Kansas City offense. That's very hard to do: Kansas City's only offensive game below average this year was the week Patrick Mahomes threw three interceptions against Miami. But a bigger question might be whether the Chiefs can slow down the Buffalo offense. Given how well the Bills are playing and the decline of Kansas City's defense until last week, that's going to be pretty difficult as well.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link. Game charting data appears courtesy Sports Info Solutions, unless noted. All stats represent regular season only, except for weighted DVOA and anything else specifically noted.

Buffalo at Kansas City

DVOA 23.8% (4) 23.0% (5)
WEI DVOA 38.0% (1) 25.5% (5)
Bills on Offense
DVOA 15.6% (5) 2.4% (18)
WEI DVOA 19.9% (4) 1.8% (18)
PASS 43.3% (3) 3.3% (13)
RUSH -15.0% (22) 1.2% (29)
Chiefs on Offense
DVOA -2.2% (12) 24.9% (2)
WEI DVOA -10.7% (8) 24.3% (3)
PASS 2.2% (12) 50.0% (2)
RUSH -8.2% (17) -3.9% (12)
Special Teams
ST DVOA 5.9% (4) 0.5% (17)
*Week 17 not included.

All readers can click here for the open in-game discussion thread. If you have FO+, you can click here to see all the matchup of DVOA splits for this game.

Note that we've removed all Week 17 stats for Kansas City from the table above, since the Chiefs sat so many starters on both sides of the ball that week.


Buffalo offense
Kansas City defense

Buffalo is a pass-first offense, although they don't necessarily have to be against Kansas City because the Chiefs are weak against the run. For the year, including playoffs, the Bills ran on only 30% of plays in the first half of games. That was the third-lowest rate in the league. (This includes scrambles as pass plays.) However, in six games against the 10 worst run defenses in the league, Buffalo's run/pass ratio increased to 38%. Even after adjusting for opponent, Buffalo was a little better against these defenses: -7.8% DVOA and 4.4 yards per carry against bottom-10 run defenses, compared to -21.5% DVOA and 3.8 yards per carry in the other 10 games. The one bad run defense that Buffalo really struggled against was ... Kansas City in Week 6. The Bills had only -30.6% DVOA and 3.4 yards per carry in that game. The Bills rushed on nearly half of their plays in the first half of that game. In the second half, after falling behind, they called only two runs.

The Bills did not struggle in the first game when Allen took the ball to run himself. His four designed runs included conversions on second-and-10 and third-and-2. And speaking of places where the quarterback often runs the ball himself, one place where it's good for the Bills to run is in short-yardage situations. Both of these coaches are aggressive on fourth downs. The Bills were only average running the ball in short yardage, converting 66% of the time, but the Chiefs defense ranked dead last, allowing 78% conversions on short-yardage runs.

So the Bills will mix it up a little more, but even with the Chiefs' weakness against the run it is more efficient for Buffalo to pass the ball. Their run offense only ranked 22nd in the NFL; their pass offense ranked third, trailing only Green Bay and Kansas City during the regular season. It's particularly good for the Bills to air it out right away on first down. They ranked first in pass offense DVOA on first downs and just 29th in run offense DVOA.

Numbers suggest that the Bills want to spread it out and spend a lot of time in 10 personnel with four receivers. They want to take advantage of their depth at the position, with rookie Gabriel Davis having an excellent season (10.7% receiving DVOA) as the fourth receiver. (Davis is listed with an ankle injury and has missed practice this week; if he can't play, the fourth receiver will be Isaiah McKenzie, a speed jitterbug who had two touchdowns in Week 17.) During the regular season, only Arizona used 10 personnel more often than Buffalo, and the Bills had 39.5% DVOA and 7.0 yards per play with this personnel group on the field. The Bills also excelled in 10 personnel in the first game against Kansas City. In 33 plays with 11 personnel, the Bills averaged 2.8 yards per play with -34.1% DVOA. But in 18 plays with 10 personnel, the Bills averaged 7.9 yards per play with 70.0% DVOA. (There's no sense in quoting season-long numbers about the Chiefs against 10 personnel, since Buffalo was their only opponent to use this grouping heavily.)

