What to Watch as Bills Face Chiefs and Rams Meet Buccaneers

What to Watch as Bills Face Chiefs and Rams Meet Buccaneers

The Rams will face a Buccaneers defense that loves to blitz, but choosing when and how often to blitz Stafford will be key. Stafford led the league with a 139.6 passer rating when defenses sent extra rushers this season, according to N.F.L.’s Next Gen Stats.

6:30 p.m., CBS

The A.F.C. was once dominated by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Now, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen could become the conference’s marquee rivalry.

The bright young quarterbacks for Kansas City and Buffalo will lead their teams to their third meeting in less than a calendar year. They easily dispatched their wild-card opponents last week, and the winner of this divisional-round matchup will be two wins away from a Super Bowl title.

This meeting happened in last year’s A.F.C. championship game, in which Kansas City defeated Buffalo, 38-24. As confetti fell at Arrowhead Stadium, Bills receiver Stefon Diggs watched alone on the sideline, an image that soon went viral.

The circumstances changed nine months later, in Week 5, as Buffalo outclassed Kansas City, 38-20, in a performance that highlighted Kansas City’s early-season struggles. Defensive breakdowns handicapped Kansas City, while Allen threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 88 yards.

The defense should be better equipped this time, though, as Chris Jones, the team’s best defensive lineman, will play after being inactive Week 5 with a wrist injury. Kansas City also added the edge rusher Melvin Ingram during the season.

The Chiefs started the season 3-4 — with the Bills game in that stretch — because Mahomes was making uncharacteristic turnovers, the high-powered offense was failing to adapt to new strategies to contain those errors, and the defense was surrendering about 400 yards per game. But questionable losses by the A.F.C.’s best teams — add Buffalo’s loss to Jacksonville in that category — kept the standings close, allowing Kansas City to regroup and claim the No. 2 seed after experiencing only one loss since November. The defense permitted about 100 yards less per game, and Mahomes became more patient, taking underneath throws instead of forcing downfield shots. His ball security also improved: Through the first seven games, he threw nine interceptions; he has thrown five since.

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