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Playoff Game Preview

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AFC Championship Game playoff preview: Bills at Chiefs

Viewers can watch the broadcast live on CBS/ESPN Deportes at 6:40 pm ET on Sunday as well as stream live on the NFL App and Yahoo Sports app.

The Backstory: Bills at Chiefs

The Buffalo Bills are back in the conference championship game for the first time since the 1993 season, and they'll have to slay Goliath to get to the biggest stage of all.

This version of Goliath does not lumber, but sprint. The Chiefs' explosive offense finds itself back in a familiar situation -- on the doorstep of the Super Bowl -- for a third-straight season. The AFC Championship Game hasn't left Kansas City since the 2017 season, and it won't on Sunday, giving the Chiefs a homefield advantage even with reduced attendance. It's not as if they need it, but they'll enjoy the comforts of Arrowhead Stadium against a Bills team that hasn't played outside of Buffalo since Dec. 28.

The Chiefs are out to take another step toward cementing their place among the great franchises in NFL history, aiming to repeat as Super Bowl champions after coming from behind to beat the San Francisco 49ers last year.

The biggest question in this one should be answered before Sunday: Is Patrick Mahomes going to be able to play? After participating in limited fashion Wednesday and Thursday, Mahomes' chance seemed to be trending positively, but the Super Bowl LIV MVP's availability will remain paramount to Kansas City's chances. Buffalo brings its own MVP candidate to the fray in Josh Allen, who has teamed with new addition Stefon Diggs to propel the Bills' offense to new heights in 2020. If Mahomes can go, we might be in for a memorable quarterback duel to decide the AFC champion.

Under Pressure

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier: Frazier devised a masterful game plan in the Bills' Divisional Round triumph over the Ravens last week, flipping Buffalo's tendencies on its head in committing to the blitz early and often. The approach stifled Baltimore's run game, contained Lamar Jackson and held the Ravens to a mere three points in a low-scoring affair. Such a plan likely won't work against the Chiefs, though, as Kansas City is statistically better -- by a lot -- against the blitz this season. Cleveland attempted to sit back and play coverage in the early portion of last weekend's game, and it got shredded, making for a tough spot for Frazier. Buffalo has the personnel to play a mix of the two, and with Mahomes somewhat hobbled by a toe issue, some blitzing could work, as it started to make a difference for the Browns. But Frazier can't send pressure as often as he did last weekend, or else the Bills will find themselves headed home. It will come down to the coordinator's ability to judge the game in real time and make the right calls for the Bills to stop the Chiefs frequently enough to give their offense a chance to make a significant impact.

Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker: Butker nearly missed enough kicks to lose the Chiefs their Divisional Round game last week, but thanks to Rashard Higgins' goal-line fumble and Cleveland's inability to turn its most important possession of the season into a go-ahead touchdown, he avoided being scapegoated. Butker can't afford to have another rough outing against these Bills -- and for that matter, neither can rookie Bills kicker Tyler Bass, who also struggled last week. Butker brings with him a reputation of effectiveness, and he'll need to live up to it to give the Chiefs their best shot of winning a second-straight conference title.

Matchup to watch

Bills offense versus Chiefs' defense: Buffalo lacks a strong running game, so much that the Bills nearly went an entire half without handing the ball off to a running back in their Divisional Round win over Baltimore. Thanks to a stingy defense, a timely pick-six and a well-called scoring drive that preceded the turnover, Buffalo came out on top. But against Kansas City -- a team that was fairly effective against Cleveland's top-three rushing attack in establishing an early tone last week -- the Bills will need some variety in their play-calling if they want to keep pace with the Chiefs. That's truly the most important function of Buffalo's offense: keep pace with Kansas City. There's always the path of attempting to win time of possession, controlling clock and keeping the ball out of the Chiefs' hands, but a lot of that has to do with executing and moving the chains. The Chiefs love to blitz, and Allen has been good under pressure this season. But with the lights brighter than ever on the young signal-caller, he and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will have to call and execute an offense efficient enough to keep Kansas City at bay -- or else find itself in a shootout. Buffalo is capable of winning the latter scenario, of course, but it will have to be sharp throughout the contest to have a legitimate chance. The room for error against these Chiefs is slim.

Final thought

The AFC's two hottest teams are going to meet Sunday for the conference crown. What more could we ask for? If Mahomes plays, we could be in for a classic. And Buffalo, while still happy to even be here, appears equipped to take the next massive step toward ultimate prominence. We can't wait to see how this one shakes out between two teams that should meet again in future postseasons.

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