Three questions: Contemplating injuries with Chiefs next? Unsung heroes? And a dome, again?

Predict the Margin of Victory

  • Bills 1-3

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • Bills 3-10

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • Bills 10+

    Votes: 2 33.3%
  • Chiefs 1-3

    Votes: 2 33.3%
  • Chiefs 3-10

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Chiefs 10+

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters


Staff member

Three questions on our mind after the Bills’ 31-17 victory Monday over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Can Bills survive the injuries?​

It won’t be easy. Consider the AFC divisional round game against Kansas City a tossup. But all things are possible with Josh Allen at quarterback.
Losing middle linebacker Terrel Bernard stinks. He’s one of the top five players on the team at this point in the season. The expectation is cornerback Taron Johnson will be fine (he left with a head injury).

It will help a lot if the Bills can get cornerback Rasul Douglas (knee) and linebacker Tyrel Dodson (shoulder) back from injury. Dodson was limited in practice, Douglas didn’t practice last week. Douglas would be the biggest reinforcement. With cornerback Christian Benford (knee) hurt the Bills might have to go with Dane Jackson and Kaiir Elam at cornerback. Not ideal but doable.

Bottom line: Allen and the offense will have to play great against an outstanding Chiefs defense. And a little bad winter weather wouldn’t hurt the Bills. Allen plays great in bad weather. The Bills’ defense could use a little wind to help keep Patrick Mahomes from firing on all cylinders.

Who were Bills’ unsung heroes?​

The coaching staff. The coaches got a string of backup defensive players prepared during the week to get pressed into service due to a slew of injuries that started last week in Miami and continued during the Steelers game.

The Steelers have two pretty good downfield receiving threats in George Pickens and Diontae Johnson. Pickens ranked 12th in deep catches this season. But the Bills avoided major assignment busts and prevented deep completions despite a rotating cast. Linebackers A.J. Klein and Dorian Williams, and backup defensive backs Kaiir Elam, Dane Jackson, Cam Lewis and Damar Hamlin saw extensive duty.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Joe Brady dialed up some good pass-game beaters for Pittsburgh’s numerous blitzes.

Once again: Why no dome?​

The question is irrelevant.

The only way the new Highmark Stadium would be a dome is if the 32 billionaire NFL owners felt good about Terry Pegula funding the majority of it. That never was going to happen.

The state and county pushed through $850 million in taxpayer funding. It’s unrealistic to ask taxpayers to fund the added amount it would have taken to build a dome.

Why couldn’t the Pegulas make their contribution double what it is to fund a dome? Billionaires don’t do business like that. NFL owners generally “pay for” their portion of stadium construction through personal seat licenses and luxury box fees. The Pegulas agreed to pay for all cost overruns, which appear considerable. The Pegulas didn’t want a dome, but even if they wanted to pay double what they’re funding to provide a dome, it is likely they would have gotten pushback from the 31 other owners, who would not want that precedent being set.

Obviously, some would say it’s unfair to ask taxpayers to fund any of it. But that’s a question for a different society, not the one we live in, where the most powerful billionaires in many industries generally get what they want from taxpayers.

Is the divisional round of the NFL playoffs the best weekend of the year for professional football? We’ll let you decide, but there are four great matchups this weekend. After five of six wild-card games ended up being blowouts, here’s to hoping things get more competitive this weekend. Although, based on the spreads, it’s maybe not quite in the cards — three teams are favored by more than a touchdown.

First-year starters C.J. Stroud and Jordan Love were the story of wild-card weekend as rookie quarterbacks guiding their teams to upsets. Now, the journey gets a lot tougher as both quarterbacks face the No. 1 seeds in their respective divisions on Saturday, and both are underdogs by more than a touchdown.

Meanwhile, presumed 2023 MVP Lamar Jackson has a 1-3 playoff record, but those poor performances can be erased with a run to the Super Bowl this year.

The excitement in Detroit hasn’t died down since the Lions’ Sunday night playoff victory over the Rams. Can Jared Goff, Dan Campbell and Detroit beat Tampa Bay to advance to the NFC Championship game for the first time since the 1991-92 season? The Bucs have a top-10 rushing defense that will try to slow down David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs.

Sunday also brings us Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen III. It’ll be the third time the two top quarterbacks face off in the playoffs, with Mahomes winning the first two matchups in Kansas City. Now, the Bills get to host the divisional round matchup thanks to their head-to-head victory in Week 14 — a.k.a. the now-infamous did-Kadarius Toney-line-up-offside? game.

All odds from BetMGM. Looking for NFL tickets? Buy them here.

Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills​

  • Sunday will be the 16th playoff game for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It will be his first true road game. The previous 15 were at home or neutral sites (three Super Bowls).
  • The Bills are a small favorite and are 4-0 against the spread in their past four games against teams with winning records. The Chiefs are 3-0 against the spread in their past three playoff games.
  • While the focus will be on the quarterbacks (Mahomes and Buffalo’s Josh Allen) Sunday’s game will also feature two of the top-five scoring defenses in the NFL from the 2023 regular season. Kansas City is second and Buffalo is fourth.
  • This is the third playoff meeting between Mahomes and Allen. The previous two saw 78 and 62 total points, respectively. The over/under for Sunday is set at 46.5. Weather could be a factor for a second straight game in Orchard Park.

