It’s “now or never” time. Punch your ticket to Raymond James Stadium, or clean out your lockers until next season. This game is the difference between reaching the promised land and wondering if “falling just short” can qualify as a successful season. I’d imagine that the answers would differ for each franchise.
The Next Dynasty?
For the Kansas City Chiefs, a loss in the AFC Championship game could easily be considered a letdown. After all – they’re the defending Super Bowl Champs! Ever since Patrick Mahomes stepped foot on the field and lit the league on fire, the “D” word has been tossed around pretty frequently. Will that still be the case if they fail to return to the big game? Or will it ultimately be a blip over the course of time, when the next few years will truly give us an answer to the question? Obviously, winning this game would only bolster the argument for use of the “D” word around Kansas City. Losing it – well, that could be a tough pill to swallow for sure.
The Next Chapter
In Buffalo’s case, this is more of a “next step” sort of feeling. You have to go back to the days of franchise legends Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, and Marv Levy to find the level of success Buffalo is currently tasting. Everyone is well aware of their 4 consecutive Super Bowl losses in the early 1990s, and they’ve only dipped their toe in the playoff pool a handful of times since then. Since the arrival of Josh Allen, anticipation and momentum has steadily been building in Buffalo. I’d think it’s a similar feeling to what Kansas City experienced when it welcomed Mahomes into the fold. Given the lengthy drought since the last appearance in a Super Bowl, I’d venture to guess that Bills Mafia, while still leaving disappointed, would still have a rosier outlook on their 2020 season as a whole than the KC faithful would.
To have an idea of how these two teams match up, you need only look to Week 6 of this past season (interestingly – that’s the same week that the two NFC teams vying to get to the Super Bowl last faced each other). The Chiefs ended up victorious by a 26-17 score in that game, led by a monster performance from rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (161 rushing yards, 8 receiving yards). Of course, this time around it’s uncertain whether CEH will even see the field. He suffered a gnarly knee and hip injury in Week 15 and is officially listed as questionable for this game.
Going Toe to Toe
Ever since the matchup was set, all of the talk surrounding the game has been about the offenses, and specifically the quarterbacks. That’s with good reason – they finished 1 and 2 in total yards per game this season (KC – 415.8 and BUF – 396.4). Each side has a laundry list of potent weapons that can light the scoreboard at any time. On top of that, Mahomes and Allen have had virtually identical statistical seasons:
- Mahomes: 4,740 passing yards, 38 TD, 6 INT, .663 cmp%
- Allen: 4,544 passing yards, 37 TD, 10 INT, .692 cmp%
Of course, there are questions surrounding the health of Mahomes after he entered the concussion protocol following a hit in the 3rd quarter of last week’s game. He was also dealing with a toe issue that had him limping noticeably before being knocked out of the game. He’s since been cleared to play and says he’s ready to go. Offensively, this is a pretty even matchup (on paper at least).
Where This Game Will Be Won
You know how the saying goes: “Offense wins games, but defense wins Championships”. It’s been an ongoing debate for years, but for this particular game, I think it likely proves true. Whichever defense can stymie their high powered opponent should emerge as the victor. There are big-time matchups all over the place, and I expect it will come down to the play of the secondary for each team to determine who will head to the Super Bowl.
Man, this is tough. It’s very much a “head vs. heart” kind of decision for me. I think that the Chiefs have too many weapons to be completely shut down, so it’ll be more a matter of whether Buffalo can slow them down enough to keep up. Still, as a native New Yorker I think if there’s any team that can derail the Chiefs in their hopes of a repeat, it’s these Bills. Whichever way it goes, this promises to be a great game between two of the most exciting young teams in the NFL.
Final Score: Bills 31, Chiefs 27
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