OPINION: AFC Championship: Bills-Chiefs betting trends and pick

How does this game break down based on betting analytics?
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By BetQL

The AFC Shampionship Game will be hosted at Arrowhead Stadium for the third straight year as the Kansas City Chiefs attempt to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. The Chiefs will be hosting the Buffalo Bills, who are playing on championship weekend for the first time since the 1993 season.

The big news heading into this one is the health of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is expected to play as of this writing, despite suffering a scary injury to the neck and head area last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Divisional Round.

Kansas City now sits as the favorite (-3) for Sunday’s matchup. You can read more about what Mahomes means to the spread from our own Vik Chokshi here:

Line Movement

BetMGM opened the spread on this one at Chiefs -3, and it has not moved off that. Kansas City is receiving 56% of the tickets and 63% of the handle as of Friday morning.

As for the total, there has been interesting line movement. 60% of the tickets are on the under, as well as 57% of the money, but the total has jumped from the opener of 50.5 to 53.5 at BetMGM. The rise in the total could be attributed to the likelihood that Mahomes is in after some doubt early in the week, but bettors are still wagering on a lower-scoring game.

Trends

-- No. 1 seeds at home in the conference championship game are 13-10 against the spread since 2004.

-- Buffalo was tied for the best against the spread record in the regular season at 11-5 (1-1 in the postseason).

-- Kansas City is 1-8 against the spread in its last nine games.

-- Patrick Mahomes is 3-3 to the over as a playoff quarterback.

-- Andy Reid is 17-12-1 to the under as a playoff coach.

Picks

These two met back in Week 6, which was a 26-17 victory for the Chiefs in Buffalo. It was somewhat of a weird result with rain throughout the contest and schedule changes due to COVID-19 that led to the game being played on a Monday afternoon.

I’m not going to harp on that matchup due to the weird circumstances of the game, but rather look at how Buffalo has performed in this postseason. The Bills have been out-gained in both playoff matchups, and if not for some poor execution in Buffalo territory by both the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, they could be home right now. The Ravens, for one, drove inside the Bills' 35-yard line five times, scoring just three points total.

A big issue for the Buffalo defense that can be exposed in this matchup is how they defend the tight end. The Bills allowed the second-most receiving yards to tight ends during the regular season, per Lineups.com.

In the Kansas City passing game, Mahomes' weapon of choice is his tight end Travis Kelce. The veteran tight end is going to find soft spots in the Buffalo defense all game. Kelce is the best in the league at his position, hauling in 105 catches for over 1,400 yards this season. He’s likely in line for a monster day.

The Bills offense is going to have its way, as well. For starters, the Buffalo pass protection is elite. The unit ranks in the top-five in adjusted sack rate allowed, so Josh Allen is going to have time to throw against the Kansas City defense.

The Chiefs do bring pressure, but they just aren't great at it. The defense blitzed at a top-10 rate in the regular season, but only posted the 18th-best adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders.

Allen has fully taken a leap as a passer this season, as his completion percentage is up 11%. He'll need to be great on Sunday with the Bills' inconsistent rushing attack down rookie running back Zack Moss.

While the Chiefs were able to hold the line on defense against the Browns late in the Divisional Round, Buffalo may not be as forgiving. This is a Bills team that converted just under half of its third downs in the regular season, the best rate in the league. Not to mention, Kansas City’s Achilles heel, which has been holding teams out of the end zone.

Kansas City is dead last in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing a touchdown on more than 77% of those situations. The Browns scored touchdowns on both tries last Sunday, and the Bills are sure to be as proficient from inside the 20-yard line.

Lastly, Mahomes’ head/neck injury was scary, but he was already hobbled. The quarterback injured his toe in the first half and was limping around the field. Mahomes is an adept runner and capable of picking up chunks of yards on the ground. If he is compromised and can't move around the pocket well, Buffalo may be able to rattle him.

The Bills are an attractive teaser piece at +3 to bet them at over a touchdown, so that will likely be the only pregame attack point. This game is going to be close, and both offenses should dominate the opposition.

In the end, expect Kansas City to take home the AFC crown for the second straight season.

If the Chiefs fall behind but Mahomes looks healthy, you can maybe bet them live at around even money, however it hard to see much value in this line at its current price.

Pick: Bills in a teaser and wait for a potential Chiefs live bet

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