The Bills also had the league's biggest gap between DVOA in shotgun (third) and DVOA with Allen under center (18th). Both the passing game and the running game were better with Allen in shotgun. 

The Chiefs brought a lot of pressure against Josh Allen in the first matchup between these teams. SIS recorded pressure on nearly half of Bills pass plays (48.5%). For the season, Allen was one of the league's best quarterbacks under pressure, but that still means there was a big gap between his performance under pressure (-11.3% DVOA, 4.9 yards per play) and his performance without pressure (65.9% DVOA, 8.7 yards per play). As an aside, while Allen was the league's No. 3 passer with pressure by DVOA, Patrick Mahomes was the league's No. 2 passer with pressure. (No. 1 was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was unsustainably almost as good with pressure as he was without pressure.)

The Chiefs are probably going to bring a lot of pressure this week as well. For the season, SIS has the Chiefs ranking seventh with a 29% pressure rate on defense, and the Bills were just 27th with a 30% pressure rate allowed on offense. A lot of Kansas City's pressure comes up the middle, as defensive tackle Chris Jones tied for third in the league with 39 hurries. He's not the only danger on the inside; rookie Tershawn Wharton had 15 hurries this season. It's good for Buffalo that they have Jon Feliciano back in the lineup at right guard; he missed the first meeting of these teams.

Kansas City also brings pressure by bringing extra defenders. In the Week 6 matchup, the Chiefs blitzed on a little more than half of all pass plays. Five-man blitzes worked well, holding Allen to just 2.1 yards per play on nine plays. Bigger blitzes did not do well, as Allen had 8.6 yards per play on eight plays. During the entire regular season, Allen was very good against blitzes, with a slightly higher DVOA and roughly the same yards per play as when he faced four pass-rushers. However, Allen faced a ton of defensive back blitzes, more than any other quarterback in the NFL. Opponents sent at least one defensive back at Allen over 20% of the time according to ESPN Stats & Info. Buffalo's pass DVOA did drop a little to 7.8% on these plays. And it just so happens that the Chiefs send a lot of defensive back blitzes, more than any defense other than Seattle and Buffalo, and the Chiefs do well with these plays, with their defensive DVOA improving slightly to -0.7%.

One way to get away from the pass rush is to dump the ball off to your running back, assuming that he's not staying in to pass protect. Kansas City ranked 31st in DVOA against running backs in the passing game. However, in the first matchup, Devin Singletary had just one catch for 13 yards.

Derrik Klassen wrote in this week's Film Room about the Chiefs' frequent use of man coverage. They played 40% man coverage this year, one of the higher rates in the league. The played man and zone roughly 50-50 in the Week 6 game. Man coverage does allow Josh Allen to scramble, which he did four times in the Week 6 game with three conversions for a new set of downs.

For the season, the Chiefs were better in man than zone. They allowed 6.8 yards per pass and 47% success rate in man, compared to 7.6 yards per pass and 54% success rate in zone. And Josh Allen on the season had a lower success rate against man coverage (52% compared to 56% against zone) although he had most of his interceptions against zone (eight of 10). In Week 6, however, Allen was better against the man coverage. He averaged 5.6 yards per pass with a 50% success rate against man, including two DPIs but not including his four scrambles. He averaged 5.0 yards per pass with a 40% success rate against zone, plus the game-ending interception.

The Chiefs did not have L'Jarius Sneed in the Week 6 matchup, and the rookie fourth-round cornerback has had a very good year. He doesn't have enough targets to be ranked among cornerbacks, but he allowed just 5.1 yards per pass with a 56% success rate. Sneed plays mostly in the slot, but not entirely. Charvarius Ward was the weaker of Kansas City's other two cornerbacks. Ward allowed 7.4 yards per pass with a 50% success rate, both ranking in the 30s. Bashaud Breeland allowed 6.8 yards per pass with a 54% success rate, both ranking in the 20s. Breeland is in the concussion protocol but is probably going to play on Sunday night.

One last note: Kansas City had the worst red zone defense in the league by DVOA. However, there's some question as to how much that really matters, as the difference between defense overall and defense in the red zone doesn't seem to show any predictive value from one season to the next or from the first half of the season to the second half of the season. The Bills offense was as good in the red zone as it was overall.


