All eyes will be on Orchard Park when Patrick Mahomes makes his first road trip in the playoffs when the Kansas City Chiefs head to Highmark Stadium to face the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional round.
It's only fitting that Kansas City stands in the way of Buffalo's first AFC Championship appearance since 2021 – when the two teams met in Arrowhead Stadium with Kansas City getting the better of the Bills.
Six weeks ago, the Bills traveled to Kansas City with what seemed like the season on the line. After the bye week, Buffalo was 6-6 and the 11th overall seed in the AFC – meaning they were well outside of the playoff picture with the toughest stretch of their schedule coming up.
The Bills' win against Kansas City served as the momentum boost they needed as Buffalo have strung together six consecutive wins to lock up the two seed. After defeating Pittsburgh in the Super Wild Card round last week, the next chapter of the Mahomes-Allen and Andy Reid-Sean McDermott rivalries was sealed.
Allen and Mahomes are two of the most productive quarterbacks in NFL history in the postseason. Allen has the most offensive yards per game with 336.4 with Mahomes right behind with 318. Mahomes has the highest passing touchdowns to interception ratio in playoff history at 36-7 with Allen in the following spot at 20-4. The two are tied with Hall of Famer Joe Montana with three career playoff games with 4+ total touchdowns and no giveaways.
In their head-to-head matchups, McDermott has a 4-3 lead over Reid, but Reid boasts two playoff wins. McDermott's Bills have averaged 25 points to Reid's 24.7, showing how close the two have been when coaching against each other.
Kyle Brandt of the NFL Network compared the two star quarterbacks to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who shared a historic rivalry as two of the greatest of all time at the position. Just like Brady got the best of Manning in their first two matchups, Mahomes has two wins over Allen between each of their postseason matchups, both of which were held in New England.
Manning got Brady back in their third matchup, which was in Indianapolis. Now that Allen will finally host Mahomes in the playoffs, will he repeat the same fate?
"This is a massive, historic game," Brandt said. "There are three really good games this weekend and then there is one chapter in a saga. This is a saga in a franchise that we will talk about for decades, the Bills gotta have this one. They gotta have it."
Here's what the rest of the national media is saying about what could be a monumental game for the legacies of two of the best quarterbacks in today's NFL.
The first meeting between the two teams saw a low scoring affair, with each quarterback accounting for an interception. Buffalo came out on top after stopping Kansas City on fourh-and-15 after Kadarius Toney lined up offsides and negated a go-ahead touchdown play.
For interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady, the Kansas City game was just his third with play-calling responsibilities. Former NFL defensive end Chris Long predicts that, after Brady has had time to adjust to the role, the second matchup between the teams could look different.
"This matchup's going to be about the run game. This matchup is going to be about, what are the differences between Joe Brady and Spags the first time and this time? Because you have infinitely more tape than you did the first time … so I think this game is going to be kind of unpredictable and more physical than the last playoff matchup."
Josh Allen is 5-1 at home in the playoffs, throwing for an average 2.3 touchdowns and 276 passing yards per game. This season, the Bills are 7-1 playing in Highmark Stadium with Allen completing nearly 68 percent of his passes and a 16:6 touchdown to interception ratio compared to 66 percent and a 13:12 touchdown to interception in games played on the road or at a neutral site.
Former Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth thinks that, because of the high caliber of Allen's play at home, the Bills will take the cake in their Divisional matchup against the Chiefs.
"I think going into Buffalo is going to be a challenge because Josh Allen in these moments when he feels reckless, he feels like 'you know what? I'm just going to find a play, make a play.' He's dangerous right now and to me, based off how things have been going, he's more dangerous than Mahomes at this current moment. And obviously we know Playoff Mahomes, he's going to show up at one point … I think we're going to get a great show in Buffalo with two quarterbacks who are so dynamic and they're going to be making plays, but I kind of think Josh Allen is going to get it this weekend."
Since their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12, players up and down the roster have expressed that they were already adapting a playoff mindset, unable to afford a loss as they continued to strive for a AFC East title and spot in the playoff. Rich Eisen believes that because of their resilience in a season that has tested their depth and mental toughness, the Bills are ready to roll into Highmark and leave with a win over the Chiefs.
"The Buffalo Bills have now won six in a row and you tell me a team that has the following: a head of steam and momentum, has also a defense that — they're like the Dark Knight from The Holy Grail, just getting one important body part after another chopped off and they keep fighting like they're ready to take somebody out … and here's the ultimate: you got a quarterback who stands in his pocket and after snapping the ball from his own 48 says, 'I'll run it in from here.'"
Sean McDermott and Steve Spagnuolo are two of the most talented defensive play callers in the NFL, disguising their coverages ahead of the snap. In Orlovsky's breakdown of the Buffalo defense, he explains that – in this stage of the playoffs – the game could come down to who between Allen and Mahomes is better at adjusting to what the opposing defenses through their way.
"On both sides, this game is really going to come down to what quarterback, what offense kind of sees those [defensive] picture-changing moments the best and executes against it the most consistently."
In their previous matchup, Josh Allen and James Cook connected five times for 83 yards and the game's opening touchdown. Allen's ability to create explosive plays even when the play breaks down has led him to become one of the best playmakers in the NFL and a player who can consistently be relied on should his number be called.
"When they played last time, the Bills won. The Bills had some explosive plays, the Bills played okay offensively, but they made Josh Allen put on a cape a dozen times over the course of that game. He was able to, he's always able to get to that level, but they made him get there in order to win that game."
On the first drive of the Bills' most recent matchup against the Chiefs, Kansas City drove to the Buffalo 30-yard line before Mahomes threw an interception to defensive end A.J. Epenesa.
Buffalo's defense has created pressure and made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks all season despite blitzing at a bottom-seven rate. The Ringer's Sheil Kapadia thinks that if the Bills' defense can do the small things correctly and capitalize on any mistakes made by the Chiefs, who led the NFL in dropped passes and offensive holding penalties.
"The Bills' best defensive plan might be to let the Chiefs beat themselves. Play zone. Rally and tackle on short completions. Win up front without blitzing. And see if the Chiefs can string together long drives and finish in the red zone. Can Kansas City go eight or nine plays without an offensive penalty or a dropped pass or a wide receiver reading the coverage differently than Mahomes? I don't know. This version of the Chiefs hasn't shown us it's capable of that."
Since letting James Cook cook in the Bills 31-10 win over Dallas, Josh Allen has averaged 242 passing yards, 2.75 total touchdowns and 50 rushing yards per game. With the Bills quarterback playing at an MVP-level, Podell predicts that Buffalo wins a barnburner thanks to a heroic performance from Allen.
"Josh Allen is coming off the first playoff game ever with three passing touchdowns, at least 70 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown on Monday in the victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. … So what will happen when the Bills star quarterback collides with the Chiefs defense? Allen shreds Kansas City's 'D' that loves playing with its back turned to the quarterback, providing just enough production to overcome a big day from Patrick Mahomes in his first career road playoff game."