Patrick Mahomes and reigning champions the Kansas City Chiefs will face Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV after beating the Buffalo Bills 38-24.

The Chiefs reached the showpiece for the second straight season after an impressive performance at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Mahomes – who entered concussion protocol last week before proving his fitness – completed 29 of 38 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns as Tyreek Hill (172 receiving yards) and Travis Kelce (118 and two TDs) both had big games.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen was 28 of 48 for 287 yards and two touchdowns, while he rushed for 88 yards, but he was intercepted once and sacked four times.

Allen was also unable to get much going with Stefon Diggs, who finished with just 77 yards on six receptions.

The Bills made the perfect start, Allen combining with Dawson Knox on a short pass after Mecole Hardman fumbled a punt as Buffalo took a 9-0 lead.

Hardman quickly redeemed himself after a three-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes before his 50-yard run put the Chiefs in position, Darrel Williams rushing over to give them the lead.

Kansas City capitalised on their period of dominance as Clyde Edwards-Helaire strolled in to complete a nine-play, 77-yard drive as the Chiefs took a 21-12 advantage into half-time.

After the teams traded field goals, the Chiefs extended their lead, Mahomes delivering an underhand TD pass to Kelce after a mesmerising run from Hill set the hosts up.

Allen was intercepted by Rashad Fenton early in the fourth quarter and the Chiefs stretched their lead when Mahomes connected with a wide open Kelce for another TD.

Allen found Isaiah McKenzie for a score for Buffalo as the Bills continued to push, but it was far too late.

 

Turning point – Chiefs turn Hardman's game around

Hardman's fumble cost the Chiefs early, but Kansas City helped turn the wide receiver's game around.

Mahomes connected with him for a touchdown and Hardman also reeled off a 50-yard run, quickly redeeming himself for the early error as the Chiefs took the lead and restored the 22-year-old's confidence.

Kelce and Hill dominate

Kelce and Hill combined for 290 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a dominant performance as reigning Super Bowl MVP Mahomes also starred.

With 13, Kelce set the record for most receptions in a conference championship game in the Super Bowl era, surpassing Michael Irvin (1994), as per NFL Research.

Kelce also surpassed Rob Gronkowski (1,585 in 2011) for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season in NFL history.

What's next?

The Chiefs will head to the Super Bowl again. Led by Mahomes, they face a Buccaneers side who are the first in NFL history to play a Super Bowl at home.

For Buffalo, meanwhile, a promising season came to an end, but they are sure to be in contention again moving forward.

The matchup for Super Bowl LV will be known by the end of this weekend as the two Conference Championships are decided.

Probably the strangest season in NFL history has delivered a semi-final line-up to savour.

There is a matchup between two future Hall of Famers in Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers and the Packers face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.

The AFC Championship Game features two signal-callers well on their way to securing Hall of Fame status, with Patrick Mahomes recovering from a concussion to lead the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.

Mahomes being available means the Chiefs remain the favourites to retain the trophy, but here Stats Perform's team of NFL writers make their picks as to who will emerge from the final four and prevail at Super Bowl LV in Tampa.

Ben Spratt - CHIEFS TO CONQUER ALL ONCE MORE

With Mahomes, the best quarterback in football, fit to play, it seems foolish to back against the Chiefs.

The fourth-year superstar has the best career passer rating in playoff history (106.6), with his only two postseason interceptions coming in last year's Super Bowl when he subsequently led Kansas City to victory in a record-equalling 21-point fourth quarter.

And yet this team is not just about Mahomes, as their QB has the luxury of targeting tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who ranked second and eighth for receiving yards this season.

Even when Mahomes was out against the Cleveland Browns, the Chiefs had a coach in Andy Reid ready to make the big calls to guide them through.

Chris Myson - SEVENTH HEAVEN FOR BRADY

The meeting of the minds between Bruce Arians and Brady was never going to be plain sailing in their first season, as two demoralising regular-season division losses to the New Orleans Saints showed.

But the Buccaneers have gradually worked through their problems and are now riding a five-game winning streak, having seen off the Washington Football Team by eight points and the Saints by 10 in the postseason.

At 43, Brady exceeded expectations in his first year in Arians' system, with 40 passing touchdowns being the second-best tally of his storied career, only the record-breaking 50 he got in 2007 topping that.

It has historically proven wise not to bet against Brady in the playoffs, a case strengthened with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and many more weapons representing the best supporting cast he has had in years.