Kansas City offense
Buffalo defense

Let's start with the elephant in the room. Yes, Patrick Mahomes is in the concussion protocol. There's a small chance that he will be unable to play on Sunday, but he has been practicing this week and all indication is that he will pass the necessary tests and start on Sunday night.

On the off chance that Chad Henne has to start the AFC Championship Game, obviously the Bills become substantial favorites. But this does not mean the Chiefs are toast! Andy Reid has a very good history with his backup quarterbacks. Last year, the Chiefs had 18.4% offensive DVOA in three games with Matt Moore (the game where Moore replaced an injured Mahomes, followed by two starts). This year, Henne managed the Chiefs to 5.9% offensive DVOA in Week 17 even though he was playing without his best offensive teammates. The Chiefs can still make it a game with their backup quarterback. They probably won't have to, and we'll write the rest of this preview assuming that Mahomes is the guy.

UPDATE: Mahomes announced on Friday afternoon that he's out of the concussion protocol and will start Sunday.

The biggest question about this side of the matchup is whether the Bills are going to play defense the same way they did back in Week 6, or whether they will mix things up. On the season, for example, the Bills blitzed 31% of the time, higher than the NFL average. In the Week 6 game, they essentially never blitzed at all; there is one play where more than four pass-rushers came but it was play-action and the defenders may have just been following the fake. Also on the season, the Bills played man coverage on 27% of passes, zone coverage on 61%, and some kind of mixture on 12%. In Week 6, they played nothing but zones. They played the entire game in nickel, with the safeties back, essentially inviting the Chiefs to run on them.

And the Chiefs did just that. Even in the first half of the game, before pulling out to a lead, the Chiefs had close to a 50-50 split between passes and runs. Those runs in the first half of the game gained 8.0 yards per carry. The Chiefs may want to be a pass-first team but they'll take 8.0 yards per carry every time. The Chiefs took advantage of big holes and broken tackles. The good news for Buffalo is that improved run defense has been a big part of their improvement on defense in the second half of this season. Buffalo allowed 16.3% run DVOA against Kansas City, close to their worst run defense game of the year. But since their bye week, including the playoffs, Buffalo has -24.2% run defense DVOA, seventh in the NFL. The return to health of linebacker Matt Milano has played a big role in that improved run defense.

The one place the Chiefs may not want to run is when we usually encourage teams to run: short-yardage situations. The Bills ranked seventh against short-yardage runs this year, allowing a 61% conversion rate. The Chiefs ranked dead last, converting these runs only 51% of the time. But their aggressiveness on fourth down is fine, because they were actually more likely to convert via the pass: including last week's game, the Chiefs converted 70% of passes in short-yardage situations (1 or 2 yards to go, goal line or third/fourth down).

Returning to the pass, safety Jordan Poyer made statements this week suggesting that the Bills may take a different defensive approach to the Chiefs this Sunday. That's probably a bad idea. If it means man coverage, well, Patrick Mahomes gained 8.4 yards per play against man coverage compared to 7.7 yards per play against zones, with the same success rate. Don't forget that he can scramble for good yardage on these plays, just like Josh Allen. (As for the foot injury Mahomes suffered last week, Andy Reid told reporters this week "I think he'll be OK with the toe part.") And if a different approach means blitzing Mahomes, well, it's going to get bad. Yes, the Bills liked to blitz this year, and they had slightly better defense with a blitz (-6.0%) than with four pass-rushers (7.6%). But Mahomes absolutely destroys the blitz. This year, Mahomes has a league-leading 78.2% DVOA when opponents blitzed him. And when opponents sent defensive back blitzes, something the Bills like to do a lot? Mahomes had 52.6% DVOA, still higher than his performance against the normal four pass-rushers.

The Bills' conservative defense from Week 6 actually did a pretty good job of slowing down the Chiefs passing game. Their biggest gain, 37 yards to Byron Pringle, came on a scramble drill. Tyreek Hill only caught three passes for 20 yards. It's Travis Kelce who might be the biggest problem for Buffalo. He had two touchdowns in the Week 6 game. Although the Bills had an average DVOA against tight ends, they did allow more passes and more yards per game than the league average. Kelce excels at finding holes in zones and also made Tremaine Edmunds look bad a couple times when the structure of the zone calls led to specific player-on-player matchups.