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens

  • The Ravens are more than a touchdown favorite for Saturday’s game and own a 13-7 record against the spread in playoff games since the start of the 2008 season (the start of John Harbaugh’s coaching tenure).
  • The Ravens are 5-1 in their last six games against teams with winning records this season. The only loss was Week 18 against the Pittsburgh Steelers when Baltimore sat starters.
  • A win would give the Texans their first-ever AFC Championship game appearance. The Ravens have not appeared in the AFC title game since 2012-2013 season went they beat the 49ers to win the Super Bowl.
  • Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has never had a passer rating higher than 78.8 in a playoff game and has been intercepted in all four games. He has a 1-3 record as a starter in the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers​

  • This game will be the 10th time the 49ers and Packers have met in the playoffs, setting a new league record for most playoff meetings between two teams. The 49ers have won five of the nine previous meetings, including each of the past four, dating back to the 2012 playoffs.
  • Including Sunday’s domination of the Dallas Cowboys, Packers quarterback Jordan Love has thrown 21 touchdowns to only one interception in his past nine games. The Packers are 7-2 in those games.
  • The 49ers are a big favorite and are 5-1 against the spread in playoff games since the 2021 season. They are, however, 0-5 against the spread in their past five home games this season.
  • A win would put the 49ers in the NFC Championship game for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions​

  • The Detroit Lions have not won multiple playoff games in the same postseason since 1957. A win over Tampa Bay would finally snap that streak.
  • Quarterbacks Jared Goff (Detroit) and Baker Mayfield (Tampa Bay) were both tossed aside by their previous teams and have found new life with their respective teams.
  • The Lions are a touchdown favorite for Sunday’s game, but Tampa Bay is 8-1 against the spread in road games this season and 5-4 outright. The Buccaneers are also 5-1 against the spread in their past six games overall.
  • The Lions were the only team in the NFL to have two players (David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs) both rush for at least 900 yards during the regular season.

Following a thorough wild card win, the Buffalo Bills are moving on to the divisional round for a fourth consecutive year. They take on a familiar postseason foe in the Kansas City Chiefs, but the teams meet in Orchard Park for the first time in the playoffs since McDermott has taken over the team.

There is still plenty to learn from the Bills’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, which could help influence lineup decisions with all the team’s injuries this week. After analyzing and studying the film, here is a deep dive — including Bills player rankings and individual grades.

Why Josh Allen’s game looked even better on film​

There were some big flash plays from Bills quarterback Josh Allen in what was yet another impressive playoff performance. It was easy to see that Allen was the best player on the field and propelled the Bills to a victory. But outside of the flashy plays and the big moments, Allen had one of his best games this season, and most impressively, did so when many of his teammates didn’t have their best outings. Most of this point revolves around the offensive line, which had one of their worst collective games this season.

The Steelers have a reputation as one of the league’s most physical defensive lines, and that showed up in a big way. Even though the Bills offensive line has won with more physicality late in the year than it had been, it still proved to be a tough matchup for them throughout. Plenty of offensive linemen ended up on the ground on various plays and getting moved aside while the Steelers either plugged a lane or found their way into the backfield. As a result, five of the Bills’ six offensive linemen, including usual sub-package blocker David Edwards, played below their average output this season. Only one turned in a grade higher than C-plus, and that was right tackle Spencer Brown, who likely benefitted from T.J. Watt not being in the lineup.

Allen single-handedly raised the Bills’ offensive output with big plays and consistency and helped his teammates even when they did not have their best game. Allen did an outstanding job, for the most part, of feeling when the pressure was coming at him and supplied the quick strike to get the ball out for at least some positive yardage, even if, on some plays, it was similar to what they’d gain by running the ball. And sometimes, like in the case of Khalil Shakir’s impressive catch, turn, and run that had his teammates baffled, those quick fires by Allen led to even bigger results.

Continuing to chip away at the Steelers’ defense with underneath throws opened up various opportunities throughout the game to beat them over the top, which Allen took advantage of in a few spots. And when he had those chances, the ball came out of his hand cleanly with impressive precision on his accuracy to hit his targets without making them put in an extra effort to bring down the catch. Then, when you factor in Allen’s rushing ability, whether it was scheduled or improvised within the game plan, Allen was in control all game.

Because it’s never going to be a perfect situation every week, the truly great quarterbacks in the NFL can raise the offense’s level when the supporting cast doesn’t have its best stuff. Quarterbacks in the postseason who do that are in an even different category. Allen has become that type of asset for the Bills. He even did so Monday without one of his trusted every-down receivers in Gabe Davis, and getting no targets or receptions from Davis’ replacement, Trent Sherfield, who played 63 percent of the snaps. Even if it wasn’t perfect, Allen was in control. He made his teammates better for the vast majority of the game, and without him, the game against the Steelers, even when it became close, wouldn’t have felt quite as comfortable as it did for all four quarters.

One game-changing play likely doesn’t happen without Latavius Murray

Once the initial practice squad elevations came down, it was met with some surprise about Leonard Fournette not being one of their two call-ups. Fournette remained stowed away on the practice squad in favor of the 34-year-old Latavius Murray, despite some less-than-stellar results as a short-yardage back from Murray. But Murray’s inclusion on the roster proved to be critical for one of the biggest plays of the game. If it weren’t for his efforts, almost without anyone seeing him do this on the given play, the Bills likely punt rather than score one of their two marquee touchdowns of the game. The play? Allen’s 52-yard touchdown run.

The third-and-long opportunity was met with the Steelers sending six rushers at the line of scrimmage and playing man-to-man defense on the backend with a single high safety patrolling the field. The Bills kept Murray in to block as Allen dropped back to pass, and with right guard O’Cyrus Torrence taking up a defensive lineman, and right tackle Spencer Brown going out wide against a usual edge rusher, that left Murray one-on-one against the blitzing Myles Jack.


(Courtesy: NFL+)
In most cases, a linebacker against a running back is a mismatch in favor of the defender, but this is what makes Murray valuable to the Bills on game day. Murray has a unique blend of height, length and weight for a player at his position, which gives him an advantage against an oncoming blitzer, even in a free-release moment like this one. And if it weren’t for all of those advantages Murray provides, Allen likely wouldn’t have had that moment.


(Courtesy: NFL+)
As you can see, Murray takes on the charging Jack and not only keeps in front of him, but Murray anchors down with the technique of an offensive lineman just as Allen gets ready to take off. At the very least, if it had been James Cook, Fournette or Ty Johnson back there, there likely would have been some contact to Allen and the high-end result of a 52-yard touchdown wouldn’t have been as possible if he was slowed near the line of scrimmage at all.

