Few things hit as hard as an NFL rematch with glory on the line, and that's exactly what we have coming in the AFC Divisional Round, when the Kansas City Chiefs play host to the Buffalo Bills. The latter is looking to avenge their playoff exit from a year ago, when Patrick Mahomes and Co. sent Josh Allen and his band of merry men back to Buffalo with a 38-24 loss in the AFC Championship. It was a tough loss for a player like wideout Stefon Diggs, who took extra time watching the Chiefs celebrate so that memory and feeling of disappointment could be used as motivation -- should the two meet again in similar circumstances.
And so it was clearly fated, because here they are, a win away from being a step away from Super Bowl LVI, but the Bills aren't whole and the Chiefs have the weaponry to use that to their advantage. Can they go into Arrowhead Stadium and steal a victory? Absolutely, as evidenced by the 38-20 beatdown over the Chiefs in their Week 5 battle, but this isn't the same Mahomes and it also isn't the regular season, so throw those variables on the grill as well for your tailgate.
This should be one of the best matchups of the weekend -- if not the entire season, thus far -- but there are several reasons the Chiefs are favorites to take the win.
The version of Mahomes the NFL saw earlier this season is long gone -- one who couldn't stop turning the ball over en route to making things very difficult for his team on the whole. The version we've now seen the past several weeks/months is the Mahomes the world has come to know and appreciate, and that's going to be a problem for the Bills. If Buffalo can't consistently put hands on the former league and Super Bowl MVP, they'll be in for a long day. Pressures alone won't cut it because, like Josh Allen (times 10), Mahomes' improvisation skills are lethal and when he gets outside of the pocket, he can either tear off a chunk of yards with his legs or find his speedsters downfield to punch a hole in the scoreboard. In the AFC Championship of a year ago, Mahomes hung 325 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions on the Bills en route to appearing in Super Bowl LV. So the Bills better get him dirty, and early ... and often.
Speaking of speedsters, it's very likely the Bills will miss cornerback Tre'Davious White in this game more than they've missed the All-Pro all season. White is one of the best shutdown corners in the league but he remains on season-ending injured reserve, and his absence deletes the Bills' most potent weapon in the secondary, and that unit must face turbocharged receivers in Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, alone with All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce constantly finding ways to deliver big plays himself. It's also one thing to have to keep up with the speed and quickness of Hill and Hardman for four quarters, but to also know those coverage windows might be lengthened if Mahomes is allowed to paint the entire time. But wait, there's more, because Byron Pringle is a dangerous fourth target who has five receiving touchdowns this season, so expect the Bills passing defense to be stretched very, very thin.
The head of an arrow
It is the most dangerous part of the weapon, after all, and staying true to that vibe is the fact Arrowhead Stadium is easily one of the most hostile environments in all of sports -- especially in a playoff game. The weather won't so much be a factor against the Bills because few teams are as accustomed to the cold as the team from Upstate New York, but Mahomes and the Chiefs will be absolutely juiced in front of their home crowd. It was a key factor in helping to lift Kansas City over Buffalo when they met in the AFC Championship one year ago, and it will be again this time around. The Bills have overcome a lot to put themselves in position to not only make the playoffs, but to be good enough to win this rematch, but the edge in this matchup goes to the Chiefs.