The Champions of the AFC East meets AFC West in this all-star matchup live on CBS on Sunday evening, here's where our very own Conor Cassidy ($FML) thinks you should put your money...
$FML - Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs Picks 01/23
HARRISON BUTKER O7.5 KICKING POINTS @ -115
Buffalo Bills (11-6, AFC East Champions)
Fresh off a 47-17 whipping of their divisional rival New England Patriots, the Buffalo Bills carry momentum into their 2nd round clash with Kansas City. They also carry motivation, as this week’s opponent ended their season last year with a resounding 38-24 beating in the AFC Championship. Will momentum and motivation be enough to flip this year’s result?
Led by 4th year standout QB Josh Allen, Buffalo features a balanced, high-powered offense that keeps defenses on their toes.
Unlike most mobile quarterbacks, Allen has an absolute rocket launcher of an arm, which enables him to scramble and make big plays down field when opponents least expect it. His elite passing ability also opens up the field for the Bills run game. Through playoff round 1, the Bills average the 6th most rushing yards per game in the NFL (132.4), which has enables them to dictate pace of play and control games.
On defense, the Bills rank near the top of almost every category except rush defense, which ranks middle of the pack. In the trenches, Buffalo generated the 2nd highest pressure rate in the league (27.9%), which I see as the key to victory Sunday if they can continue it.
To beat Buffalo, the best strategy is usually to attack by ground. Their run defense is mediocre at best, and we saw teams like the Patriots take advantage to steal a few wins from the Bills this season.
Luckily for Buffalo, Kansas City prefers to attack through the air and is therefore less likely to exploit the weakness than other teams.
Kansas City Chiefs (12-5, AFC West Champions)
After back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, I wasn’t surprised to see the 2021 Chiefs open as the most likely team to win the championship at +450 (18.2% implied probability). That said, I was honestly shocked when they lost 4 of their first 7 games, but in hindsight, it was mostly explained by injuries in their defense. Since getting healthy, the Chiefs have looked like a new team, winning 9 of their last 10 games to secure home field advantage in this elimination game. They lost to the Bills earlier this year, but it was in the early stretch when their defense was decimated. Can they get redemption this week?
The Chiefs feature a best-in-class passing attack that can score seemingly at will. On the season, they averaged 29.0 points per game (4th most), largely in-line with last year (28.5). In home games, they averaged slightly less at 27.7 points per game, but I’m not putting much weight into that.
While Kansas City prefers to pass, they feature a respectable rushing attack that averaged 4.5 yards per carry (7th most) on an average of 25.2 carries per game (12th fewest). I believe the efficiency reflects the pass threat posed by Mahomes, which forces defenses to drop defenders back leaving the front line vulnerable in the run game.
On defense, the Chiefs ranked near the bottom to start the year before pivoting into the top-11 against both the run and pass since Week 8. The shift reflects their team getting healthier as the season progressed. When the Bills played Kansas City in Week 5, they were missing key players, so I’m not putting much weight into it.
I see the Chiefs’ Achilles heel as offensive turnovers, which wasn’t always the case. Their elevated turnover rate reflects an uptick in interceptions thrown by Patrick Mahomes, who averaged 0.8 INTs per game in 2021 vs. only 0.5 last year, a concerning trend. To be fair, several of the INTs weren’t really his fault. They came off tipped passes or dropped catches from his receivers – mistakes that absolutely need to be avoided for the Chiefs to fend off the Bills in what I’m projecting to play as an extremely close matchup.
Betting angles aside, I’m super excited for this game. It features the highest game-total on the slate, and who doesn’t like scoring? The 1.5-point spread implies it could come down to the final possession. Layer on the revenge narrative after the Chiefs crushed the Bills’ 2020 season, and this shapes up to be a battle of epic proportions. I can’t wait.
My personal take on playoff spreads is they’re usually sharp and hard to beat. In this case, I feel the 1.5-point spread is fairly-priced. Gun to my head, I lean Bills +1.5. However, for my best bet, I’m taking a slightly different angle by attacking the prop market.
With a 53.5-point game total, Vegas clearly expects plenty of points. At the same time, I really respect both defenses and believe they’re capable of getting stops in the red zone, which leads me to see value in the kicker prop market.
Of the two kickers, I prefer targeting Harrison Butker (KC) over Tyler Bass (BUF), mainly because the latter missed two extra points last week.
To cash this kicker prop (currently listed over/under 7.5 kicking points at time of publishing), we need a combination of Field Goals (3 points each) and Extra Points (1 point each) that add up to at least 8 points for the Chiefs. For example, 2 Field Goals (3 points each) + 2 Extra Points (1 point each) = 8 kicking points.
While 7.5 is priced in-line with his season average, I see value in the number given Butker exceeded it in: (1) three straight Chiefs/Bills games (including playoffs), (2) all three Chiefs playoff games last year, and (3) was on track to cash it last week but fell 1-point short despite not getting any field goal opportunities (since all KC points were scored by touchdown).
If the Bills can get at least 1-2 red zone stops, which really isn’t too much to ask, Butker should cash this ticket to give us a nice win going into Championship Weekend.
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