Poor pass protection was displayed by the Bills’ running backs against the Miami Dolphins in Week 18 in the only game in which they made Murray a healthy scratch this season. But considering what we saw on that huge play against the Steelers, and now with Fournette released from the practice squad, Murray’s presence on third-down passing plays likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The case for Dorian Williams over A.J. Klein, at least to begin​

The Bills went through an unusual amount of linebacker combinations in one game with multiple injuries at the position, which gave a good look at the whole of their depth chart in different roles. With injuries first to Baylon Spector, and then to Terrel Bernard later, the player who benefitted the most from more on-field time was practice squad linebacker A.J. Klein. And we saw him in both roles within the defense, first as the outside linebacker next to Bernard, and then as the middle linebacker next to Dorian Williams. While the Bills liked having Klein because of his institutional knowledge of Sean McDermott’s defensive scheme after spending ample time both in Carolina and Buffalo with the Bills’ head coach, there were some severe athletic limitations from Klein on display all game.

Whether it was getting caught in the open-field and not possessing the fluidity to change directions with the ball carrier, or hesitating in his spot rather than attacking a ball-carrier right in front of him in a one-on-one situation, there were multiple examples of Klein costing the Bills in yards and first downs surrendered. It puts the Bills at a disadvantage immediately if he’s in the game for long stretches. Once Bernard left the game and Klein shifted to middle linebacker, the team inserted 2023 third-round pick Dorian Williams into the lineup at outside linebacker. As soon as he entered the lineup, it was very clear he’s in a different zip code athletically to Klein and zoomed to the ball carrier when he saw the opportunity to do so. There was no hesitation in Williams’ game, which can be both good and bad, and is part of the reason why they went with Dodson over Williams once Matt Milano was initially injured. But between some of his coverage efforts, and his tackling, Williams helped the Bills as soon as he entered the lineup.

The Bills may not have a choice if Bernard or Tyrel Dodson can’t play. But if one of them can, with Dodson looking more likely at this point in the week, that probably means Dodson would be the middle linebacker and a choice between Klein or Williams if Baylon Spector also can’t play. Between those two, the Bills should heavily consider using Williams to begin the game against the Chiefs. Although there is a higher variance for low points by not having as much schematic knowledge and wherewithal as Klein, there is also the potential for big moments with his explosiveness and physicality. The Bills can always go to Klein if it’s not working and Patrick Mahomes is taking advantage of Williams, but they could be putting themselves at an immediate disadvantage by not trying it out with Williams to begin the game.
2023 Bills All-22 grades vs. Steelers
1Josh AllenQBA67100.00%
2Ed OliverDTA-4670.77%
3Stefon DiggsWRA-5683.58%
4Khalil ShakirWRA-4567.16%
5Dalton KincaidTEA-3755.22%
6James CookRBB+4161.19%
7Terrel BernardLBB+3249.23%
8Dawson KnoxTEB+2841.79%
9A.J. EpenesaDEB+2436.92%
10Linval JosephDTB+1726.15%
11DaQuan JonesDTB+3655.38%
12Jordan PoyerSB+65100.00%
13Greg RousseauDEB+4264.62%
14Micah HydeSB+65100.00%
15Spencer BrownRTB67100.00%
16Kaiir ElamCBB5280.00%
17Leonard FloydDEB3249.23%
18Von MillerDEB2538.46%
19Dorian WilliamsLBB2132.31%
20Shaq LawsonDEB1929.23%
21Ty JohnsonRBB-1522.39%
22Tim SettleDTB-2030.77%
23Baylon SpectorLBB-1726.15%
24O’Cyrus TorrenceRGC+67100.00%
25Dion DawkinsLTC+67100.00%
26Taron JohnsonNCBC+4061.54%
27Cam LewisDBC+2843.08%
28David EdwardsGC+2537.31%
29Trent SherfieldWRC+4262.69%
30Mitch MorseCC67100.00%
31Connor McGovernLGC6698.51%
32Dane JacksonCBC65100.00%
33A.J. KleinLBC-4366.15%
Players with fewer than 15 snaps:
WR Deonte Harty (14), TE Quintin Morris (13), CB Christian Benford (13), S Damar Hamlin (13), RB Latavius Murray (10), WR Andy Isabella (7), FB Reggie Gilliam (3)

Active players without an offensive or defensive snap:
QB Kyle Allen, IOL Ryan Bates, OT Ryan Van Demark, LB Tyler Matakevich, NCB Siran Neal

*(Total games inactive in 2023 season while on the active roster)
IOL Alec Anderson (18), DT Poona Ford (10), DE Kingsley Jonathan (5), S Taylor Rapp (2), WR Gabe Davis (1), LB Tyrel Dodson (1), CB Rasul Douglas (1)

The core:
*(Position players who play the core-four special teams units of kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return)
FB Reggie Gilliam (100 percent), TE Quintin Morris (100), LB Tyler Matakevich (100), LB Dorian Williams (100), NCB Siran Neal (100), DB Cam Lewis (100), S Damar Hamlin (100), RB Ty Johnson (77), WR Andy Isabella (77), WR Deonte Harty (41), LB A.J. Klein (41), CB Kaiir Elam (36), WR Khalil Shakir (24), LB Baylon Spector (24)
2023 Bills All-22 grades through Wild Card Round
1Matt MilanoLB3.582111
2Ed OliverDT3.477762
3DaQuan JonesDT3.37210NR
4Stefon DiggsWR3.3710053
5Josh AllenQB3.3411936
6Greg RousseauDE3.326274
7Rasul DouglasCB3.315035
8Taron JohnsonNCB3.259957
9Leonard FloydDE3.246098
10Dalton KincaidTE3.217369
11Khalil ShakirWR3.2064911
12James CookRB3.1567512
13Dion DawkinsLT3.12118710
14Christian BenfordCB3.0183713
15Gabe DavisWR2.9696614
16O’Cyrus TorrenceRG2.91123115
17Mitch MorseC2.88119616
18Spencer BrownRT2.85122818
19Dawson KnoxTE2.8351519
20A.J. EpenesaDE2.8341120
21Connor McGovernLG2.83120217
22Jordan PoyerS2.80105222
23Micah HydeS2.8086223
24Terrel BernardLB2.79103121
25Trent SherfieldWR2.7143424
26Latavius MurrayRB2.7036125
27Shaq LawsonDE2.6934026
28Dorian WilliamsLB2.5423229
29Dane JacksonCB2.5352827
30Taylor RappS2.5042128
31Tim SettleDT2.4339930
32Tyrel DodsonLB2.4254931
33Jordan PhillipsDT2.4039232
34Von MillerDE2.4028333
35Kaiir ElamCB2.11209NR
*Minimum 200 snaps

How the standards work

When the All-22 film becomes available, we’ll go through and watch every player on every play as many times as necessary to assess letter grades. It is a subjective analysis, and it’s important to note we do not know the play calls and full responsibilities. The grades stem from technique, effort and presumed liability.

