NFL head coaches will preach that the most important game is the next one, but the magnitude of Sunday night's matchup between the Bills and Steelers is big.
Pivotal in the landscape at the top of the AFC food chain, the top seeded Steelers (11-1) and current three seeded Bills (9-3) will square off in what's expected to be a physical contest that has league observers abuzz.
"I think for Pittsburgh it's a really big game," said NBC Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, who will broadcast the game with Mike Tirico. "They've got a chance to go from being undefeated to no longer the top seed if Kansas City wins and Pittsburgh loses. So a loss is really a statement because they've been backtracking the last two weeks on the offensive side.
"For Buffalo, a loss and most of the country goes, 'It's the Steelers and they've got one loss and it's no big deal.' But if Buffalo wins people are going to be talking about them, like, why not Buffalo? Kansas City is a really good team. Are they unbeatable? No, Denver almost beat them a couple of weeks ago. They have ups and downs on offense.
"So if Buffalo comes out of this one with a win, everybody is going to be saying, 'Keep an eye on the Buffalo Bills.' There's no reason other than it hasn't happened since Jim Kelly and those guys, but it hasn't happened where this team has gone to a Super Bowl. But talent-wise there's no reason they can't go."
Buffalo is on the radar of a lot more NFL observers after their impressive performance on Monday night in the win over the 49ers. So too are the Steelers now that they've finally lost a game after 12 weeks.
The players obviously sense the importance of this game, fully aware of what's at stake, but they're trying not to inflate the magnitude of the matchup.
"It's another challenge, something that we thrive on," said Stefon Diggs. "We're anticipating, they're going to throw out their best shot at us. It's good on good. Everybody is trying to go out there and win, but we're going against a team that's had a lot of success this season. We're looking forward to the challenge. They've got a great defense. We're going to have to do a lot of things on offense to have success and we look forward to it."
"I know that for a long time we've always talked about playing your best football in December, and so that's been a point for us the whole season to make sure that we're playing our best in the end towards this playoff stretch," said Harrison Phillips. "Obviously it's a great task in front of us and fantastic opponent too. So everything is shaping up to be a big game. We're not trying to make it too big, but we obviously have a grasp on how big of a game it can be."
Many of the Bills players do that by focusing specifically on their job responsibilities rather than doing any big picture thinking. That's what helped them play their most complete game of the season last week in the win over San Francisco.
"I think each and every week is a different opportunity, a different situation," said Josh Allen. "Some teams match up better in man, some teams match up better in zone. As an offense it's our job to find out what we can do, how we can beat them and how we can hurt them in their given defense. But it's ultimately the offense's job to kind of dissect what they're doing and try to get us in the right play calls and as a quarterback get us out of the bad ones and limit those bad plays."
It's clear the Bills have a lot of respect for the Steelers, one of the most stable and consistent franchises in the league. But they enter Sunday's game with their thinking centered on anticipation and execution knowing it's the best way to come out of their primetime game Sunday night with the only thing they're after, another victory.
"All season we've had our highs, we've had our lows so going into December, you're just trying to win," Diggs said. "And you learn a lot about a team in December. It's always cold, and home field advantage would have been would have been a lot better with some fans, but we've still got to go out and handle our business."