The other problem for the Bills is that if they're going to play the conservative defense, they need to accept that they aren't going to get a lot of pressure on Mahomes. As noted above when I mentioned how Josh Allen did against pressure, Mahomes was the second-best quarterback in the league when pressured this season -- but it's still better to pressure him than not. The Bills had a really hard time getting to him with just four pass-rushers despite some weaknesses on the Chiefs offensive line. SIS only recorded pressure on seven pass plays in the Week 6 game, with one sack. The same player never got marked down with specific pressure twice.

For the season, the Bills finished second in the league in ESPN's pass rush win rate. They were only 15th in SIS pressure rate, however, and they were below average at getting pressure rate with only four pass-rushers. (They got pressure on 23% of these plays, compared to a league average of 26%.) The Bills are going to have to bring pressure with their front four in order to disrupt the Chiefs offense a little bit. Even if they can limit the Chiefs to just a couple fewer first downs than they had in the Week 6 game, it could make a big difference. Buffalo's top defenders in hurries were Jerry Hughes (30), Ed Oliver (19), and Mario Addison (18).

Of course, the problem with bringing the pressure on Mahomes on early downs is that he'll still roast you on later downs. The Bills struggled with the pass on first down, ranking just 26th in DVOA, but the Chiefs "relatively" struggled on first downs, ranking only 12th in passing. However, Mahomes has a history of being unstoppable on third-and-long. This year, the Chiefs ranked first on third-and-medium (3 to 6 yards to go) and second on third-and-long, trailing only -- surprise -- the Los Angeles Chargers.


There's a surprising gap between these teams, as the Bills had one of the league's best units and the Chiefs were around league average. In truth, the difference between the teams probably isn't that big. The Chiefs' rating for this year is dragged down by one horrible special teams game in Week 3 against Baltimore. They were second in 2019 and 11th in weighted DVOA for 2020. The "true quality" of their special teams is probably closer to those rankings than to this year's No. 17 finish.

Interestingly, although punter Corey Bojorquez led the league in gross punting value, our metrics rate the Bills getting more value from kickoffs, punt returns, and kick returns. (Short version: Bojorquez had such a high gross average in part because he only kicked three times all year from the opposing side of the 50.) Andre Roberts has been one of the top return men in the NFL for years. Rookie Tyler Bass was average on field goals during the regular season, though he missed two kicks in the Buffalo winds last Saturday night.

For Kansas City, Mecole Hardman was average returning kickoffs and punts and had a 67-yard punt return touchdown against Miami. Punt returns were the biggest negative for the Kansas City special teams and that was fluky, as most of the negative value came from the occasional return attempt by Tyreek Hill (he muffed his one try) or Demarcus Robinson (remember the safety against New Orleans)? The other big negative was kickoff coverage, which was subpar (and allowed a touchdown in the Baltimore debacle mentioned above). Kicker Harrison Butker only missed two field goals during the regular season but missed six extra points (one blocked).


When two teams play each other in the regular season and again in the playoffs, our predictions for the second game should be guided much more by how well those teams played all season than by one specific game where they faced each other early in the year. Nonetheless, the Week 6 game between Kansas City and Buffalo can tell us a lot about the strategies these teams might follow on Sunday as they try to get past one another and make it to Super Bowl LV.

A lot of Buffalo's strategy here depends on whether they see the Week 6 game as a win for their defense. I think they should see it that way. Look at the Buffalo weekly defensive chart above. The yellow dot is the Kansas City game. It certainly doesn't stick out among Buffalo's first-half defensive performances. And the Bills defense is better now. There's plenty of reason to believe that the Bills defense can play a similar strategy against the Chiefs on Sunday night and perform better than it did in Week 6, especially when it comes to running plays. Holes should be a little bit smaller and tackles should be a little bit better. All the Bills need to do is limit the Chiefs to maybe one or two fewer series, stop them before one more score. Just holding the Chiefs to 21 or 24 points instead of 26 points will help.

