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Examining the 2020 season for Mahomes and Allen

The two franchise cornerstones are putting up big numbers on teams leading their respective divisions, despite recent setbacks for both. Ahead of their Week 6 matchup, can we expect Allen to prove that he belongs in the same conversation as the reigning Super Bowl MVP, or will Mahomes squash that argument before it can start? 

Week 5 was not ideal for either the Kansas City Chiefs or the Buffalo Bills, as both suffered losses that seem to carry more weight than the simple tally in the L column. Major deficiencies were exposed on the defensive side of the ball, with the Chiefs allowing 40 points against the Raiders and the Bills giving up 42 to the Titans.  

The signal-callers that have been paramount to each team’s success also had performances that were worthy of critique. Despite throwing for 340 yards and accounting for three total touchdowns, Patrick Mahomes struggled to complete just over half of his passes while avoiding pressure, some of which he arguably brought upon himself (as Caleb James broke down in his review of the Chiefs’ offensive performance in Week 5).  

Josh Allen seemed to revert from the hyper-efficient play that marked his rise to an MVP candidate in the first quarter of the season.

He threw two interceptions in the 42-16 blowout at the hands of Tennessee. The first of which wasn’t entirely his fault, as the throw was slightly behind Andre Roberts but certainly a catchable ball. His second pick, however, was an obvious mistake on the part of Allen and came at a very inopportune time.

The Bills were in enemy territory late in the third quarter with a chance to make it a one-possession game when Allen’s attempt to hit Gabriel Davis was snagged by Malcolm Butler for a second time. 

Buffalo has quickly developed an arsenal of offensive weapons that rivals Kansas City’s Legion of Zoom. Stefon Diggs is emerging as one of the premier wideouts in the game, and John Brown and Cole Beasley are more than serviceable targets to complement the NFL’s second-leading receiver.

Unsung at running back, second-year pro Devin Singletary has proven to be an efficient ballcarrier while Chiefs’ rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks to become a dual-threat back at the same level as Kareem Hunt in 2018, or even Jamaal Charles in his prime. The tight end position would be the most lopsided talent gap the Chiefs have on offense, with an all-time great at the position in Travis Kelce compared to the Bills’ young up-and-comer in Dawson Knox. 

Both are mobile quarterbacks, each with dynamic capabilities but Allen has the edge athletically (who has greater arm strength remains a mystery, for the time being at least). His 6-foot-5, 237-pound frame combined with 4.6 speed makes him a legitimate threat on the ground with stellar tackle-breaking ability.

In his rookie year, the product out of Wyoming had a three-game stretch where he averaged 111 yards per game on the ground. Yet this year his legs have not been as heavily integrated into the game plan as he attempts to reach the upper echelon of the position.

Coming into the draft, the overwhelming knock on Allen was that his decision-making and accuracy had not caught up to his physical prowess. Up until Tuesday’s game against Tennessee, it appeared that Allen had made the leap much earlier than expected, playing out of his mind through the first four games of 2020. He completed 70.9 percent of his passes and averaged 331.5 yards per game along with three touchdowns per contest.

Mahomes has had his fair share of Lamar Jackson-esque highlights as well (look no further than the 27-yard heroic touchdown scamper in the AFC Championship Game), and his innumerable accolades passing the ball speak for themselves. 

Including this week’s games, Allen has the slight advantage in nearly every statistical category:

1Patrick Mahomes202054-1-012319363.7147413107.35416357.62412925.421
2Josh Allen202054-1-013118969.3158914113.049310718.42910133.516
Courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Provided by View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 10/14/2020.

More yards, touchdowns, and yards per attempt with a better completion percentage for Allen, but Mahomes has the distinct and important edge in taking care of the football. Allen has three INTs and three lost fumbles, while Mahomes has just the one interception from the loss against Las Vegas. Team success has also been virtually even, with both QB’s leading their teams to 4-1 records.  

The game this coming Monday will answer a lot questions that could bear major consequences on the outlook of the AFC’s playoff picture. Can Allen hold his own against elite competition? Thus far he has outplayed the likes of Sam Darnold, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jared Goff.

This will be the first time Mahomes and Allen have ever squared off and will be as much pressure as the young Bill has ever faced in the regular season. PMII has essentially been in the national spotlight since Week 2 of his first season as a starter when he threw for six scores against the Steelers.

On the Chiefs’ side, did the Raiders uncover the secret to slowing down their passing attack? Mahomes was on the move virtually all game facing just a four-man rush on most of his dropbacks, causing the receivers to ditch their intended routes to simply find an opening in the coverage.

The best game plan Eric Bieniemy and the rest of the coaching staff could adopt to combat the urge or necessity for Mahomes to improvise outside the pocket would be a West Coast-style offense that could get the ball out of his hands quickly.

Week 1 against the Texans was a perfect example of the Chiefs at their most balanced: calling 34 run plays to 33 passes, the ball leaving Mahomes’ hands in less than 2.5 seconds on most occasions (his longest pass was just 19 yards) and coming away with 34 points in an easy win.

This game feels much more consequential than a typical Week 6 in-conference battle. A win for Buffalo paired with an explosive offensive output could solidify Josh Allen’s status as a leader of the next generation, while exposing the Kansas City pass defense as somewhat of a fraud following its first four weeks of stellar play.

A strong defensive performance for the Chiefs, however, could allow experts and fans around the league to dismiss Allen’s hot start as nothing more than just that as he regresses back to his mean of being an average passer.

Mahomes would surely love to silence the critics following a subpar performance by his standards with another showing like he had Week 3 against the Ravens, where he threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns. What was scheduled to be a Thursday Night game got pushed back due to COVID-19 spread across multiple teams and will now be a 4 p.m. CST showcase on Monday. This will undoubtedly cause some work disruption throughout the Midwest, as Chiefs fans tune in to see what could be the star-powered Game of the Year contender that Chiefs-Ravens did not turn out to be.

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