AFC Championship Game 2021: Injury Report, Predictions for Bills vs. Chiefs

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJanuary 24, 2021

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes looks to pass during the first half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

On Friday, the news came in that Kansas City Chiefs fans had been hoping for: Patrick Mahomes is good to go.

After exiting the divisional-round win over the Cleveland Browns, the quarterback started the week in the NFL's concussion protocol with his status uncertain for Sunday's AFC Championship Game. But on Friday, he shared with the media that he had been cleared to return to action.

Mahomes will look to lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year when they host the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Last year, Mahomes was the Super Bowl LIV MVP while leading Kansas City to its first championship since the 1969 season.

The Bills have never won a Super Bowl. But if they can take down the Chiefs, they will return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1993 season.

Here's everything you need to know ahead of Sunday's game, including the injury reports for both teams and a prediction for how the contest will unfold.


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AFC Championship Game Information

Date: Sunday, Jan. 24

Start Time: 6:40 p.m. ET



Injury Report


DT Vernon Butler: Questionable (quad); WR Gabriel Davis: Questionable (ankle).

The Bills are mostly in good shape heading into Sunday's game, with only Butler and Davis carrying injury designations on the final injury report of the week. And both players were limited participants at Friday's practice, so perhaps they will end up playing Sunday.

Butler had nine tackles and a forced fumble in 14 games during the regular season, his first with Buffalo. He has one tackle this postseason, which came in the Bills' divisional-round win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Davis had 35 receptions for 599 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games during the regular season and had four catches for 85 yards in Buffalo's Wild Card Round win over the Indianapolis Colts. However, the rookie was held without a catch on four targets last time out.

Fellow wide receivers Stefon Diggs (oblique) and Cole Beasley (knee) were dealing with injuries that caused them to be limited participants at practice earlier in the week, but neither has an injury designation, which is good news for the Bills.

It's worth noting that Buffalo elevated wide receiver Kenny Stills from the practice squad Saturday, which means he could fill in for Davis if needed. Stills, who has played eight NFL seasons, was signed to the Bills practice squad Jan. 4. He played 10 games for the Houston Texans earlier this season, but he was released Nov. 27.



RB Le'Veon Bell: Questionable (knee); RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Questionable (ankle/hip); CB Rashad Fenton: Questionable (foot); LB Willie Gay: Out (ankle); WR Sammy Watkins: Questionable (calf).

Like Mahomes, cornerback Bashaud Breeland cleared the NFL's concussion protocol and doesn't carry an injury designation heading into Sunday's game. That's good news for Kansas City, which will likely need Breeland's presence in the secondary to help slow Buffalo's passing attack.

The Chiefs could be without some offensive playmakers of their own, though, with Bell, Edwards-Helaire and Watkins all questionable.

Edwards-Helaire hasn't played since getting injured in Week 15 of the regular season. He's been a limited participant at practice this week, while Bell didn't practice Thursday or Friday. Even with Edwards-Helaire out in the divisional round, though, Bell had only two carries for six yards, while Darrel Williams had 13 carries for 78 yards.

Williams could get the majority of the work out of Kansas City's backfield again Sunday, especially if Edwards-Helaire and Bell are both out. The only other running back on the Chiefs' active roster is Darwin Thompson. But perhaps this could be the week when Edwards-Helaire gets back into action.

"He's been running around and doing a good job," Reid said of the rookie, per Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star.

Watkins, who hasn't played since Week 16 of the regular season, was also a limited participant at practice all week.

The only certainty among this group is that Gay will be out for the second straight week. The rookie linebacker suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Chiefs' regular-season finale.


Game Prediction

The most important thing for the Chiefs is that Mahomes will be leading their offense. Veteran backup Chad Henne may have made some big plays to help close out the divisional-round win over the Browns, but things may not have gone quite as well over a full game against the Bills.

Because Mahomes will be in action, Kansas City's offense will be too much for Buffalo to overcome. But the Bills are going to keep the game close and keep the pressure on until the closing minutes.

Kansas City's offense could get healthier with the possible additions of Edwards-Helaire and/or Watkins. But even if it's still without those two, there's plenty of other talent around Mahomes, such as wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, to keep the offense rolling.

Buffalo's offense should keep up for most of the game, as quarterback Josh Allen is having a breakout season and has led it to plenty of success. Neither team had a top-tier defense this season, so the potential is there for plenty of offense on both sides.

But when the Chiefs get into offensive shootouts, it's unlikely they are going to end up on the losing end. Mahomes will stretch Kansas City's lead with a late touchdown. Then Buffalo will run out of time for a potential game-tying drive. And while the Bills have had a remarkable season, it will end Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Bills 26