The bigger issue in the first game was the Bills offense. Buffalo had one of its worst offensive games of the year against Kansas City in Week 6. They had another negative offensive game last week against Baltimore. The Bills absolutely cannot have a bad offensive game if they want to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. We need to see the Buffalo offense that we saw for the second half of the regular season. The Bills need to hold the Chiefs offense the way they did in the Week 6 matchup, and then they need to outscore them.

I think they can do it. Kansas City is the better of these two teams on offense, and they have the better quarterback (assuming Mahomes plays), but Buffalo is the better all-around team, especially over the last two months. And the Buffalo offense hasn't been too shabby. Conventional wisdom is giving the Bills a better chance to win this game than I would have expected -- I thought the Vegas line for this game would have Kansas City favored by more than just three points. But I also think the Buffalo Bills have a better chance to win than that. This is a very close 50-50 matchup between two very good teams, but I still think how the Chiefs have played over the last two months matters. I think the Bills offense will show up, and I think their defense can be just a little bit better than it was in Week 6. I favor the Buffalo Bills ever so slightly to take out the defending champions and move on to Super Bowl LV.


DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative DVOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.

Team DVOA numbers incorporate all plays; since passing is generally more efficient than rushing, the average for passing is actually above 0% while the average for rushing is below 0%.

SPECIAL TEAMS numbers are different; they represent value in points of extra field position gained compared to NFL average. Field goal rating represents points scored compared to average kicker at same distances. All special teams numbers are adjusted by weather and altitude; the total is then translated into DVOA so it can be compared to offense and defense. Those numbers are explained here.

Each team is listed with DVOA for offense and defense, total along with rush and pass, and rank among the 32 teams in parentheses. (If the DVOA values are difficult to understand, it is easy to just look at the ranks.) We also list WEIGHTED DVOA (WEI DVOA), which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here).

Each team also gets two charts showing their performance this year, game-by-game, according to offensive and defensive DVOA. In addition to a line showing each game, another line shows the team's trend for the season, using a rolling average of the last five games. Note that the defensive chart is reversed so upwards is a more negative defensive DVOA (which is better).


31 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2021, 10:11pm

1 weather

Hi Aaron

How does the potential weather affect your analysis?  Having watched Allen all year he seems to drop off somewhat when the conditions are less than ideal.  I guess that's to be expected, but I'm not sure whether it's a universal thing, whether it means Bills will need to run more, or what.  This is based on forecasts mentioning possible rain.

Thank you


26 curious to hear the answer…

In reply to by richallen7

curious to hear the answer to this;  weather really was the story the first time these two matched up (wet, and wind too, iirc), and it made it hard to take much from that particular matchup.  Also think you're emphasizing a 'slump' from KC that was a bit of a mirage (they had a really tough schedule down the stretch, as well as a generally tough schedule compared to other contenders), and their low-variance offence looked like it was going to blow the doors off Cleveland until Mahomes went out, just like they 'turned it up' in the playoffs last year.  Having said that, the Bills are awesome and it wouldn't be shocking to see them go all the way

2 Bills haven't looked as good in the playoffs...

KC didn't look good their last 8-10 games, so understand what's being said - analytics are a tool and *could* be right. 

However, Buffalo barely beat Indy and could only muster 17 points against the Ravens who scored *3 points*. That is a lot of empty possessions by Buffalo. Assuming Mahomes plays, which it sure looks like will happen, and they get Watkins and Clyde E-H back, they're going to score. Probably 30 points. I'm not sure Buffalo can do that at Arrowhead. 

I think KC's defense is more like what they showed last week against Cleveland than what they showed during the end of the season. Not discounting the Bills, that's a good team. If they beat my Chiefs, then I'll certainly be cheering them on in the Super Bowl. But I don't think that's what's going to happen. 

Go Chiefs!

15 Chiefs punted a total of…

Chiefs punted a total of zero times last week, even with Henne playing 1.5 quarters. 

Bills, on the other hand, scored 10 points offensively. 

I normally lean towards objective metrics, but for some reason this year KC just seems significantly different than their DVOA indicates. And yes, I know they have discussed this multiple times. It just doesn't feel like they have really been close to losing, even in these close games.

20 KC didn't look good?

KC looked plenty good they just didn't look great especially with near losses against Carolina and Atlanta and close wins against LV and Denver but winning on the road against Tampa, New Orleans and Miami is pretty impressive even if they were close games.

