Chiefs set for AFC title vs. Bills, with or without Patrick Mahomes
The good news for the Kansas City Chiefs is that Patrick Mahomes is practicing.
However, Mahomes remained in concussion protocol as preparations began in earnest for Sunday’s AFC Championship game pitting the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs against the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
“(Mahomes) took all the snaps and he feels good, so we’re just going to follow this protocol as close as we possibly can,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters Wednesday.
Last year’s Super Bowl MVP suffered an injury in the third quarter of Kansas City’s divisional round game against Cleveland and did not return. Backup Chad Henne and the Chiefs defense held on for a victory, in part because Henne scrambled for a big gain and then converted a game-clinching first down with a surprising completion to Tyreek Hill.
“For my preparation, it’s going to stay the same: Prepare like you’re the starter each and every week, no matter what happens,” Henne said. “Whatever does happen, happens. I always stay ready.”
Pretty sound outlook, though when Henne was named the quarterback for the Chiefs’ last regular-season game after they had already clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed, the start was his first since 2014. The Los Angeles Chargers halted Kansas City’s 10-game win streak, but the Chiefs raced to an early lead against the Browns despite coming off a first-round bye.
It is worth noting that Mahomes sprinted off the field for testing after first wobbling to the sideline against the Browns. Reid said later that Mahomes sustained an injury to his neck area and also, a toe injury Mahomes suffered is not causing him any problems.
“We’re just leaving it the way we do,” Reid said of his quarterback situation. “Chad’s comfortable with it and he feels that he can handle that if need be, so I think that’s gone well there.”
While everyone is awaiting word on Mahomes’ status, the word on the Bills’ Josh Allen is he is playing at a level equal to any quarterback still competing in the postseason.
Considering that list of greats includes Mahomes, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, Allen is in select company. He doesn’t get distracted by comparisons, though.
“I’m just trying to be the best version of myself,” Allen said. “I’m not trying to compare to the other guys who are arguably some of the best to ever play the game, the ones who are left. I’m just focused on what I can do.”
Ever since a 26-17 loss to the Chiefs in Week 6, the Bills have rolled to 11 wins in 12 games, including eight straight, to gain their first AFC Championship appearance since 1993.
Allen’s steady improvement with the Bills rode a huge uptick this season when he recorded eight 300-yard passing performances.
“He’s poised. I’ve never seen him overly excited,” said Stefon Diggs, whose All-Pro season included NFL highs of 1,535 yards and 127 catches. “For him putting his head down and gaining actual (rushing) yards, things like that go far with us.”
If the matchup comes down to key defensive stops, consider that Buffalo has allowed touchdowns on just two of eight red-zone situations in the playoffs. Taron Johnson converted one into a pick-six in the divisional round win against Baltimore.
As for Kansas City, it ranked last in the NFL in red-zone defense, allowing a touchdown rate of 76.6 percent. Yet the Chiefs have held nine opponents to 20 or fewer points.
Two Chiefs playmakers, Sammy Watkins (calf) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) are practicing after missing the divisional round. Linebacker Willie Gay (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
Vernon Butler (quad) and Gabriel Davis (ankle) did not practice Wednesday for Buffalo.
–Field Level Media