Rob Lancaster - WE BILL-IEVE!

The Bills believe again. A franchise that has suffered more than their fair share of Super Bowl heartache in the past, losing four straight in the early 1990s, has high hopes that this could finally be their year.

Allen holds the key for Buffalo; he finished in the top five for quarterbacks in terms of passing yards, touchdowns thrown and yards per attempt in the regular season.

With his team rather abandoning the run in the playoffs – they posted a season-low 32 yards on the ground in the Divisional Round triumph over the Baltimore Ravens – the 24-year-old has the chance to excel against elite competition and, by lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, write his name into Buffalo folklore.

Nicholas McGee - BACK THE PACK

In last year's NFC Championship game, the Green Bay Packers were crushed by a San Francisco 49ers team that ran them over on offense and used their defense to swarm Aaron Rodgers and condemn him to another chastening playoff loss. 

The Packers were seen as a regression candidate in 2020, but those who expected them to take a step back perhaps underestimated how much of an achievement it was for them to reach this stage last season in Rodgers' first year in Matt LaFleur's offense.

His second year in the scheme, built around the same principles that form the basis of Kyle Shanahan's 49ers attack, has seen Rodgers take an offense widely regarded as the most creative in the game to new heights.

A near-lock for the MVP award, Rodgers completed 70.7 per cent of his passes in the regular season for 4,299 yards, an incredible 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Behind only Deshaun Watson and Allen with a completion percentage over expectation of 4.4, according to NextGen Stats, Rodgers led the league in adjusted net yards per attempt, his average of 8.89 well clear of Mahomes (8.33) in second. 

Possessing a near-telepathic connection with Davante Adams, Rodgers is playing at a level where he can outduel Brady, Allen or Mahomes, while the Packers defense is rounding into the kind of form where Green Bay can do what San Francisco couldn't last year, and make enough plays to stop the Chiefs from lifting the Lombardi Trophy.

Patrick Mahomes is out of the NFL's concussion protocol, clearing the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback to play in Sunday's AFC Championship Game with the Buffalo Bills. 

Mahomes' status had been in doubt since he suffered a concussion in the third quarter of the Chiefs' dramatic 22-17 Divisional Round win over the Cleveland Browns. 

The Chiefs were able to cling on for victory over the underdog Browns with Chad Henne at quarterback. 

However, they will not have to cope for an entire game with backup Henne under center, Mahomes telling reporters on Friday that he was cleared to play.

"Luckily enough, I haven't had any symptoms and I'm able to play," Mahomes said. "I'll be able to go out there and be myself." 

On a toe injury from which he has also been suffering, he added: "Feeling a lot better. The next day was very sore, every day from then has gotten a lot better. It wasn't as bad as it looked and it felt that day and the day after." 

The 2018 MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the Chiefs' 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers in last season's showpiece, Mahomes is looking to guide the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Bowls for the first time in franchise history. 

Should he lead the Chiefs to a win over the Bills, Kansas City will face either the Green Bay Packers or Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV on February 7.

The Kansas City Chiefs host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday to find out who will represent the AFC in Super Bowl LV.

This will be just the third time that teams with 13 or more regular season wins each have met in the conference’s championship game, the others seeing the Jaguars take on the Titans in 1999 and then the Steelers against the Patriots five years later.

Kansas City are the reigning champions and the top seeds, yet they go into the game with a major injury cloud over their superstar quarterback. Patrick Mahomes was unable to finish the Divisional Round win over the Cleveland Browns due to a concussion in the third quarter, leaving Chad Henne to see the team over the line.

A second-round pick in 2008, Henne experienced both highs and lows during his first playoff experience. He would definitely have wanted to try again with a deep throw that was intercepted, yet he also completed a key fourth-down pass that sealed a 22-17 triumph.

Mahomes has been limited in practice as he goes through the NFL's concussion protocols but it is hoped he will be fit to face the Bills, who have no such concerns over the health of starter Josh Allen.

Quarterbacks in the spotlight

The showdown will potentially be the second all-time meeting in the conference championship round between starting quarterbacks aged 25 or younger, the other coming back in 1979 when Vince Ferragamo and the Rams went up against Doug Williams' Buccaneers in the NFC. This will be the second meeting between the teams this season, though. Back in Week 6, Buffalo suffered their only home loss as the visiting Chiefs prevailed 26-17, though Mahomes was happy to play a supporting role as the visitors piled up 245 yards rushing.