3 This game is going to…

This game is going to highlight why I think the Chiefs are going to win the super bowl.

As I've remarked in the past, top heavy offensive teams usually get upended at some point in the postseason. usually have a dud performance at some point in which case the rest of their roster is not good enough to overcome it.

But I don't think that's going to happen with this Chiefs team. Defense isn't good but it's okay and the offense is absolutely loaded. If they feel like it they will score and not a single defense in the NFL has the tools to stop it.

What separates this offense from any other in history isn't the weaponry or the quarterback, it's the combination plus the NFL environment we live in. Call it a function of rule changes or the fact that offensive minds are playing chess while the defensive brain trust is playing Tic-Tac-Toe.

I understand that teams have slowed them down over the year, but I actually think that says more about the Chiefs sleep walking through those games than it does about those defenses. I hope I'm wrong and I hope defense still matters in today's NFL.


“No. 1 was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was unsustainably almost as good with pressure as he was without pressure.)”

Everything about Fitzpatrick is unsustainable.

5 I get it

And Ive been a long time member with different names here. But the Weighted #1 has won the SB only twice in the last 15 years. DVOA is a great tool and I have used it more times than I could ever remember. But it's not been a great predictor (I know quite well having paid for the ATS picks)

New Orleans was not a great team. That was obvious. Tampa is not a great team. This is also obvious. The numbers love them. 

Buffalo is not a better football team. And Vegas is saying that as well as homefield has been at best 1/1.5 points in the spreads this season. 

The two favorites will win. Collect your winnings. Sure I am biased and a fan of one of the teams. This is, as a handicapper, two of the easiest bets I will have made in some time (meaning I don't need to overthink it one bit)

7 "Weighted #1 has won the SB"

In reply to by Mahomes15

I get what you're saying but what's the win % in (A)FCCG? Hard to win 3 or 4 straight as any team in a single elimination playoff. 1 or 2 is easier.

9 By year since the…

By year since the realignment:

2019: Baltimore (L AFCDR)

2018: Kansas City (L AFCCG)

2017: New Orleans (L NFCDR)

2016: New England (W SB)

2015: Seattle (L NFCDR)

2014: Seattle (L SB)

2013: Seattle (W SB)

2012: Seattle (L NFCDR)

2011: New Orleans (L NFCDR)

2010: New England (L AFCDR)

2009: New England (L AFCWC)

2008: Philadelphia (L NFCCG)

2007: New England (L SB)

2006: New England (L AFCCG)

2005: Denver (L AFCCG)

2004: Buffalo (Missed Playoffs)

2003: New England (W SB)

2002: New York Jets (L AFCDR)

So, the AFCCG record is 3-4 and the CCG record in general is 5-4 (H 5-2, A 0-2)

29 Good job

Appreciated. So 5 have made it to the SB (when they reach the playoffs).

8 "Buffalo is not a better football team."

In reply to by Mahomes15

Fourteen teams made the playoffs this year. Only one of them had a strength of schedule over .500, and that team went 13-3. I mean, the Chiefs are very good, but the Bills have the better defense by a solid margin and aren't far behind on offense. DVOA is only telling the truth that's been obvious all year: the Bills have been better. Any belief that the Chiefs are actually the better team depends heavily on the idea that they've been sleepwalking through the season. And hey, maybe they have been! They looked pretty damn good against Cleveland early. Of course, the Browns have a terrible defense, and only an uncalled penalty near the end zone prevented that game from very likely to end 16-10 at the half. Really, they looked to me like the same team they've been all year.

Meanwhile, the Bills put up one of their best YPP figures of the season against a top-ten Indy defense and then came up against a really good defense in a windstorm and couldn't put together drives. Go figure. The Chiefs don't have the Ravens' cornerbacks; in fact, it's hard to pick any area where the Chiefs have a better defense than the Ravens.

But I guess we'll see! Regardless, if we get a Packers-Chiefs Super Bowl, I'm fine. If we get Bucs-Chiefs, though, KC had better win :)

11 Buffalo should have lost to the Colts

Terrible end of first half management by the Colts and they literally did whatever they wanted in the 2nd half and the missed FG cost them clearly. Colts did not punt after the first quarter. Hardly an offensive juggernaut. Buffalo may well light it up, I still don't see what will allow them to stop KC in all facets. Pick your poison. They tried once and KC ran all day. Change that up and go man? Won't go well either. Looking forward to a great game. Buffalo is a franchise I would root for in the SB and their fans deserve a ton. 

