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Market Movers: Who’s trending up and down before the AFC Championship

Let’s see which Chiefs players are Bulls — and which are Bears — going Sunday’s game.

For the Kansas City Chiefs, the opportunity to return to the Super Bowl now comes down to one game against the AFC’s second-best team: the Buffalo Bills.

Everything the team has worked toward is right in front of them — and there’s absolutely no reason to believe they won’t deliver on this big stage. While they have tended to play to the level of competition this season, the best player in the world isn’t going to let them fail.

At this time of year, stars tend to propel teams to championships — but there are always role players who distinguish themselves, too. Here are a few who could be be trending in the AFC title game.

Bulls

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
  • Tyrann Mathieu: It seems that we go through times where we don’t appreciate The Landlord — and other times when we can’t help but notice what he brings to the defense. Right now — when the games are getting bigger and the pressure is on — you can’t miss #32 on the field. His preparation and instincts are otherworldly. To see him moving around the field, covering multiple routes and positioning himself to contain the run is a football nerd’s dream. In this game, he’ll be key in confusing Josh Allen, baiting him into some bad decisions — and when he does, making the Bills pay.
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire: The last game against the Bills was Edwards-Helaire’s best of the season. Now, his return from injury couldn’t come at a better time. We’ve been waiting all year for the rookie to be unleashed in the passing game; perhaps that will finally come on Sunday. But even if his main contributions are on the ground, the Chiefs will likely be without Le’Veon Bell, so it’ll be up to the first-round rookie and Darrel Williams to carry the load.
  • Anthony Hitchens: The team’s MIKE linebacker has shown his value as a leader (and a bit of a coach) on the field. The Chiefs’ defense will need to be aggressive but disciplined on Sunday — and they might not dedicate many resources to stopping the run. That means Hitchens will have to keep the front seven in line — and contain the Bills’ running backs — in order to free up the secondary to slow down the passing game. If the Chiefs are successful, it may largely be because of Hitchens’ contributions.

Others trending in the right direction: Patrick Mahomes, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, L’Jarius Sneed

Bears

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tommy Townsend: It seems like a big part of Harrison Butker’s misses have been a result of issues with the holder. Dave Toub indicated that it was a operational glitchthat has been addressed and won’t be an issue. But since the stakes now couldn’t be higher, any further glitches could be a huge problem. Let’s hope that the rookie now has it figured out — and that he also can contribute to the field position battle... that is, if the Chiefs ever punt against the Bills.
  • Alex Okafor: His snaps were up in the Cleveland Browns game, but his production wasn’t. Okafor isn’t a bad rotational player, but he’s running out of time to show he can make an impact. It’s a contract year for him, so a big game against Buffalo would go a long way to making his case for other teams — if not the Chiefs.
  • Nick Keizer: The backup tight end spots continue to be a weakness for the Chiefs offense — although given the elite production they get from Travis Kelce, it’s not one you notice too often. The team seems to be using Keizer a bit less — even giving Ricky Seals-Jones a very limited audition against Cleveland.

Others trending in the wrong direction: Charvarius Ward, Mike Danna

Value (sleeper) pick: Daniel Sorensen

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Dirty Dan has the uncanny ability to make game-changing plays in absolutely critical situations. What’s more incredible is that he’s so unremarkable in other moments. On Sunday, he’ll give up some big plays in the passing game — and probably miss a tackle or two — but somehow, he’ll be the guy forcing the turnover that helps send the Chiefs back to the Super Bowl. At this time of year, always buy Sorensen stock.