Super Bowl heartache

The Bills will be confident they can avenge that October defeat on the road, particularly after an impressive display from their defense in the 17-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens last time out. Buffalo allowed the fewest number of points in a playoff game since 1992, in a period when the franchise was hugely successful under head coach Marv Levy. Indeed, they are the only team ever to win conference title games in four straight years, from 1990-93. A Super Bowl triumph eluded them back then, but could this finally be their year? If they want to keep their hopes alive in 2021, they will surely need to be more proficient at running the ball this week, having posted a season-low 32 yards on the ground against the Ravens.

Too tight to call?

The Chiefs - appearing in the AFC Championship decider for a third straight year - have made a habit of being involved in close encounters during this campaign. Andy Reid's team have come out on top in eight of their last nine outings, though all those victories have come by six or fewer points, the longest single-season streak in NFL history (including playoffs) of wins by six points or less. The numbers suggest we could be in for further drama this weekend, while Mahomes' availability could prove crucial in deciding who ends up lifting the Lamar Hunt Trophy at Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Patrick Mahomes is feeling good as the Super Bowl champions monitor the star quarterback ahead of the AFC Championship Game.

Mahomes is in concussion protocol but continues to practice after leaving last week's win over the Cleveland Browns following a hit from Mack Wilson.

It remains to be seen whether the Super Bowl MVP and the 2018 Most Valuable Player, who did not return against the Browns, will face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

But speaking after Thursday's practice, Reid told reporters: "Pat looked good out there.

"He did a nice job when he was doing it. It looks like he's moving around well.

"He feels good. It's just important that we follow the protocol and that's what we're doing.''

Mahomes became just the second player in NFL history – after Steve Young – to have both passing and rushing touchdowns in three straight playoff games. 

He has thrown for 14 touchdowns and two interceptions across six playoff games, with a career postseason QB rating of 106.6, the best in league history.

Kansas City's offensive co-ordinator Eric Bieniemy added: "He looks like Pat to me.

"He's been great in meetings. He's fun. He's energetic. You can always count on Pat being Pat.''

Top seeds the Chiefs are appearing in the AFC Championship decider for the third consecutive season as they prepare to welcome the Bills to Arrowhead Stadium.

Patrick Mahomes had "limited work and no contact" on Wednesday as he works through concussion protocol ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs' AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. 

Superstar quarterback Mahomes, who was already struggling with a toe injury, left the Chiefs' win over the Cleveland Browns last week following a hit from Mack Wilson. 

The 2018 MVP was unable to return, but veteran backup Chad Henne led the defending Super Bowl champions to a dramatic victory in their playoff opener. 

Henne, playing in the postseason for the first time in his NFL career, endured a shaky outing, though, throwing an interception and being sacked once despite completing six of eight passes and crucially gaining 13 yards on one of his two rushing attempts. 

Kansas City will be keen for the return of Mahomes, who became just the second player in NFL history - after Steve Young - to have both passing and rushing touchdowns in three straight playoff games. 

Head coach Andy Reid said every player besides Willie Gay was "out there in some form or another", with the Chiefs also hoping to welcome back rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. 

"Tomorrow's a bigger practice, but they all seemed to make it through well and we'll just see how it goes tomorrow," Reid said.

On Mahomes specifically, Reid added: "He looked good. He's in the protocol, so there's only certain things he can do.

"It's a limited basis, but today was a little bit limited practice, so that fitted right in to what he could do.

"He took all the snaps and he feels good, so we're just going to have to follow this protocol as closely as we possibly can."

Having continued to take risks with Henne at the helm last week, including a gamble on a pass from fourth and inches to seal the win, Reid is confident Kansas City's preparations will not be impacted by the uncertainty at quarterback.

"When Chad was in the game, we didn't really have to change much, so that was a plus," he explained. "We're just leaving it the way we do.

"Chad's comfortable with it, and he feels he can handle that. It's all well there."

Mahomes has thrown for 14 touchdowns and two interceptions across six playoff games, with a career postseason QB rating of 106.6, the best in league history.

Andy Reid said Patrick Mahomes was "feeling good" after the Kansas City Chiefs star suffered a concussion in Sunday's 22-17 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Mahomes was replaced by Chad Henne in the third quarter of the AFC Divisional Round game at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday after a big hit from Browns linebacker Mack Wilson.

