Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills
Line: Kansas City -3 (-125)
Where: Arrowhead Stadium
When: Sunday, 1/24, at 6:40 p.m. ET
All eyes have been on the status of Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes this week.
The young superstar was listed as ‘questionable’ until he told reporters that he had cleared concussion protocol on Friday. Mahomes will lead the top-seeded Chiefs as they get set to host No. 2 Buffalo in Sunday night’s AFC Championship Game.
He got up groggy after taking a hit on a play against Cleveland in the Divisional Round last week. Mahomes entered concussion protocol, but backup Chad Henne was able to make a few key plays down the stretch.
“Talking to all of the doctors and going through all of the testing, we have belief that I’ll have no lingering effects and I’ll be able to go out there and be who I am,” Mahomes said Friday. “You have to take it day by day. That’s the best thing. You can only control who you can control.”
The betting market assumed he was going to be available from the jump. Kansas City had been holding steady as a 3-point home favorite all week. The line took a little extra juice on Friday, ticking up to -3 (-125) at most books.
Buffalo notched a 17-3 win over Baltimore last week, marking its second-fewest points scored in a game this season. The Bills used a long interception return for a touchdown to really take control of the game.
Despite the poor outing offensively, quarterback Josh Allen is blossoming into one of the best gunslingers in the league. He ranked fifth in pass attempts this season and has been in the MVP conversation.
Allen will likely be throwing the ball at a high clip on Sunday, as Kansas City is No. 14 in passing defense. The Chiefs could be without starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who is officially listed as ‘questionable.’
Buffalo has one of the top wide receivers in the NFL in Stefon Diggs, who caught eight passes for 106 yards and a touchdown last week. The Bills’ rushing attack is down to Devin Singletary after rookie Zack Moss went down with a season-ending injury.
Wide receiver Gabriel Davis is on the injury report with an ankle issue, but he is expected to play. If not, Allen still has Diggs, Cole Beasley and John Brown at his disposal.
The Buffalo defense will be tasked with slowing down Mahomes and co. Kansas City finished the regular season with the top-ranked offense in the NFL.
Mahomes completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,740 and had a 38-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio during the regular season. Starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire could return from an injury on Sunday.
Tight end Travis Kelce and speedy wideout Tyreek Hill are both among the league’s top targets in the passing game. Sammy Watkins is also listed as ‘questionable’ to return from an injury. The return of Edwards-Helaire and/or Watkins would be huge additions to an offense that is already deadly.
These teams are trending in opposite directions as far as the spread is concerned. Buffalo has covered in nine of its last 10 games, while Kansas City is 0-8-1 ATS in its last nine. The Chiefs are 1-5 ATS in their last six home games against the Bills.
The pick: Kansas City -3 (-125)
Mahomes might not be 100 percent, but the Chiefs could get back two key offensive weapons in Edwards-Helaire and Watkins. They have not played their best football over the last few months, but they have experience playing in this type of game. Buffalo is new to the spotlight and does not have the defense to slow down Mahomes. I have more faith in Andy Reid’s team than I do in Buffalo at this stage, especially with Kansas City playing at home.