The study accounts only for players who take a snap on offense or defense. Players with fewer than 15 snaps — unless they significantly impact the game — will not factor into weekly rankings. The grades range from an ‘A’ (a perfect 4.00 GPA) to ‘F’ (0.00 GPA). There is no such thing as an ‘A+’ on this grading system. Season-long grades will be tallied and documented, with a single game’s grade weighted based on how much the player was on the field in a given week.
The team we can't go a year without playing at least once is coming to town for the first time in recent history!
Who ya got??

Here is how News’ Bills writers see Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff game between the Bills and Kansas City Chiefs at Highmark Stadium.

Jay Skurski​

The Bills don’t want to rely on quarterback Josh Allen to be Superman every game. Guess what, though? Allen needs to be Superman in this game. The Bills’ defense has done an admirable job all season throughout nonstop injuries, but there has to be a breaking point. The potential absence of middle linebacker Terrel Bernard, who has blossomed into one of the unit’s top playmakers, just might be that Sunday. Even if it’s not a shootout, this is a game the Bills need close to perfection from Allen, who last week against Pittsburgh accounted for four total touchdowns — and, critically — no turnovers. Vegas expects this game to be close, and if it’s right (as it so often is), turnovers could be the difference. The Bills need Allen to be brilliant, both taking care of the ball and making the jaw-dropping plays that we’ve all become accustomed to from him.

The Chiefs will have Isaiah Pacheco for this game after the running back missed the first contest between the teams because of injury. Pacheco runs angrier than anyone in the NFL. Who plays better, Pacheco or James Cook? That’s a big key to this game. This is the game the Bills worked all season to get. Having Mahomes in his first true road game is an opportunity for Bills Mafia to drastically impact the game. They need to be at their full-throated finest. What an atmosphere it should be. The celebration will commence about 9:30 p.m. as the Bills move one game from the Super Bowl. Bills, 29-23.

Katherine Fitzgerald​

It felt close to inevitable that these teams would meet again. This matchup always brings the drama, and I’m excited to personally see these two teams face each other in Orchard Park for my first time. I do think homefield advantage plays a part in the playoffs, but this is still such a hard contest to predict.

The number of injuries on the Bills’ defense still alarms me. That linebacker Terrel Bernard is unable to go is a huge loss, considering his play and his command of communicating calls to the Bills’ defense. The defense has had guys step in and step up all year, but doing so against Kansas City is a huge task. The offense needs to put up points, but also eat up the clock to help the defense. If quarterback Josh Allen can avoid turnovers and make sure the Bills win the time-of-possession battle, the Bills could reach the AFC championship game this year. Bills, 30-27.

Mark Gaughan​

I hate to be Captain Obvious but this game is a toss-up, and there’s a good chance that one key turnover will swing the balance. I don’t see a ton of explosive plays being made in the passing game. Both defenses are good at preventing them. I don’t see a wild, offensive fireworks show like the playoff in Kansas City two years ago. The running game will be important, and that probably will serve to limit possessions and keep the score in the 20s. I expect Kansas City to put a spy on Josh Allen with one of its athletic linebackers, Willie Gay, Leo Chenal or Nick Bolton. I’d be surprised if Allen gets 50 yards rushing. The Bills must get a good game out of James Cook. This is a terrible week for the Bills to be without athletic middle linebacker Terrel Bernard. That probably will help Kansas City exploit the middle of the field with tight end Travis Kelce and possession receiver Rashee Rice. I think the Chiefs’ defense, ranked second in yards, points and sacks, is better than the Bills’ banged-up defense. I think Kelce, Rice and cornerback Trent McDuffie produce enough plays to make the difference. Chiefs, 25-23.

Ryan O’Halloran​

Can A.J. Klein fill in for Terrell Bernard at middle linebacker? Can cornerback Rasul Douglas (knee) and linebacker Tyrel Dodson (shoulder) play at a high level after missing the Pittsburgh win? Can nickel Taron Johnson (concussion protocol) be cleared without missing a game for the second time this season?

Good thing for the Bills their defensive line is healthy because they will have to carry the night against Patrick Mahomes and Co. Defensive tackle Ed Oliver was dominant against the Steelers and defensive end Greg Rousseau flashed in all areas. Shoot, even defensive end Von Miller got close to quarterback Mason Rudolph.

A key is keeping Kansas City out of third-and-short situations. In the teams’ Week 14 meeting, the Chiefs were 4 of 4 when needing 1-3 yards, but 2 of 8 when needing four or more yards. Put Mahomes in obvious passing situations, and see if left tackle Donovan Smith and especially right tackle Jawaan Taylor can hold up in pass protection.

The defense forces two turnovers and sacks Mahomes three times and the offense gets touchdown catches from receiver Khalil Shakir and tight end Dalton Kincaid and a scoring carry by quarterback Josh Allen to move on. Bills, 27-21.

Sunday’s AFC Divisional Round date between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs will be the the seventh overall meeting and third playoff game between the teams since 2020. It’s also the third time the teams meet twice in the same season since 2020.

It is well past time to consider these teams rivals. But is it currently the league’s premier rivalry? How will the latest chapter unfold? The Athletic’s Bills reporters Tim Graham and Joe Buscaglia discuss.