Amid concerns over the 2018 NFL MVP – who joined Hall of Famer Steve Young (1993-94) as the only players in NFL history to have a passing touchdown and rushing TD in three successive playoff games – Chiefs head coach Reid was upbeat about Mahomes' health.

"He's actually doing very well. I just talked to him and he's doing good," Reid told a news conference.

"We'll see how he is tomorrow, but right now he's feeling good."

Without Mahomes, Super Bowl champions the Chiefs still managed to book a meeting with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game.

Henne produced a 13-yard run and made a short pass to Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-one to seal the Chiefs' win.

"When you're around him [Henne], you just know. I'm glad he had an opportunity to play a week or two ago, whenever our last game was, and get in," Reid said.

"I think that helped him when he jumped in this time of just being comfortable with the speed of everything. Everybody has full confidence in him."

Reid added: "We go through all of those Saturday night with the quarterbacks and those situations, fourth-and-one to win the game, what do you want? That play happened to be there.

"My coaches were on board between Mike [Kafka] and Eric [Bieniemy] and Joe [Bleymaier] upstairs, they all did a great job, with the spot, with the calls, with everything. They were spot on so it was a great job."

The Chiefs will host the AFC Championship Game for the third consecutive season. According to NFL Research, Kansas City joined the 2002-2004 Philadelphia Eagles – also coached by Reid – as the only teams to stage three straight conference championships.

Two separate Patrick Mahomes issues gave the Kansas City Chiefs serious cause for concern even as they beat the Cleveland Browns 22-17 to return to the AFC Championship Game.

The defending Super Bowl champions are now one win away from returning to the NFL's showpiece event but will spend the coming days worrying over superstar quarterback Mahomes' status after he exited this game with concussion, having already gone down with a toe injury.

Sunday's success proved far more testing than might have been expected as the Chiefs, led by Mahomes, got off to a typically dominant start, making the most of their full array of offensive weapons in a 10-play, 75-yard opening drive that ended with the QB running in from a yard.

The Browns were restricted to a field goal in response and Mahomes then found Travis Kelce - a boyhood Cleveland fan - for a second Kansas City score.

But Mahomes soon required treatment on his toe and the Chiefs' momentum waned, fortunate to stretch their lead through two field goals heading into halftime as a touchback cost the Browns, with Daniel Sorensen's hit - seemingly led with the helmet - forcing a fumble from Rashard Higgins through the end zone.

Even as Tyrann Mathieu picked off a Baker Mayfield pass at the start of the second half, Cleveland came again and the QB connected with Jarvis Landry for a first TD.

Mahomes was soon heading for the locker room after taking a big hit from Mack Wilson and struggling to regain his balance, with confirmation following that he would not return shortly before Kareem Hunt's three-yard run completed an 18-play, 75-yard TD drive to reduce the deficit to five points.

Veteran backup Chad Henne was called in for Kansas City and promptly followed up a pair of promising passes with an end-zone interception, giving the ball back to Mayfield in the fourth quarter.

However, an epic back-and-forth saw the Browns forced to punt with under four minutes remaining, and Henne came up with two huge plays inside the two-minute warning as head coach Andy Reid gambled on a pass from fourth and inches to clinch victory and a Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills with a vital first down.

Patrick Mahomes was ruled out of the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs' clash against the Cleveland Browns following a concussion evaluation.

Mahomes appeared dazed after taking a big hit from Browns linebacker Mack Wilson in the third quarter.

The star quarterback headed to the locker room and was replaced by Chad Henne in the AFC Divisional Round clash.

Mahomes was evaluated for a concussion before being officially ruled out.

He completed 21 of 30 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown.

The Browns reduced the Chiefs' lead to 22-17 early in the fourth quarter.

The Wild Card Round was, well, wild.

The Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns ended long postseason droughts, while the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens impressed as they produced upset results on the road.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady made sure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers progressed, securing a showdown with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints that will be an all-NFC South battle between starting quarterbacks with a combined age is 85.

As for the Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champions - along with NFC top seeds the Green Bay Packers - prepare to return to action after a well-earned bye week.

A four-game schedule has all the potential for another bumper weekend of NFL action, with fans watching on to found out who will be the final four left standing in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers - Saturday, 4.35pm (all times Eastern)

- The Rams are the only current NFC team with an all-time winning record against the Packers (46-45-2), but they have lost five of the previous six and 11 of the past 15 meetings. Green Bay, meanwhile, earned the No.1 seed in the conference for just the third time in their history.

