GAME PREDICTIONS

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NFL analysts | Bills at Chiefs game predictions | AFC Championship game

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Key stat: The Chiefs and Bills met on a weird weekday afternoon in Week 6. Buffalo's only loss since then came on a Hail Mary, and Kansas City's only loss since then came when Andy Reid sat most of his key players in Week 17.

Key Bills stat: During the Bills' eight-game winning streak, they've won by an average of 17 points per game.

Keys Chiefs stat: The Chiefs have failed to outscore an opponent by more than six points in nine consecutive games.

Davenport: Sunday's AFC title tilt could be the first big chapter in the next great rivalry under center—two MVP candidates at the helm of red-hot teams that were the conference's top two offenses battling with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. This is old hat for the Chiefs, who are playing at home in the conference championship game for the third straight year. But the Chiefs also have a banged-up quarterback and haven't won a game by more than six points since November 1. This game should be a nail-biter and could easily be shootout-city, but a big play by the Bills defense late is going to help engineer an upset, delay Kansas City's dynasty status at least one more year and send Bills Mafia into a frenzy of table-dives.

Bills 34, Chiefs 33

Gagnon: This will be a close game, especially with the Chiefs dealing with a lot of injuries and the Bills relatively healthy. Kansas City also has less of a home-field advantage as usual with a limited capacity at Arrowhead, and it hasn't been able to pull away from anybody lately. Still, I don't think the Bills have the backfield talent to take advantage of K.C.'s problems in run defense, and I'm not betting against Andy Reid at this point. There's a good chance this will be a three-point Chiefs victory, so I'll take my predicted winner with that line. Buy half a point to get to -2.5 if you can!

Chiefs 24, Bills 20

Sobleski: A hobbled Patrick Mahomes—speaking of his foot injury and not the concussion protocol—certainly doesn't help matters. However, the matchup problems Kansas City's offensive weapons create across the board are undeniable. The Bills have an explosive offense in their own right, but it's not quite to KC's level.

Chiefs 31, Bills 27

The key here is the health of Patrick Mahomes as he meanders through the concussion protocols. Without him, the Chiefs would be in big trouble. Chad Henne is a solid backup, but little more than that. With Mahomes, the offense is entirely different. Buffalo is coming off a good defensive showing against the Ravens, but this is a bigger challenge if Mahomes is playing. The passing game is lethal. The Bills have been much better on defense since the midway point of the season. Coordinator Leslie Frazier has done a nice job. As for Buffalo's offense, Josh Allen didn't put up his usual gaudy numbers last week against the Ravens, but he made enough plays. It was a windy night. If the weather holds up here -- and Mahomes is in the game -- this could be a great shootout of two big-armed passers. Both defenses have improved since the Chiefs beat the Bills in Week 6, a game where Kansas City ran the football to win it. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 161 in Kansas City's 26-17 victory. This time around, I think it's more of an air game with both quarterbacks having good games. I picked the Chiefs to get to the Super Bowl before the season and I am sticking with that. But it will be close -- even with Mahomes. 

Pick: Chiefs 31, Bills 30

It's been an uphill battle betting against the Bills in 2020. Buffalo is 12-6 against the spread, including the playoffs, and its starting quarterback, Josh Allen, is 27-17-2 against the spread (.587). That includes a 6-2-2 record against the spread when the Bills have been underdogs of at least three points on the road. (The spread for this game has alternated between Chiefs -3 and Chiefs -2½.)

Meanwhile, the health of Chiefs starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains unclear. The former MVP continues to go through the league's concussion protocols after leaving Sunday's divisional-round game in the third quarter and subsequently being ruled out, The difference between Mahomes and backup Chad Henne is massive. Mahomes finished 2020 as the second-most valuable passer, behind only Rodgers, while Henne hasn't been an NFL starting quarterback since 2013. It was estimated in August that the difference in performance between Mahomes and Henne was worth nine points in the typical point spread, which could shift this line quite a bit before kickoff.

Even with Mahomes, Kansas City hasn't been running up the score on opponents, either. Its past eight wins have come by six points or fewer, and the Chiefs are 1-7 against the spread since their Week 10 bye, failing to cover by an average of four points per game.

Pick: Buffalo Bills +2½

MDS's take: The Chiefs have played so many games recently in which they did just enough to win, that it almost feels like it has to come back to haunt them at some point, and they'll let another team hang around too long and lose. But I just don't see it happening on Sunday, at least not if Patrick Mahomes plays, as I think he will. The Chiefs' offense can run up a lot of points on the Bills' defense, and I don't see Josh Allen keeping pace. The Chiefs will make a statement and advance to their second straight Super Bowl.

MDS's pick: Chiefs 35, Bills 24.

Florio's take: The Buffalo offense is nearly as good as Kansas City's. But the Kansas City defense is better. And that should help create the difference in this one — assuming Patrick Mahomes plays and isn't significantly impaired by his toe injury.

Florio's pick: Chiefs 31, Bills 27.

The Chiefs (-3, 54 o/u) match up very well against the Bills because their run defense won't get exploited as much as their passing offense won't be slowed down much. Allen may try to play Mahomes' big-armed, athletic game, but Mahomes is better performing against a lesser degree of difficult. Kelce and the running game get some help from Hill or Hardman on a homer run, while Allen faces intense pressure in a one-dimensional attack while playing catch-up. The Chiefs flip the script and limit the time Allen is on the field while they turn in another complete effort to lift up Mahomes.

Chiefs win 30-17

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