Do Bills players consider this a rivalry and if so, what do they say about playing against the Chiefs?​

Graham: What a rivalry it has been, reminiscent of when the Patriots and Colts could be penciled in for at least one blockbuster virtually every year while Tom Brady and Peyton Manning ruled the conference. Kansas City has become Buffalo’s team to beat, its organizational measuring stick. General manager Brandon Beane has openly discussed making roster moves specifically to compete with Kansas City. “They’ve been at the top of the mountain, and they know what it takes to get there,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen said. “We’ve yet to do that. As a competitor, as a player, to be in a situation like this is something that you dream about. You really do. I know guys on this team have been waiting for this moment for a long time. … They’ve won two championships in the last (four) years, you can’t help but be excited for that.” During the Bills’ four-year run as division champs, AFC East opponents haven’t been much of a challenge. The Miami Dolphins flexed this year and became a fashionable Super Bowl pick, but the Bills still swept that series — and rather easily. Since Sean McDermott became coach in 2017, they are 13-2 against the Dolphins, supposedly the Bills’ closest contenders. That’s why facing the Chiefs carries more gravitas than most division games.

Buscaglia: It’s become more of a rivalry over the last three years with the Bills beating the Chiefs the last three times they’ve gone to Arrowhead Stadium in the regular season, but before that, the Chiefs outclassed the Bills in 2020, beating them handily both at Highmark Stadium in the regular season and then in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead that same year. Since that year, though, the Bills have been crafting much of their roster to finally get past those dastardly Chiefs, and have had a great deal of success. Josh Allen had one of his best games of his career against the Chiefs during the playoffs two years ago, but in the ‘13 seconds’ loss. The Bills seemingly have been knocking on the door the last three years, but have been the annoying little brothers who have never had the chance to step out of the Chiefs’ shadow and win their own trophies to this point. That, on top of the Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes, and the Sean McDermott vs. Andy Reid factors, makes this rivalry a tasty one heading into Sunday.

What interests you most about Mahomes’ first time on the road in the postseason?​

Graham: It’s not just that Mahomes is on the road, but also that he’s coming into one of the NFL’s most hostile environments. Bills fans are loud. They are relentless. They are ready to erupt at the chance to affect Mahomes for the first time. He has played at Highmark Stadium once, yet that was in 2020, when no fans were admitted. “It’s nice to have the fans behind you,” Bills and former Chiefs center Mitch Morse said. “Little nuances like not having to use silent cadence is always a plus. … Communication, on their part, will be a little harder to do.” Even at Arrowhead Stadium, Mahomes has some trouble with Buffalo’s defense. In those five home games, he threw 11 TD passes with five interceptions, was sacked nine times and fumbled twice. Mahomes lost three of them, but the two games he won were the postseason matchups. And since Kansas City’s lone victory in their past four meetings was Buffalo’s infamous 13 Seconds meltdown, you can understand how Bills fans believe they can make a difference introducing themselves to Mahomes in a series that has been incredibly tight. “It’ll give our fans an opportunity to really make an impact on the game, hopefully,” Morse said.

Buscaglia: Having likely heard about never playing a playoff game on the road before all week long, Mahomes is probably ready to make a statement in his typical fashion. The Chiefs, who are usually massive favorites in just about every situation, don’t often get to play with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. His response to those first few drives will be quite interesting. Within the confines of this season, though, I will be quite intrigued to see if Mahomes can keep their offensive momentum going from their wild card win over the Dolphins. This Chiefs team seems to be a bit different on offense from the last time the Bills were up against them. The Chiefs were without running back Isiah Pacheco and were still rolling out with a heavy rotation at receiver, rather than committing to Rashee Rice, Marques Valdes-Scantling and Justin Watson the way that they have recently. All of those factors make for a legitimately different matchup outlook, and Mahomes on the road for the first time ever in the playoffs just gives it that much more juice.

As of Thursday, what Bills injury should worry the team most heading into Sunday?​

Graham: When the Bills walked off the field after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, they were without five of the defensive starters and three primary backups from the previous week in Miami Gardens. On a short week, even if a few of them are able to contribute Sunday against the Chiefs, that’s going to be a lot of absent personnel to overcome. The only intact starting units were the front four and safeties. Some good news: Top cornerback Rasul Douglas told me he’ll play Sunday, although he has been limited at practice. Douglas’ return would be huge because the other starting cornerback, Christian Benford, suffered a knee injury Monday, and nickel back Taron Johnson is in concussion protocol. Douglas has been a gamebreaker with four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a sack in seven games since a trade with the Packers. But the biggest concern is middle linebacker Terrel Bernard. Two other linebackers, usual starter Tyrel Dodson and Dodson’s replacement Baylon Spector are hurt. Bernard led Buffalo in takeaways with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries (he had a fourth Monday) along with 6.5 sacks.

Buscaglia: Without a doubt, nickel cornerback Taron Johnson. The Bills have been getting by at linebacker all season without Matt Milano since early in Week 5, and without Tremaine Edmunds for the entire year after he left in the offseason for Chicago. But at nickel corner, the drop-off from Johnson to backup Cam Lewis is a big one. Johnson is effectively a third linebacker on the field for them as they remain in nickel as their base defense close to 100 percent of their defensive snaps every week. The way he fills the run lanes, plays with physicality to set the edge and force the play back inside to his teammates, and how well he tackles is a major advantage. Johnson then has the coverage ability to go one-on-one with any of the Chiefs’ receivers when they line up in the slot. Johnson is an all-purpose player, and one of the most difficult to replace on the entire team. The good news for the Bills, though, is that Johnson practiced on Wednesday and Thursday in a non-contact jersey. He appears to be in good spirits during practice, so there is at least a chance he can be on the field Sunday. But you never know with concussion protocol. His absence would be massive.

The Bills seemed to handle their respective weather issues well last week. How do they handle this week’s weather challenges?​

Graham: Orchard Park, the site of Highmark Stadium and the Bills’ adjacent practice facility, has gotten hammered with more snow the past few days. The only positive change is that winds haven’t been howling like last week. But this will be a second straight week of coaches and players stressing out under harrowing conditions. As pampered as professional athletes are, they are human beings with families, many with small children. Power outages have occurred throughout the region. Roads often are impassible. McDermott and his support staff are as used to these variables as a group possibly can be. In 2022, with a local travel ban and Highmark Stadium buried in snow, the club successfully navigated a home game against the Browns being moved to Detroit and then returned four days later to play the Lions on Thanksgiving. The Bills won them both and then the next game in New England, giving them three road victories in 12 days. McDermott seems to have a knack for effectively going with the flow amid uncontrollable circumstances and getting his players mentally ready to compete.

