Deadspin NFL Over/Under Bet of the Week: Trusting the defending champs

Josh Allen and an injured Patrick Mahomes match up tonight with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Josh Allen and an injured Patrick Mahomes match up tonight with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Illustration: Eric Barrow (Getty Images)

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Over/Under: 54 │ Kickoff: 6:40 p.m. ET │TV: CBS

All week, the football world collectively held its breath awaiting the status of Patrick Mahomes for the AFC Championship. Well, not really, because there was no way Mahomes would be out.

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Before even being cleared from concussion protocol, Mahomes was back on the field practicing just days later following a worrisome hit that forced him to exit last Sunday’s playoff game with a head/neck injury. That known, we can gather the former MVP is at 100 percent.

And there you have the foundation for how to bet this total: Mahomes’ health.

This is Michael Jordan rolling through his lengthy prime, now in the phase of trying to secure back-to-back title conquests for the first time. Mahomes figures to marvel.

That’s what he always seems to do when playing at Arrowhead, where Mahomes has led the Chiefs to 31.7 points per game (including postseason) in his career. Akin to Jordan’s otherworldly ‘airness’ in the playoffs, Mahomes is hanging up a whopping 33.5 points on average this time of year — even with last week’s 22-point outing in just over a half before departing. He seemed to be pacing KC to a 40-spot.

I think the Bills will also have no way or blueprint of defending Mahomes and Co. adequately. When they saw the reigning champs back in Week 6, they were diced up by rookie tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is actually slated to return here from injury. Mahomes, meanwhile, only threw a season-low 26 passes that evening, so Buffalo really didn’t even see Kansas City’s typical offense in the defeat.

The Chiefs won that first meeting with an uncharacteristic reliance on the ground game. However, expect Mahomes to take to the air plenty — his own ‘airness’ — creating an ideal game script for an over.

Of course, with a total this high, you also need the opponent to do something. While I don’t think Buffalo can ultimately keep up with an in-rhythm locomotive that is the Chiefs offense, there’s more than enough firepower for a competitive effort.

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Josh Allen is coming off just a marvelous season and apparently hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal based on how he looked in his first pair of playoff victories the last two weeks. In those wins, Allen served a stark reminder in just how far he’s come from the inaccuracy issues that plagued him his rookie season, completing 68 percent of his throws for 530 yards to go along with three TDs and no interceptions.

Allen led the Bills’ transformation to offensive juggernaut this year, as they also topped all AFC clubs in points scored (31.3) each week. His kryptonite can be cold weather but fortunately, Arrowhead Stadium will not feature its usual late-January blistering weather conditions.

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The main key for Buffalo is how they produce in the red zone. When you have the likes of league-leading receiver Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, that definitely makes things a little easier. The Bills generated the fourth-most touchdowns on trips inside their opponent’s 20 while ranking 13th in red-zone efficiency The Chiefs D, meanwhile, finished dead last.

Enlisting a prime Mahomes is always wise, no matter the bet. When matched up against another sizzling offense that isn’t far behind, you have to anticipate points.

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The Bet: OVER 54 (-110)

The Record: 9-9-1, -1.4 units

Last Week: Buccaneers-Saints Over 51 (“loss”)

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit