Chiefs vs. Bills Odds & Picks For the AFC Championship: Why We Love Buffalo To Cover This Spread
Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen
- Ready for the AFC Championship Game? Our staff breaks down how they're betting the Bills at Chiefs.
- We have a consensus on the spread as well as cases for both the over and under.
- Find their picks and arguments in our comprehensive breakdown below.
Chiefs vs. Bills Odds
After days on Patrick Mahomes Watch, the Chiefs star quarterback has cleared the concussion protocol and is set to start his third straight AFC Championship Game. He and the Chiefs will host Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, who are looking to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 27 years.
Can the Bills get it done against the reigning champs? There’s a consensus among our staff that Buffalo will at least cover the spread. Find their picks below.
Chiefs vs. Bills Picks
Click on a pick below to skip ahead to that analysis.
Koerner: According to Mahomes, the toe injury he sustained last Sunday has “gotten a lot better,” but there’s a chance it will limit his mobility in this matchup.
The Chiefs are the NFL’s best team when at full strength. But with Mahomes, Sammy Watkins (questionable), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (questionable) and Bashaud Breeland all banged up, it’s created a small window to bet against them.
The Chiefs haven’t beaten any team by more than six points since Week 8. They allowed teams like the Panthers, Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins and Falcons to hang around and escape with a one-score win. Compare that to the Bills, who closed out the regular season with six straight wins of 10 or more points.
The Bills have shot up to No. 2 in my power ratings, and I have them projected as 2.5-point underdogs for this matchup. The Chiefs winning by a field goal is the most likely outcome, so I’m going to lock in the Bills at +3.5 (down to +3).
Raybon: I backed the Chiefs -6 in their eventual 26-16 win over the Bills in Week 6, but I don’t expect a repeat of that result from a side nor a total perspective.
From a big-picture perspective, the Bills are now the better team in every sense but record: They’re No. 4 in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA, while the Chiefs are sixth. The gap widens when we look only at weighted DVOA (which weights resent games more heavily), as Buffalo is No. 1 while Kansas City remains No. 6. The Chiefs have a small edge over the Bills in weighted DVOA on offense (third vs. fifth), but the Bills have sizable edges on defense (eighth vs. 24th) and special teams (second vs. 11th).
More importantly, the Chiefs are struggling mightily with situational football.
The Chefs rank dead last on defense in red-zone conversion rate and red-zone DVOA, while the Bills rank 13th and ninth. The Chiefs also finished dead last in short yardage on both sides of the ball, which is an edge you don’t want to give away to the Bills, who don’t put much emphasis on the run on either side of the ball but have been good in short-yardage defense (seventh) and respectable on offense (17th). And while both teams are top-five in DVOA on third/fourth-down offense, the Bills are also top-five on defense while the Chiefs rank 19th.
Ultimately, it’s Kansas City’s defensive drop-off that is most concerning: It was sixth in pass DVOA in the first half of the season but 29th in the second half. And while the defense was set up well to defend a Browns offense featuring slot receiver Jarvis Landry as its biggest threat, the Chiefs could struggle against the Bills’ deeper receiving corps.
The Chiefs have been playing Tyrann Mathieu at deep safety much more over the second half of the season in place of the struggling Juan Thornhill, but used Mathieu closer to the line of scrimmage and in the slot against Landry last week. Mathieu gave up -4 yards on six targets with a pick overall, and Landry finished with 20 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. But Kansas City’s cornerbacks allowed a catch on 15-of-18 targets for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has done a good job of scheming them help all season — they allowed the second-fewest yards to wide receivers during the regular season — mostly using two-deep shells. But if he plays two-deep man, he exposes himself to the threat of Josh Allen running, and the Bills can use four-wide looks to carve up the Chiefs in the vertical seams if they leave their cornerbacks close to the line and play two-deep zone.
On the other side of the ball, Buffalo blitzed Mahomes only once on 34 dropbacks (2.9%) in that first matchup. And despite his toe injury, the Bills will likely employ a similar game-plan rather than the blitz-heavy approach they used against the Ravens (30.0%). Buffalo improved from 16th in defensive DVOA over the first half of the season to seventh over the second half thanks to some schematic changes mostly made possible by the return of linebacker Matt Milano, who did not play due to injury in the Week 6 matchup.
While I wouldn’t expect Buffalo to have enough success to keep this game under the total on the basis of its defense, the Bills are now capable of getting a key stop or two that can allow them to keep them in striking distance to win what should be a coin-flip game that should clear the total. I like the over up to 55 points.
Freedman: Even with Mahomes expected to start, I like the under as the Chiefs and Bills combined for just 43 points in Week 6.
The Chiefs defense is schemed to prevent big plays on the perimeter and downfield: In the regular season, they allowed the fewest receptions (169) and second-fewest receiving yards (2,159) to wide receivers.
If the Bills are unable to advance the ball with an aggressive passing attack, they might fall back on the running and short-passing games to extend drives, which will slow the game down and help move the total to the under.
On top of that, Kansas City is a tough place to play. Under head coach Andy Reid, the under at Arrowhead Stadium is 41-28-1 (15.9% ROI, per our Action Labs database).
On top of that, the under in outdoor postseason games is 84-66-4 (8.5% ROI).