There are no easy games in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. After all, the winner moves one step closer to the goal of playing in the Super Bowl. On Sunday night, the Chiefs will host the Bills again in the playoffs after Kansas City’s 38-24 win over Buffalo in last season’s AFC Championship Game.
Kansas City took advantage of a 21-point outburst in the second quarter to secure the victory. And with Kansas City appearing in the last three AFC Championship Games â and winning the last two â it’s fair to say that any path to the Super Bowl likely involves getting past the Chiefs.
Let’s take a moment to revisit last year’s AFC Championship Game. Things looked promising for Buffalo as it jumped out to a 9-0 lead. However, there was a bit of an ominous feeling when the Bills failed to convert the extra point as Tyler Bass’s kick hit the right upright. The missed extra point attempt seemed to swing momentum back in favor of the Chiefs, who marched 80 yards down the field for their first touchdown.
Although the Bills lost the game, they did manage to get a sense of what it’s like to play against the Chiefs. The loss also highlighted where they needed to improve.
In the offseason, the Bills kept the nucleus of their team intact. They then drafted high-impact players like defensive end Greg Rousseau (30th pick) and offensive tackle Spencer Brown (93rd pick). Both rookies are already starters on the team, and they’ve helped to solidify the Bills’ line play on both sides of the ball.
After the loss in the AFC Championship Game, there were two gaping areas the Bills wanted to improve:
- Rushing attack
- Pass defense
And when you compare their numbers over the past two seasons, it’s evident to see the strides they’ve made. Buffalo has gone from 21st in offensive run DVOA to fourth. The Bills also improved defensively from 13th in pass DVOA to first in the league. That’s a big reason why Buffalo routed Kansas City 38-20 at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 5.
If the Chiefs have a similarly slow start against the Bills, they could be in for an uphill battle to climb back in the game. And while stopping the Chiefs is easier said than done, teams that can get off the field on third down give themselves a chance. That’s precisely what the Bills excel in as their opponents have the lowest third-down conversion rate (32.02%) against them.
The Chiefs will also have to be sure they protect the football. In four of their five losses, they registered at least two turnovers in those games. It’s worth noting that Buffalo will have a better turnover margin (+0.6) compared to Kansas City (+0.2) heading into the game.
You can sum this game up into the four points I’ve already highlighted:
- Running the football
- Defending the pass
- Third-down conversions
- Limiting turnovers
However, I’ll mention another key to the game briefly, and it’s red-zone scoring. Only two teams in the league have a higher red-zone conversion rate than Buffalo (65.06%), while Kansas City ranks 10th in this category with a 62.50% conversion rate.
Based on my keys to the game, Buffalo has outperformed Kansas City in all five areas. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things the Chiefs do better than the Bills. My takeaway is that I feel Buffalo has a better chance of negating Kansas City’s strengths than the Chiefs would against the Bills.
Given how I project this game to play out, I believe the Bills are worth considering on the alternate line at +2.5.
All NFL predictions and picks are courtesy of SportsGrid.
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