When Stefon Diggs’ dejected Bills teammates headed to the locker room following Buffalo’s 38-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s AFC Championship Game, he didn’t follow them.
Instead, the star wide receiver elected to remain on the field and soak in what could have been. The Chiefs were ultimately the ones welcoming the confetti and celebratory branded gear that is typically awarded to a conference champ.
A year later, the two teams will meet again, this time in the Divisional Round. For Diggs, the goal is the same: produce, give max effort and don’t be the reason why your team goes home.
"... As far as being in the playoffs and knowing it's win or go home, there are always heightened emotions. I feel like you need a little more focus and effort. Fighting for extra yardage in the regular season is different than fighting for extra yardage in the playoffs,” Diggs explained, per ABC 7 Buffalo. “I feel like you're giving it everything you've got and the man across from you is doing the same, because you know you're going home if you don't win. And you don't want to be the reason that you go home."
Let’s evaluate the matchup between Diggs and the Chiefs defense.
First things first, weather should not be an issue in this game, which means both Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes will likely have no issues passing the ball. Back in Week 5 when these two teams matched up in Kansas City, Allen went 15-26 for 315 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions en route to a 38-20 win. Diggs caught two passes for 69 yards in that game.
However, since then, this Chiefs defense has had a resurgence and has, at times, been the team’s savior when Mahomes and the offense struggled. Therefore, it’s important to realize this isn’t the same (terrible) defensive unit that it was back in the early-season meeting.
However, let’s not gloss over the fact that in the regular season, the Chiefs allowed 2,500 yards after the catch, the second-worst mark in the NFL. They also surrendered 4,273 passing yards (sixth-worst). As the Patriots just found out, this Bills passing offense presents a ton of challenges and can be just as explosive as KC’s.
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Chiefs defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo runs a blitz-heavy, 4-3 base defense and both Melvin Ingram and Chris Jones will be threats in the trenches after not playing back in Week 5. That will undoubtedly give the home team a boost. As a whole, KC’s defense ranked third in hurry rate, sixth in pressure rate and eighth in blitz rate, but converted the fourth-fewest sacks (31) out of all NFL teams in the regular season.
Nonetheless, Allen will be under pressure (Queen and David Bowie singing voice).
In last year’s AFC Championship game, the Chiefs sacked Allen four times and made life very tough on him. Usually, Allen thrives against pressure, but in that game, he struggled mightily due to KC’s surprising ability to get to him in the backfield while remaining sound in other areas of the field. You have to think both coaching staffs are going to look back at that game when preparing for this one.
Per NFL Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs secondary aligned in press coverage on 68% of routes against Steelers slot/wide receivers in their Wild Card win, which would rank as the highest press coverage rate by a team in any game over the last six seasons (playoff or regular season).
Kansas City had a 40% press coverage rate during the regular season, which was the highest rate in the NFL. If they adopt a similar strategy in this matchup and decide to press Diggs on the outside, the star wideout should be able to eat.
His yardage prop is 70.5 receiving yards, but BetQL is projecting Diggs to catch seven passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, thus highlighting the fact that this individual matchup has a lot of upside.
The Bills have targeted wide receivers on 71.2% of their pass attempts (second-highest) and Diggs ranked 2nd in the NFL in air yards, accounted for 34.6% of his team’s air yards (17th) had a 26.6% team target share (14th) and attracted 9.6 targets per game (6th).
It’s also important to note that he had five games with a 30%+ target share, so when Allen knows Diggs can consistently get open, he feeds him the ball.
As we’ve seen this season, anything can happen in the NFL. But, betting over 70.5 yards for Diggs is a bet that’s not only backed by BetQL’s model, but by logic and other statistics as well, as you’ve seen above.
Maybe this year, it’ll be Diggs and his teammates celebrating after the final whistle as the Chiefs head back to the locker room wondering what could have been.