12 Did you watch Colts-Bills?

Serious question.

"Terrible end of first half management by the Colts." No, it's pretty much agreed that they did exactly what they should have done in this situation. If we want to talk bad clock management and game situations, let's both agree to laugh at Kevin Stefanski :)

"They literally did whatever they wanted in the 2nd half." Three drives into that second half, the Colts were down 14. Up until that point, they had rushed 23 times for 71 yards if we exclude the kneeldown at the end of the first half. They caught the Bills expecting pass when they were playing soft with a two-touchdown lead, broke one tackle, and suddenly they had 25 rushes for 120 yards.

Indy had the 12th-best offense for the season and was 10th overall in weighted DVOA. That doesn't make them the Chiefs by any stretch, but they were a good offense. Yet Philip Rivers put together the following second-half passing numbers, by drive:

5-8-45 (5.6 YPA)

3-5-26 (5.2 YPA)

2-4-40 (10.0 YPA)

4-11-33 (3.0 YPA) --> this drive, in all fairness, should have ended 4-8-33 (4.1 YPA) because of the blown turnover call

So Philip Rivers went 14 of 28 for 144 yards and a whopping 5.14 YPA in the second half--an even 6.0 if we throw out the three incompletions he tossed after the turnover that was incorrectly ruled Colts' ball--and the second-half running game produced 2 rushes for 49 yards down 14 points, another rush for 33 down 10, and 8 other rushes for 26 yards in the second half ... and the Colts "literally did whatever they wanted"? Come on. That's silly. They got loose for exactly four plays, all of which came when they were down double digits; none of those plays came when they had possession of the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.

Tell you what: let's flip this around. Let's say the Bills come out flying high on offense. They have one of the best offenses in the league and have a better defense than Kansas City, so they should have the easier assignment on Sunday. How is the team that couldn't put away the Panthers, Raiders, Bucs, Broncos, Dolphins, Saints, and Falcons supposed to win? I mean, if the Chiefs play like they have since roughly the Panthers game, and the Bills do the same, the Bills have to be a very solid favorite to win, right? The Chiefs absolutely could find their game and just play like they did in the back halves of each game during last year's playoff run—last year's team was much better, let's not kid ourselves—and if that happens, I expect the Bills to hang with the Chiefs for a while before finally losing by double digits. But if both teams play like they have since Thanksgiving, I expect the exact opposite.

14 I mean, if the Chiefs play…

I mean, if the Chiefs play like they have since roughly the Panthers game, and the Bills do the same, the Bills have to be a very solid favorite to win, right?


Even in that shitty stretch, the Chiefs beat the Bucs and Saints on the road and the Browns at home, and only the Browns ever had the ball late with a chance to go ahead.

22 and your point is ....

Ok the Chiefs lose to Atlanta .. and sit out their starters in week 17 and finish 13-3 and get the #1 Seed due to a fluke head-to-head 9 point victory in which they only outgunned the BEST TEAM in football by 466 to 206 and just barely won the time of possession 38 to 22 and the best receiver in football Stephon Diggs tore them up for 46 yards!

and that loss to Atlanta changes things how?


21 Top 10 Indy Defense

Gave up as many points as Kansas City. Had the Chiefs not rested their defensive and offensive starters in game 17, the Chiefs would have given up less points than the Colts. The Colts do not have a significantly better defense than the Chiefs.

24 Do I need to send you a link?

Or can you find the DVOA figures on this site yourself? The Colts were 7th overall on defense and 10th in weighted DVOA; the Chiefs were 22nd and 24th, respectively. The Chiefs were roughly in the bottom quartile. The Colts finished roughly in the top quartile. There’s roughly half the teams in the league between them. 

6 Buffalo can definitely win…

Buffalo can definitely win this game, even if the Chiefs are at full strength.  The Bills especially can win if Mahomes is at less than full capability and/or if Breeland is out (missing Fenton would also hurt against 10 personnel).