- Aaron Rodgers posted the second-highest passer rating in NFL history this season (121.5), trailing only his own 122.5 in 2011, when he was voted the league's MVP. Rodgers had six games with four or more touchdown passes and zero interceptions, tying the most in a season all-time (Peyton Manning in 2013). In Rodgers' playoff career, the Packers are 8-1 when he does not throw an interception - but 2-7 when he does.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills - Saturday, 8.15pm

- Baltimore (191.9) and Tennessee (168.1) finished first and second in the NFL in rushing yards per game in the regular season, but the Ravens out-rushed the Titans 236-51 last week to progress. Lamar Jackson ran for 136 of them, the third most ever by a quarterback in a playoff game.

- Josh Allen completed 26 of 35 passes in the Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts (74.0 per cent), the highest completion percentage by a Bills starting QB in a playoff game. Allen also became the fifth player in NFL history with a passing TD, a rushing TD and a receiving TD in the playoffs, joining Freeman McNeil, Kordell Stewart, Julian Edelman and Nick Foles.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, 3.05pm

- This is the first postseason game between the teams. The Chiefs have won the past three meetings, most recently on November 4, 2018 (37-21). In fact, Cleveland have not beaten Kansas City since December 2012, while they have triumphed at Arrowhead only once in the past 32 seasons (December 2009).

- Against the Steelers, Baker Mayfield became the seventh player in league history to throw at least three TD passes without an interception in his postseason debut. Only one other player has done this in the previous 15 years (Alex Smith in 2011). He goes up against Patrick Mahomes, who has accounted for 16 total touchdowns – 13 TD passes and three rushing scores – in five postseason outings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints - Sunday, 6.40pm

- This will be the 59th all-time meeting of these franchises, albeit the first in the postseason. The Saints have won five straight in the rivalry, outscoring the Bucs by a combined 165-81 during that streak.

- Brady's two touchdown passes against the Washington Football Team moved his career postseason total to 75, while the victory was his 31st in 42 career playoff starts. In the entire NFL, only five teams have as many as 31 postseason wins in their history. Brady (341) and Saints QB Brees (303) rank first and third respectively in career starts among quarterbacks, regular season and playoffs combined.

The Green Bay Packers secured the NFC's top seed on Sunday, while Derrick Henry led the Tennessee Titans to the AFC South title.

Aaron Rodgers again powered the Packers, throwing four touchdown passes in a win over the Chicago Bears.

Despite their loss, the Bears clinched a playoff spot, as did the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, Henry made history as the Titans won the AFC South, while the Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East.

 

RODGERS DOMINATES AGAIN AS PACKERS CLINCH TOP SEED

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards and four TDs in the Packers' 35-16 victory over the Bears.

The Packers quarterback connected for TDs with Robert Tonyan, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Dominique Dafney and Davante Adams.

Rodgers finished the regular season with 48 TD passes. Alongside Peyton Manning, they are the only players in NFL history with 45-plus TD passes in multiple seasons, according to NFL Research. They won the NFL MVP in each of the previous three instances.

While Green Bay finished with a 13-3 record, the 8-8 Bears also reached the playoffs.

 

HISTORY FOR HENRY AS TITANS WIN AFC SOUTH

The Titans claimed the AFC South for the first time since 2008 after a thrilling 41-38 win over the Houston Texans.

Henry became the eighth player in history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season.

He had 250 rushing yards and two TDs against the Texans. Of the eight players to achieve the feat, Henry was the only one who needed 200-plus yards in his last game to get there, according to Stats Perform.

A.J. Brown had 151 receiving yards, but the Titans needed Sam Sloman's 37-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Texans.

The Titans became the first team in NFL history to have a 250-yard rusher and 150-yard receiver in the same game.

 

WASHINGTON WIN NFC EAST AS COLTS, RAMS REACH PLAYOFFS

The Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East thanks to a 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions as Washington (7-9) claimed the division.

The Colts (11-5) reached the playoffs thanks to a 28-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Los Angeles Rams (10-6) are also into the postseason after beating the Arizona Cardinals 18-7.

 

Week 17 scores:

Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts 28-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans 41-38 Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams 18-7 Arizona Cardinals
New Orleans Saints 33-7 Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers 35-16 Chicago Bears
Los Angeles Chargers 38-21 Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks 26-23 San Francisco 49ers
Las Vegas Raiders 32-31 Denver Broncos
Washington Football Team 20-14 Philadelphia Eagles

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