Kansas City (3) at Buffalo Bills (2)
It doesn’t get much better than this — Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen.
This will be the third time that these rivals have squared off against one another in the playoffs with Mahomes owning a 2-0 record. However, this will be the first time that their matchup will be played in Buffalo. In fact, this will be the first time in Mahomes’ playoff career that he will be on the road. Overall, this is the seventh meeting between these two QBs, and the record is currently knotted up 3-3. The most recent head-to-head came at Arrowhead Stadium earlier this season. In that Week 14 matchup, the Bills were able to notch a 20-17 victory.
The Chiefs come into this game after taking down the Dolphins in a rather convincing fashion. The defense stifled Tua Tagovailoa as Miami managed just seven points in the losing effort. That unit has truly been the calling card for Kansa City this season. They were a top-five unit in the league on third-down during the regular season and held the Dolphins to just one third-down conversion in that playoff win on 12 attempts. As for the offense, the wide receivers were a storyline throughout the year due to their drops, but Rashee Rice has been a bright spot. He exploded for eight catches, 130 yards, and a touchdown in the win on Saturday. If he can continue this strong play, he’s a strong complement to tight end Travis Kelce for Mahomes in the passing game.
The past five meetings between these two teams have been played in Kansas City, but this one is being played in Buffalo and I think that’s going to be the difference. In a city where the fans jump off snow drifts on to flaming tables, they might set the entire stadium on fire if the Bills win.
The pick: Bills 27-24 over Chiefs
“While outer shell damage is not ideal, the ZERO2 helmet did its job of protecting Patrick Mahomes during a head-to-head impact during unprecedented cold temperatures,’’ VICIS said in a statement released on X. “The exclusive multi-layer technology employed in the VICIS ZERO2 helmet model utilizes a deformable outer shell, RFLX impact absorption layer, followed by a stiff inner shell. This design approach is similar to the crumple zone of modern cars, effectively absorbing and dispersing impact forces at the point of contact.
“Extreme conditions like those experienced in Saturday evening’s NFL playoff game are bound to test the limits of even the highest performing products.’’
T-11. QB PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: 88.0
Mahomes’ improvisation and ability to work under pressure were on full display in the wild-card round. When facing heat, he earned an 89.5 PFF grade, largely because of his incredible scrambling ability. Mahomes made good use of his legs, converting a pair of rushes for first downs on his way to an 88.6 rushing grade.
5 - Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs limped into the playoffs offensively, appearing to be buoyed by the return of Isiah Pacheco and a defense that has carried out business all season long. So, naturally, to start one of the coldest playoff games ever, the Chiefs came out throwing. When you have Patrick Mahomes, slumping passing game or not, you can afford to do that. And Kansas City did do that effectively, with Mahomes accounting for more than 300 total yards passing and rushing in the 26-7 win over the visiting Dolphins. Pacheco was big, too, eventually, as was the defense. But it was an important reminder that the Chiefs have the greatest weapon in their back pocket in these playoffs in the greatest quarterback of his generation. Mahomes might not have vaulted the Chiefs into the playoffs with his greatest season, but anyone dismissing his ability to take over said playoffs is fooling themselves. They’re back, baby. (I think.)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (12-6) +4
On one hand, the Chiefs’ dominant win against Miami was never in doubt. They’re one of the final eight teams playing, and they have the best quarterback in the world. But if we’re going to hold them to the standard they’ve set these last five years, they were still frustrated quite a bit by an injury-depleted Dolphins defense. I still worry about consistency with Kansas City, while still considering them a very legitimate threat.
Heading into the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, the San Francisco 49ers have the best championship odds (+175) at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Baltimore Ravens following closely behind at +290.
The race is a little tighter in the AFC. The Ravens lead the way at +115, while the Buffalo Bills (+235) and Kansas City Chiefs (+320) are firmly in the mix. The Houston Texans (+1100) are the only real long shot.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois
The Chiefs have gone defense with their first pick in each of the last three drafts, which has played a part in vast improvements on that side of the ball. Newton will be picked apart for his lack of elite length, but he is disruptive against both run and pass, and adding him to the line would give the Chiefs options.
Illinois DT Jer'Zhan Newton.— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 16, 2023
Hard to handle. (not sure why Penn State went at him twice like this down here ) pic.twitter.com/HJnWNkMMt2
32. There is still one Kelce left in this postseason (Chiefs TE Travis), so the biggest questions moving forward: Will anyone in Bills Mafia surrender their suite to Taylor Swift next weekend, and what might she be wearing? You won’t even have to subscribe to Peacock to find out.
Around the NFL
The Falcons announced Tuesday they had completed an interview with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, a day after sitting down with former New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Harbaugh and Belichick are the most accomplished NFL coaches on the circuit — and Harbaugh has won everywhere he has coached.
Harbaugh, 60, has been at Michigan since 2015, winning the national championship earlier this month and three straight Big Ten titles. He is 86-25 in games he has coached with the Wolverines — he was suspended twice this season during Michigan’s run to the national title — and his team has won at least 12 games in each of the past three campaigns.
When asked about the prospects of losing his center, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni didn’t hold back.
“He’s special, and I love him,” Sirianni said Monday night. “He’s one of the most special guys I’ve been around.”
The 36-year-old Kelce, likely bound for the Hall of Fame one day, has weighed his playing future over the past few seasons.
Following a Super Bowl loss last season to his brother’s Chiefs, he was undecided in the immediate aftermath. A year prior, Kelce announced he was returning after Sirianni sent him a couple of kegs of beer to entice him to return.
This time around, Kelce is moving on.
The message to players comes less than 24 hours after head coach Mike Tomlin abruptly exited his postgame news conference before a question regarding his future could be finished.
Tomlin, who is entering the final season on his current contract, is expected to address the media later this week, Garafolo added.
In the aftermath of the Steelers’ season-ending playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills on Monday, a question was asked of Tomlin regarding his contract status. Tomlin turned to his left and walked out of the presser. The incident prompted more speculation regarding his future after rumblings that he would potentially step away from the club.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Stuffing the run
While most of last week’s narrative had focused on former Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill and the Dolphins’ explosive passing game, Kansas City made sure not to overlook Miami’s ground game, featuring the dangerous rookie De’Von Achane and veteran Pro Bowler Raheem Mostert.
Because of the frigid weather, both teams were expected to establish their running attacks early in the game, hoping to set the offensive tempo. But the Chiefs easily stopped the Dolphins’ running game; right from the start, coordinator Steve Spagnuolo threw a few wrinkles into Kansas City’s defensive alignment.
The KC D got into some odd looks on early run-downs. Wharton in 4i controls the B gap and presses the guard into the backfield. This causes the cutback and sets up Tranquill for the tackle. pic.twitter.com/5kN2IPLHf6— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 15, 2024
Here we see the defense in an odd front that has Mike Pennel head up over the center, Tershawn Wharton lined up as a 4i-tech, Mike Danna as a tight 5-tech and Drue Tranquill and Charles Omenihu playing overhand looks.
Social media to make you think
Since her NFL jersey jackets were sported by the likes of Taylor Swift, Brittany Mahomes, and Taylor Lautner, Kristin Juszczyk has gained nearly 400,000 Instagram followers, which is more than any player in the NFL in the 4-day time period. pic.twitter.com/Twq79y5Flf— bknown (@bknown_) January 16, 2024