Buscaglia: It seems like Sunday might be the first time since the Bills game against the Steelers that Orchard Park hasn’t had to deal with snow, and the wind may even be less of a factor than it was against the Steelers. Unless an unexpected snow storm rolls through again, which you can never quite rule out this time of year, I’d expect things to be pretty similar to how they were on Monday for the Bills. Josh Allen played incredibly well, having one of the best games of his season and picking up a few of his offensive teammates who uncharacteristically struggled. If they get that version of Allen again, the weather is not a factor for the Bills by any stretch.

The Chiefs will win if ____. The Bills will win if ____.​

Graham: The Chiefs will win if they can exploit the Bills’ shuffled defensive lineup. That seems doable for a team with an all-time great offensive mind at head coach, an all-time great quarterback and an all-time great tight end, but the Chiefs’ offense has provided zero guarantees this season. To me, that’s a toss-up proposition.

The Bills will win if — for openers — they can get at least Johnson or Benford back to play cornerback with Douglas and generate enough pressure on Mahomes. Fizzled edge rusher Von Miller finally showed some flashes against the Steelers, but the onus mostly will be on Leonard Floyd, A.J. Epenesa and Gregory Rousseau and defensive tackle Ed Oliver. They’re all healthy. So is Buffalo’s offensive line, which has started all 18 games together. Allen must perform with sharpness and not commit any boneheaded mistakes. Same goes for Pro Bowl tailback James Cook, who in the regular season posted the second-worst drop percentage regardless of position and tied for the second-most fumbles among all running backs.

Buscaglia: The Chiefs win if their offensive line can win at the line of scrimmage the way they did against the Dolphins, allowing Pacheco to become a significant factor for their offense. The Bills were fortunate last week that they could dial in on the Steelers’ ground game because the opponents had a below average quarterback starting. Think of the Steelers commitment to the running game, but then replace it with a far better offensive line, and the best quarterback in the world. At least if the Bills limit Pacheco, it makes it more of a one-dimensional approach for Mahomes and company.

The Bills win if their offensive line can contend better with the Chiefs excellent defensive line than they did last week against the Steelers. The Bills have been a top-tier offensive line unit all season, so it was a bit of a surprise to see them struggle a bit more than they had this season. But none of that showed up as Allen was able to go into superhero mode and will the Bills to points throughout the day. The offensive line will have a difficult challenge, but one it knows will be key to making it through to the AFC Championship Game. And the more they win their battles, the more likely it is for Allen to have another one of those nights in the playoffs that are becoming his calling card.
The day has come. Some of you wanted it to happen. Well here it is. Our nemesis is coming to town. The 2 time Champs in Orchard Park. I honestly would've preferred to not play them but alas it is what it is. I don't know what to expect. Sometimes I think they'll beat us. I mean why wouldn't they. More experienced, better coached, nowhere near as hurt as we are, friendly refs, plus the history of them beating us. Some other times I think its our time, we have Allen and that's all we need. He's good enough to overcome the shitty refs and the pussy coaching of McD.

I don't know guys. But I will be there come Sunday. We either exorcise our demons once and for all or put a final nail in the coffin of our subordination to them.

IMO. We have to beat the crap out of them. I still don't trust McD in close games. Its one thing to do it vs Pitt, NE, Miami. A whole other ball game to do it vs the Chiefs in the playoffs. Fact is that if not for a few inches of Toney lining up incorrectly we had already given up the late score AGAIN. Add to that the parade of injuries and the bad calls that are guaranteed to come our way and I don't see a close win.

We have to put up 30+ and keep them at least 10+ points away. Its the only way. In Joshua Patrick Allen, I trust.

Bills 31

Chiefs 20

Plenty of firsts will occur when the Buffalo Bills meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC’s divisional round.

It’s the first time they host the Chiefs in the playoffs since Sean McDermott became the Bills coach. It’s Patrick Mahomes’ first road playoff game. And considering Mahomes’ last visit to Buffalo was without fans in the stands due to COVID in 2020, it’s also the first time the quarterback will play in front of a packed house at Highmark Stadium.

“No disrespect. What year is this for Pat?” left tackle Dion Dawkins said Thursday. “Seven, right? He’s only been here once? So he’s never been here. Pat has never been to the Bills stadium in full effect … I’m excited. The environment will be different, and not to say it’s in our favor, but the stadium is our favor. The stadium is us. It helps us.”

The Bills hope for their own first since McDermott took over the team in 2017 — advancing past the Chiefs in the postseason.

What stands out about Sunday’s matchup and what has the chance to impact it most? Here is a Bills divisional round notebook.

Taron Johnson is the most important injury remaining​

The way things have gone over the past week, the Bills likely get cornerback Rasul Douglas and linebacker Tyrel Dodson back into the starting lineup against the Chiefs. While last weekend’s injury parade had fans nervous about the state of the defense, getting both Douglas and Dodson helps significantly. Douglas enters as fellow starting cornerback Christian Benford is ruled out with a knee injury, making it a Douglas and Dane Jackson starting duo. Dodson has no injury status for Sunday and is good to go, and if Terrel Bernard can’t play, the Bills at least have one of their top two linebackers in the lineup. Bernard is the headlining injury, but the potential game-changer is whether or not nickel cornerback Taron Johnson (concussion) plays.

Johnson is one of the most irreplaceable starters on the roster, with how much the defense puts on his plate every week and the drop-off at the position when he’s unavailable is noticeable. Johnson is effectively a third linebacker on the field every down and his unique skill set allows the Bills to fully commit to nickel as their base defense. He excels as a run defender between the tackles and is always excellent with his positioning at forcing wide runs to the interior toward his teammates to minimize big plays. He’s as trustworthy a coverage player as you’ll find who can contend with the speed of some receivers and size of some tight ends. His immediate backup is Cam Lewis, who has split his time between nickel cornerback and safety over the past few years but is mainly a special teams asset.

