Mahomes suffered a serious enough injury that he couldn’t finish last week’s playoff win over the Cleveland Browns. He was visibly shaken after a third-quarter hit and had trouble finding his footing before leaving the field and being ruled out.
Mahomes active at practice
Mahomes showed up to practice Wednesday, participating in light drills with his teammates. On Thursday, he practiced with his helmet on and reportedly hadn’t suffered any setbacks from his brain injury.
Kansas City didn’t provide an update on his progress through the five steps of concussion protocol, but gave every indication that Mahomes is going to play, including a since-deleted tweet on Wednesday of Mahomes in practice with the caption “Championship game prep.”
Why delete the tweet? That requires some reading of the tea leaves. But the Chiefs surely don’t want give off the impression they’re not taking the concussion protocol seriously.
Super showdown at quarterback
It all points to Mahomes being ready for Sunday’s showdown against Josh Allen and the Bills in a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app. The call will ultimately lie with an independent medical evaluator, per the NFL’s concussion protocol.
The alternative is a nightmare scenario for the Chiefs and a massive disappointment for the NFL as it looks to showcase two of its top young quarterbacks with a berth in the Super Bowl at stake.
Assuming Mahomes plays, the NFL couldn’t have drawn up a more compelling scenario to set up the Super Bowl. With veteran stalwarts Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers squaring off in the the NFC championship, a pair of under-26 stars will face off in the AFC championship, guaranteeing a generational clash in the Super Bowl next month.
Sunday won’t be the first time the two teams played this season. A Week 6 matchup didn’t produce the shootout expected of the pair of explosive offenses. It did produce Allen’s worst game of the season, a 122-yard passing effort with two touchdowns and an interception in a 26-17 victory.
The remarkable rise of Josh Allen
Don’t expect Sunday to look the same. While some wrote off Allen’s effort in that loss as a regression to the mean after an unexpected scorching hot start, the third-year Bills quarterback has since proven that his stunning year-over-year improvement was not a mirage.
Few if any quarterbacks in NFL history have shown the improvement from his first two seasons as Allen. He always had a big arm, but accuracy was an issue going back to his days at Wyoming. His completion rates of 52.2 and 58.8 percent in his first two season appeared to confirm those concerns and screamed first-round bust more than MVP candidate.
Allen bounced back from the Week 6 loss to finish the season with a 69.2 completion rate, a dramatic jump that has put him among the league’s elite quarterbacks. Almost weekly he fits a long pass into a tight window that drops the jaws of NFL analysts. He has a 37-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio to show for it while leading the league’s second-ranked offense.
This is no fluke. Even Allen’s harshest critics have come to accept that he’s the real deal.
In his first season playing with Allen, Stefon Diggs was arguably the NFL’s best receiver, while leading the league with 1,535 yards. Cole Beasley made second-team All-Pro as a slot receiver. This is a potent offense that can do some damage against Kansas City’s 16th-ranked defense.
Shootout in store?
Kansas City isn’t likely to hold Buffalo to 17 points a second time. The Chiefs, however, have defensive play makers in pass rushers Frank Clark and Chris Jones, and safety Tyrann Mathieu is capable of forcing and capitalizing on mistakes.
Buffalo’s real challenge, of course, will be keeping up with the Chiefs’ offense, the only unit in the NFL more productive than theirs. The Chiefs still boast Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, arguably the two most dangerous weapons in the NFL at their positions. After Sammy Watkins and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire both missed last week’s win over the Browns, they’re both back at practice this week.
Which brings us back to the question of the week in the NFL: Will Mahomes play? If so, this has all the elements of a classic shootout with a spot in the Super Bowl at stake.
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