As the Buffalo Bills prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, a familiar face returned to the practice field.
Tight end Dawson Knox, who was placed on the injured reserve list in October after undergoing wrist surgery, was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.
The five-year tight end said that he felt "fresh" after missing time this season.
"Got some great time to get the legs back ready," Knox said after practice. "Wrist feels great – big shoutout to the strength staff and training staff here, just put in the hours, put in the extra time. But just thankful to be back with the team. Those weeks on IR can be long."
Head coach Sean McDermott said before practice that the team had yet to decide whether Knox would play in Sunday's game. Knox wore a small brace on his right wrist during practice.
With Knox on IR, rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid saw a significant uptick in usage. Kincaid scored two touchdowns and averaged over 56 yards per game in the five weeks that Knox missed.
"It's been so exciting just seeing him take his game to the next level, seeing him gain some confidence," Knox said. "I know that feeling as a rookie coming in, your head spinning, you're just trying to line up in the right spot but we've been lining him up everywhere and he's been catching everything he's been thrown."
Kincaid's 87.5 catch percentage is the best among all tight ends in the NFL, and the fourth-highest rate in the league. The University of Utah product is nine receptions from passing former Bills receiver Sammy Watkins for the most catches in a Bills rookie's first season.
Quarterback Josh Allen, who has played with Knox for the last five seasons, said it would mean a lot to get Knox back on the field with the offense.
"The challenges that he presents for defense, he's been extremely valuable not just in the pass game, but in the run game as well and defense have to take into account for that," Allen said. "We're just going to play it by ear and the more that we can get them involved in the offense, the better we will be this year."
If he is cleared to play, Knox's potential return to the field would come at a good time, as the Bills are currently on the outside of the playoff picture. With only five games remaining in the regular season, Buffalo currently has a 15 percent chance of making the playoffs according to the New York Times playoff simulator. A win in Kansas City would see that jump to 27 percent, and if the Bills win out, they will have less than a 1 percent chance of missing the playoffs.
"We understand what's in front of us and what situation we're in," said quarterback Josh Allen following Wednesday's practice. "But we have a lot of guys in this locker rom that are very excited to be back and a very, very good feel in this locker room right now for what we need to do."
The Bills are familiar with going into Kansas City for important games. Sunday's matchup will be their fifth away game against the Chiefs since the AFC Championship game in 2021.
In their most recent contest, the Bills left Kansas City with the win thanks to a touchdown reception from Knox in the fourth quarter. The year prior, the Bills lost a heartbreaker in the AFC Divisional Round.
"We've been able to have a few good games there and a few not-so-good games, but those fans are as excited and as loud as they come," Allen said.
While the Chiefs offense continues to be one of the best in football, their defense has been a key reason behind their 8-4 record. Only the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have allowed fewer points this season and their 5.2 net yards gained per pass attempt is the second lowest in the league.
"Yeah I think their d-line is playing at a very high level. I think their cornerbacks have been playing very well, they're a physical group, they like to get up and jam and press," Allen said. "But anytime you have a d-line that can go disrupt a quarterback, it makes it a lot easier for the back end. … So we have to be prepared for whatever they can bring … make sure am I doing things correctly and making sure if I don't, finding my answers as quickly as possible."
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes has continued to play at a high level this season with 22 passing touchdowns and a 69.7 QBR. The two-time MVP and two-time Super Bowl champion has won the AFC West in each of his six full seasons as a starting quarterback.
"He's one of the best quarterbacks at the position, really to every play the game, already at such a young age for him and he's already accomplished so much in his career and I can't help but respect a guy like that," Allen said.
The last time Mahomes faced the Bills defense, he threw two touchdowns and two interceptions and was sacked three times. Micah Hyde and the Bills secondary will be looking to repeat that performance in their upcoming matchup.
"Anytime you have some weapons outside for [Mahomes], he's gonna make something happen," Hyde said. "Forever and always going to be a tough task for us, a tough challenge going in there and having to play those guys."