But.. the Chiefs offensive struggles in Weeks 14-16 were largely due IMO to a banged up offensive line, which got considerably healthier after two weeks off.  The loss of Schwartz and Osemele is part of why the offense has had its down moments at times - the depth of the line has been seriously depleted.  While I respect what DVOA is telling us, this is also a team that has won 26 of its last 27 meaningful games including every playoff qualifier it has faced in that span.  I have a hard time picking against that.

Either team could win close or the Chiefs could win big.  The only outcome would surprise me is the Bills winning a blowout.

10 I have a hard time picking against that, too

And I'm a Bills fan with a strong adherence to the numbers!

Like you, I can see this game going any number of ways, but I can see the Bills winning a blowout. The recipe would involve any/all of the following:

  1. Chiefs play sloppy, like they did early in each game of last year's playoffs. (If they go down double digits to Buffalo in this game, they are very likely to stay there.)
  2. Mahomes' toe injury limits his mobility.
  3. Mahomes and Allen both put a number of balls up for grabs (as they both do), but Buffalo's defenders hang on to their opportunities, and KC's don't.

It's the least likely outcome, IMO, but I wouldn't be surprised by it. The Bills have looked like the stronger SB contender for most of the season. They've stomped the hell out of a lot of cupcakes, like SB contenders do, and they're much healthier than the Chiefs this time around. (Contrast with Week 6, when they had a hobbled Tre White, a hobbled John Brown, a hobbled Tremaine Edmunds, a damaged Josh Allen, no Milano, no Wallace, and no Feliciano. They're missing Moss right now, but that's about it.)

But again: all that said, I have a hard time picking against that, too.

13 The Dynamic between KC OFF & BUFF DEF will be different

The Bills won’t be able to drop everyone back and force the Chiefs to run. The Chiefs have figured out how to march down the field passing the ball against that style of defense. Andy Reid will not line up in 21 personnel all day and run like he did in week 6. He’ll live and die by Mahomes and the passing attack. And I don’t think the Bills will slow that down.

Your outlook assumes that the Chiefs will be forced to run. I don’t see that happening.

Another thing I disagree with is the Bills defense being any good. We don’t know. They’ve performed better down the stretch against a plethora of predictable, one-dimensional offenses (SF, NE, PITT, BAL). The Chiefs are neither predictable nor one-dimensional. That will play a factor.

17 Buffalo Pass Rush

"For the season, the Bills finished second in the league in ESPN's pass rush win rate ... and they were below average at getting pressure rate with only four pass-rushers."

Can someone who knows anything about these metrics explain how this dichotomy is possible? The Bills must have a habit of multiple pass rush "wins" on single plays?

18 Well pass rush win rate is…

Well pass rush win rate is being able to beat your block within 2.5 seconds. Pressure is a hit,sack,or a hurry. 

If the opposing QB gets rid of the ball quick, either due his quick ability to find the open man, or a poor secondary, or poor defensive play call that pass rush win won’t turn into a pressure.

It could be Buffalo’s Pass rushers have poor closing speed. But most likely its a combination of all the  things I mentioned. 



23 How the Chiefs played in the…

How the Chiefs played in the last two months matters but how Buffalo played in the playoffs doesn't. Their offense will simply "show up". Seems a little pick and choosey to me.

28 KC DB Group

Not the end all measure but by PFF grades the BLT DB group top 4 is (12, 24, 40, 51).

KC DB group is (21, 27, 39, 55). They are pretty damn good 4 deep just not an elite guy.

30 The top guy

In reply to by nsheahon

That top guy is what let Baltimore put the clamps on Cole Beasley, especially on third downs. I’m not sure Kansas City will be able to do the same thing. 

27 Hard tp thinl chirgd will…

Hard tp thinl chirgd will lose . Wanted Baltimore to beat Buff as thought Baltimore would give better test for Chiefs than Buff woild. Did Pick Buff tl win Afc East rhis season, did pick thrm to beat Pitt late ij season and do think they are top five team overall. Just dont like this matchup for them. I may get some more chicken head cheese on sunday an d pierogies to eat while watch this game 

 Shoudl be okay  althofuh not one that will make Raiders fans happy