As we prepare for two great games this weekend, I wanted to take a look at a few stats and matchups that might not come to top of mind when betting on a game. Next: the AFC Championship Game.
There are endless factors in an NFL game. I’m drawn to the quality of the offensive and defensive lines, matchups between receivers and corners, and a few playoff trends.
Rankings will mainly be pulled from Pro Football Focus, and we’ll credit other sources as they arise.
AFC Championship Game: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-3)
Let’s take a look at a few of the crucial matchups that could determine the result of the AFC Championship Game.
How do these team’s lines compare to each other? It’s often said the game starts in the trenches, and as an Eagles fan who watched our lone Super Bowl come off the back of an elite offensive and defensive line, I can anecdotally attest to the legitimacy of this claim.
Buffalo Pass Blocking
BUF Pass Blocking (6th) vs. KC Pass Rush (22nd)
A pretty significant advantage here for Buffalo, which should in turn benefit Josh Allen and this passing game. Sacks never tell the entire story, but the Chiefs had just 32 sacks on the year, 19th in the NFL.
Digging into Buffalo’s sixth spot on PFF’s pass-blocking grades, it’s the two tackles – Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams, anchoring this line. The interior offensive line has pretty middling numbers, which actually plays right into the Chiefs strength.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones is the third-ranked interior defender in the NFL, and his pass rush grade actually comes in at #2.
Derrick Nnadi is a solid second piece, coming in at 27th in the NFL on the interior.
While the unit as a whole favors Buffalo, the interior for Kansas City is a strength for the defending champs.
Pressure from inside could disrupt Josh Allen all night and flush him out of the pocket. While this may affect his ability to stand in and deliver deep strikes to this stacked receiver group, Allen is one of the best mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. Possibly a double-edged sword for the Kansas City defense?
Kansas City Pass Blocking
KC Pass Blocking (7th) vs. BUF Pass Rush (7th)
An even matchup here, I would tend to lean on this benefitting the offense. Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes is likely the x-factor in this matchup, the highest ranked defensive linemen for the Bills and fresh off two sacks.
I would be surprised if Mahomes doesn’t play, and he’s one of the few matchup-proof quarterbacks in the NFL. On the move or in the pocket, he’ll find a way to beat you. This Buffalo secondary is no slouch, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Buffalo Run Blocking
BUF Run Blocking (15th) & BUF Rushing (13th) vs. KC Run Defense (23rd)
A slight advantage here for Buffalo, but don’t fool yourself into focusing on Devin Singletary in any DFS lineups or props. This offense flows through Allen’s arm.
In two playoff games, it’s Allen who leads this team in rushing, with 57 yards. Singletary is the lead back in terms of snaps played, with Zack Moss out for the year, so while he may fall in the end zone – I wouldn’t expect a big yardage outing from the guy.
Consider taking Josh Allen’s over in rushing yards. As we mentioned above, he may face constant pressure from inside, and isn’t shy to tuck it and run.
Kansas City Run Blocking
KC Run Blocking (11th) & KC Rushing (10th) vs. BUF Run Defense (29th)
Advantage: Kansas City
A significant edge for the Chiefs in the run game on Sunday. When these teams met back in Week 6 (26-17 win for KC), Clyde Edwards-Helaire stole the show with 26 carries for 161 yards. With a potentially hobbled Mahomes, the Chiefs may opt for a similar recipe.
Edwards-Helaire missed last week’s game and is questionable this week. In his stead, it was Darrel Williams dominating touches out of the backfield, with 13 carries.
Keep an eye on the injury report, Williams may be poised for a big week.
Receivers vs. Corners
As was the case in our Tampa Bay-Green Bay breakdown, the marquee matchups will come in the passing game, with stars on both sides of the ball. A quick look at how they stack up.
Buffalo Passing Game
BUF Receiving (2nd) vs. KC Coverage (13th)
Kansas City Passing Game
KC Receiving (4th) vs. BUF Coverage (8th)
Advantage: Kansas City
Lumping analysis for these groups together. The passing games are the pinnacle of both of these offenses and much of the reason they’re still playing. Allen and Mahomes have been two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL all year, and now we’re treated to them facing off.
For Buffalo, it starts with Stefon Diggs, while Kansas City has the elite combination of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
The Bills boast the better corners in Josh Norman and Tre’Davious White, both in the top 25 at their position on PFF. The Chiefs have three corners in the top 40, which should help to mitigate the four-receiver sets the Bills love to employ.
I’ll trust both elite passing offenses to come out on top in this one, which has me leaning towards the over, at 51 points. Should be a great game.
While this is a battle between the two top-seeds in the AFC, only the Chiefs received a bye this year. Of the 40 Super Bowl participants since 2000, a team played on Wild Card weekend just 23% of the time.
The odds certainly favor Kansas City advancing to their second straight Super Bowl, yet the Bills are hot.
The Bills have won eight straight games, going 7-1 ATS in that span. The Chiefs haven’t covered the spread since a November 1 win over the Jets: 0-8-1 in the last nine weeks.
Make sure you’re following on Twitter, @griffybets, for game previews, prop picks and more. Thanks for reading, let’s have ourselves a weekend!
Related reading: Matchups that Might Impact the NFC Championship Game