But with the injury to Taylor Rapp, and possibly without Johnson, the trickle-down effect in passing situations is obvious. At full health, the Bills would bring in Rapp for the outside linebacker while Johnson remains at nickel. Without Rapp and with Johnson, Lewis enters the game as a third safety. But without both, that forces Damar Hamlin, their fifth-best safety, onto the field for pivotal third down snaps against Mahomes. With possibly two slower linebackers in Dodson and A.J. Klein in front of the safeties, it could create significant opportunities for the Chiefs passing game. The Bills could always have Siran Neal enter the game at nickel cornerback and shift Lewis back to safety, but Neal has some limitations in covering smaller, speedier players. Either way, they’d have to use one of Neal (45 snaps this season) or Hamlin (30 snaps).

The good news for the Bills is Johnson remains optimistic he’ll play against the Chiefs. Johnson said as much after Friday’s practice, saying he’s felt good throughout the week and thought he’d be able to re-enter the Pittsburgh Steelers game. He also revealed his final test as part of concussion protocol is Saturday. It’s not a given because passing through different stages of concussion protocol can be wildly unpredictable from one day to the next. But, as of Friday, things are trending upward for Johnson to play. If he’s available, it could help swing the matchup in the Bills’ favor.

How much of a game-changer is Isiah Pacheco?​

The last time the Bills took on the Chiefs in Kansas City, the Chiefs were without a key piece of their offensive identity this season. Starting running back Isiah Pacheco missed the game due to injury and the Chiefs clearly missed the physical element that has gotten them through difficult times on offense this season. The Chiefs wound up with only 58 rushing yards on 15 carries from their running backs in that game. But now, with Pacheco healthy and available, both of those numbers are likely to increase against the Bills as they try to force the defense prove they can slow them down between the tackles. The Chiefs offensive line and how well they run block will put a lot of pressure on defensive tackles Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones to keep the second-level defenders clean. The Bills did an excellent job against a similarly physical Steelers offensive line. Still, the talent the Chiefs offensive line has creates an entirely different challenge. Having Dodson back helps and potentially having Johnson does, too. But Pacheco can run through, or by, anyone if they’re not ready to play with the same physicality or energy. Limiting him will be critical Sunday.

Will Bills get back to 11.5 personnel?​

When the Bills drafted tight end Dalton Kincaid in the first round, it came with the idea they could use both Kincaid and Dawson Knox on the field simultaneously. General manager Brandon Beane branded it “11.5 personnel,” which was an ode to Kincaid’s size, but also his athleticism to effectively be a third receiver above all else. But since that point, a few things have happened this season. First, Knox went on injured reserve in Week 8 and didn’t return until Week 14. And in between that time, the Bills changed offensive coordinators. Upon Knox’s return, the Bills got right back to 11.5 personnel, putting Kincaid and Knox on the field together 25 times against the Chiefs and 23 times against the Cowboys. But since those two games, the grouping has gone missing for the most part. Over the Bills’ last four games, they’ve been on the field for only 15 snaps total, no more than five times in any of those four games. McDermott was asked about it this week.

“Just the ebb and flow of a game plan and week to week,” McDermott said. “It’s nothing we’re trying to do differently. It’s just more overall Joe [Brady] and the offensive staff’s feel, and kind of the rhythm of the offense more than anything.”

While it could be a sign that the Bills are just moving in a different direction given the trend, it might also be a sign the Bills shift back into 11.5 personnel against the Chiefs. Especially with wide receiver Gabe Davis available and Trent Sherfield not giving them much of a receiving output against the Steelers, there could be a concerted effort to use Kincaid’s size and speed as a weapon against the Chiefs. They went to that package even with Davis available in Week 14, to try and isolate Kincaid against a nickel corner or linebacker, which could also be a sign that it returns Sunday. Getting the best five receiving options on the field should be a priority, and as constructed, that includes Stefon Diggs, Khalil Shakir, Kincaid and Knox more often than not. Kincaid could play a major role in this contest in this specific personnel grouping, because even with all the Chiefs’ talent on defense, they lack a player with the size and athleticism to contend with Kincaid all game.

Bills O-line has hands full against physical, talented Chiefs D-line​

The Bills offensive line had a surprisingly difficult time against the Steelers defensive line last week. The Steelers were without their star pass rusher in T.J. Watt, and outside of him, most of their other defensive line pieces haven’t been as impactful as in past years. Even still, their play is built on physicality and trying to power their way into the backfield, and it was working against the Bills offensive line. The Bills have done a better job blocking with power this year than in past ones, and their starting five undoubtedly has been the best collection of blockers in front of Josh Allen since the Bills drafted him. But the Steelers made their way into the backfield and caused problems for both the run and passing game, requiring Allen to make up the difference dealing with more pressure than usual.

When you watch the Chiefs on film, they play with a similar physicality to the Steelers, and have more talent across the line. Defensive tackle Chris Jones is the key piece, but Mike Danna, Charles Omenihu and George Karlaftis have all been very good this season. They have an excellent blend of length and physicality, which could cause the Bills offensive line to struggle for a second consecutive week. But this has been a good unit for the Bills all year, so it also wouldn’t surprise if they rose to the challenge, despite the talent they’re up against.

Von Miller has a chance to make an impact Sunday​

It seemed like Von Miller took a step forward in his pass-rushing ability against the Steelers. He looked even better on film because Miller, without question, had two of his best pass-rushing reps in only a three-play span at the end of the game. On one snap, Miller used a strong arm to keep the right tackle off of his pads, dipped his shoulder once he found some space and bent the edge toward Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. It put Miller at Rudolph’s doorstep, nearly collecting his first sack of his season. It also was the first time Miller has attempted to bend around the edge like that, with that much quickness, in a game setting since he returned in Week 5. Just two plays later, Miller played off that outside win, set up the right tackle and successfully utilized an inside spin for a clean win. Miller gave Rudolph a hit but didn’t wrap up because he wasn’t sure if Rudolph had let the ball go. Now, to be fair, it was at the end of the game and Miller was working against a slower-footed rookie right tackle in Broderick Jones. But this was the best Miller has looked all season, and when in the game Sunday, he’ll be up against beatable Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Don’t be surprised if Miller gets close or even secures his first sack of the year.

