2020 NFL AFC Championship: Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Fading the champs as short favorites AND betting on a shootout: Buffalo Bills +3 and Bills/Chiefs o55.5
We observe evidence of a short-term momentum effect in NFL Playoff actions. History says teams off unlikely covers should be trusted in their next campaign. As such, we are backing the up-and-coming Buffalo Bills to beat the number in Conference Championship action at the Kansas City Chiefs.
Teams taking points in the playoffs, after laying chalk a week earlier, have been good for a 17% return on investment back to 2003, with only five seasons over this span submitting less than a 50% cover rate. This system is 4-2 ATS so far this year.
As further support from the annals of history for the Bills cover, we highlight the following additional evidence of a momentum effect, of sorts.
Teams on extended straight up win streaks in non-division playoff action have been fabulous bets historically, returning 33% over the long-term, and amassing only four seasons of a below-50% cover rate.
This system is 3-2 this year.
Chiefs QB, Patrick Mahomes, appeared to have been concussed at the end of a running play in the third quarter of Divisional Round action versus the Cleveland Browns. Coach Andy Reid projected optimism in the post-game press conference, however this situation introduces (perhaps considerable) uncertainty related to Mahomes' availability next week.
The Action Network reports findings from a study by researchers at the Henry Ford Clinic of NFL concussions to the effect that players that sustained such on-field injury between 2012 and 2015 were cleared to play an average of 19 days later.
If Mahomes is not able to go Sunday, expect the spread to swing to favoring the Bills. Per a recent article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nick Bogdanovich, Sportsbook Director at William Hill, estimated Mahomes' absence from a single game to be worth 7.5-8 betting spread points. In the same piece, Southpoint Sportsbook Director, Chris Andrews, ascribed a more modest five points of spread value to the Chiefs starting QB. Andrews felt that Kansas City head coach Andy Reid's wizardry with a clipboard could overcome some of the loss of Mahome's talent.
Either way, the point remains: Chad Henne starting in Patrick Mahomes stead is likely the difference between Bills-backers receiving and laying points. This is to say that bettors inclined to side with the Bills might be best served by moving sooner than later. Sean Koerner, Director of Predictive Analytics for The Action Network calculates that Bills +2.5 is a fair line if Mahomes plays. Koerner sees Buffalo -3.5 if he does not.
But even before the play that ended Mahomes' evening versus the Browns and called the following week into question, the fourth year star QB exhibited obvious signs of an injured foot, hobbling noticeably in dead ball situations. In fact, at one point during the contest versus Cleveland, Mahomes briefly retired to the medical tent to seek attention for his toe.
Nonetheless, in limited time behind center, Mahomes completed 21 of 30 throws, for 255 yards and a touchdown. However, several attempts were uncharacteristically errant, perhaps consistent with a reticence to bear down on his bad appendage.
Bettors should stay attentive to personnel announcements throughout the week, and attendant changes in the lines, but our best guess is that even an active Patrick Mahomes next week will perform at less than 100%.
Separately, we are also backing the OVER. Historically, the conference championship round of the NFL playoffs has exhibited a clear bias toward the OVER. Backing higher than expected scores from this spot has been good for a 24% return since 2003, with losing records registered in only three seasons.
But at odds with our admonition to back the Bills versus the number sooner than later, we recommend waiting for clarity on Mahomes status to get down on the OVER, as the risk appears skewed to the downside. To wit, Sean Koerner sees 56.5 as a fair total with Mahomes in the Chiefs' lineup; this level is a point away from the current line. On the other hand, absent Mahomes, Koerner expects the betting total to drop to the vicinity of 51.5, a much easier hurdle at more than a field goal below the current line.