Can Buffalo Shock The World?
It isn't often that a 13-3 division winner is an underdog in a playoff game, but that is the exact position in which the Buffalo Bills find themselves heading into the AFC Championship Game.
It isn't hard to see why.
Not only are the Chiefs the defending champs with the best record in the NFL (14-2), but they also have been the model of consistency the past three seasons, winning a combined 36 games.
Add the fact that they beat the Bills by a score of 26-17 in Buffalo this season, and all signs point to the Chiefs returning to the Super Bowl.
But if there is a team equipped with the firepower to derail the Chiefs' run toward a repeat, it could just be the 2020 Buffalo Bills.
The Bills averaged 31.3 points per game in the regular season, second in the NFL, and more than the Chiefs' high-powered offense (29.6 points). They were third in the NFL in passing yards per game, with 288.8, slightly behind the Chiefs' league-leading pace of 303.4 yards.
Not to mention, the Bills are coming in hot, as winners of their past eight games dating to the regular season while scoring at least 30 points in four of those games.
On the other side, while the Chiefs have won, they haven't been quite as dominant.
Excluding a Week 17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, in which Patrick Mahomes did not play, the Chiefs won their past 11 games in which Mahomes started at quarterback. But their past eight wins have each come by one possession, including a 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC divisional round.
For that very reason, Undisputed's Skip Bayless believes the Bills will pull off the upset on Sunday.
"Well, to me, Buffalo is headed straight north in a good way. And Kansas City, I'm not saying they're heading south, but they are just teetering along heading south because if these cats have nine lives, it feels like they just used them all up."
The Chiefs might seem to be entering the AFC Championship treading water, with a potentially compromised Mahomes because of a toe injury and possible concussion, but they are still the Chiefs. And that means they are capable of exploding for big plays and high-scoring games anytime they step on the field.
That's why Brandon Marshall said on First Things First that it is the Bills' defense, rather than the offense, that must show up to play on Sunday.
"This is going to come down to 22 guys. It's going to come down to the Chiefs' offense versus the Buffalo Bills' defense. That's where this game is going to be won or lost."
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Bills were able to slow down Chiefs All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, holding him to 20 yards receiving. They also allowed only three passing plays of 20 or more yards.
But Buffalo failed to contain All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who recorded 65 yards and two touchdowns in the red zone.
The Bills also failed to stop the run, allowing Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to rush for a career-high 161 yards.
Edwards-Helaire is expected to return to the lineup in the AFC Championship after missing the past three games.
To put it simply, even with Mahomes at less than 100 percent, the Bills' defense will have their hands full with the Chiefs' offense, and they'll have to do better than they did last time if they want a trip to the Super Bowl. But momentum lately favors the squad from Buffalo.
The Chiefs have earned the right to be favored on the biggest stage, with the benefit of experience over an upstart Bills team. But the Bills are playing with house money, and that's dangerous with a roster as talented as theirs.
The Chiefs are still the betting favorites, but picking the Bills might not be such a bad idea.