Projected practice squad elevations: LB A.J. Klein, CB Josh Norman

Projected inactives: WR Gabe Davis, IOL Alec Anderson, DT Poona Ford, LB Baylon Spector, LB Terrel Bernard, CB Christian Benford, S Taylor Rapp

Prediction: Chiefs 26, Bills 24​

These two teams are extremely close in terms of talent and current situations. The Bills turned their entire season around after their Week 13 bye and haven’t lost since, and the Chiefs offense showed real promise even on plays where they had a mental error or two. But what stands out most about this Chiefs team is how well they play at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and how that physicality specifically challenges the Bills this week. Those potential advantages could help them move the ball on the ground more effectively than the Steelers did last weekend and the defensive line get more pressure on Allen this weekend. Even with those advantages, Allen has the potential to take the game over and put the Bills in a position to win late. They’ll need him to help establish their ground game, and given his effectiveness, Allen should have some highlight-worthy moments. However, the Dolphins game is the most impressive the Chiefs have been on offense in some time. And for some strange reason this year, they have been better on the road (6-2) than at home (6-4). I’ve been going back and forth with this pick all week, but the Chiefs look like they’re getting closer to their optimal offensive state, and that could continue Sunday. This game might come down to Mahomes manufacturing a game-winning drive that leads to a last-second field goal and yet another instant classic between these two behemoths.

There’s little doubt Sunday’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC divisional playoff round at Highmark Stadium will headline this weekend’s NFL postseason slate.

Of course the matchup features perennial MVP candidates at quarterback with the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Bills’ Josh Allen and brings back memories of the teams’ epic showdown two years ago in the playoffs.

Mahomes threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns to propel the Chiefs to a 42-36 overtime win in the AFC divisional round during the 2021 season. Allen tallied 329 passing yards and four TDs in the loss.

This season, the Bills (12-6) are one of the hottest teams in the NFL riding a six-game winning streak into the Chiefs matchup. The AFC’s No. 2 seed defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in last weekend’s wild-card round. Kansas City (12-6) has been erratic for much of the back half of the regular season, but the AFC’s No. 3 seed has won three in a row after knocking off the Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round.


Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. ET.

How to watch

CBS will air the TV broadcast. Jim Nantz and Tony Romo will be in the booth. Tracy Wolfson and Jay Feely will be on the sideline.



Series history

The Bills carry a 27-21-1 edge in the regular season, while the Bills hold a 3-2 lead in the postseason. Buffalo knocked off Kansas City in their last meeting in Week 14 this season.

Injury report


The Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills will renew their rivalry on Sunday night when they meet in the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons. The biggest difference this time is that the Bills are at home and slightly favorites against the team that’s made it to five straight AFC Championship Games.

The final game of the divisional round will kick off at 6:30 p.m. ET from Highmark Stadium. CBS will provide the broadcast. This matchup of division champions with identical 11-6 records may seem preordained, but that was not the case entering December. Buffalo was seemingly neutral at 6-6, while Kansas City was in its customary position near the top of the AFC standings at 8-3.

But the Chiefs then lost at Green Bay in Week 13 and the Bills came out of their bye to earn a hard-fought, 20-17 road win over Kansas City the following Sunday. That jump-started a five-game winning streak while the Chiefs stumbled to a 3-3 finish. Kansas City still claimed its eighth-straight AFC West title under coach Andy Reid but ceded the No. 2 seed to Buffalo because of that Dec. 10 home loss.

This means that Patrick Mahomes will be playing a postseason road game for the first time in his career. Mahomes’ previous 15 playoff starts have either come at home or a neutral site for the Super Bowl. Certainly, Mahomes’ overall postseason resume – 12-3 record, 41 total touchdowns, eight total turnovers, two Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl MVPs – cannot be ignored. Still, neither can the fact that this will be the first time he will not have home-field advantage with so much at stake.

On the other side, Josh Allen seems to thrive playing at home. The NFL’s leader in total touchdowns with 44 (29 passing, 15 rushing), Allen tossed three touchdown passes and also rumbled 52 yards for another score in Buffalo’s 31-17 wild-card round win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Allen has put up impressive numbers in the playoffs – including a tidy 20:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio – but he’s just 5-4 with two of those losses coming courtesy of the Chiefs.

Even though this game features two of the league’s most dynamic quarterbacks, don’t forget about the defenses. Both teams finished the regular season ranked in the top four in scoring defense and sacks.

Last Saturday, Kansas City limited an explosive Miami offense to 264 total yards and 1-for-12 on third down in a convincing 26-7 win in their wild-card matchup. To be fair, the harsh conditions at Arrowhead Stadium played a role in the Dolphins’ struggles, but don’t forget that the Chiefs and Bills combined for 37 points the first time they played.

Buffalo’s D also got the job done against the Steelers but a depth chart decimated by injuries may have taken another hit. Linebacker and leading tackler Terrel Bernard had to be carted off the field in the third quarter after he suffered an ankle injury. Starting defensive backs Rasul Douglas and Taylor Rapp as well as linebacker Tyrel Dodson had been ruled out prior to kickoff and the Bills also lost nickelback Taron Johnson to a concussion.

Wide receiver Gabe Davis, Linebacker Baylon Spector, cornerback Christian Benford and safety Taylor Rapp have already been declared out for this game by the Bills.

Both defenses need to be as healthy as possible considering the last time Mahomes and Allen faced off in the playoffs was two years ago in the divisional round. Kansas City won 42-36 in overtime as the quarterbacks combined for eight touchdowns and 25 points were scored in the final two minutes of regulation. Will Sunday produce another postseason classic in this rivalry?

All odds from BetMGM. Looking for NFL tickets? Buy them here.

What are the odds for Chiefs vs. Bills?​


Injury report for Chiefs vs. Bills​

OUT: WR Skyy Moore (knee), OL Wanya Morris (concussion), NT Derrick Nnadi (tricep)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Justyn Ross (hamstring), WR Kadarius Toney (hip/ankle)

OUT: WR Gabe Davis (knee), LB Baylon Spector (back), CB Christian Benford (knee), S Taylor Rapp (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Terrel Bernard (ankle), CB Rasul Douglas (knee), CB Taron Johnson (concussion), P Sam Martin (left hamstring)

Expert picks for Chiefs vs. Bills​