KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The rematch that the entire football world has been waiting for is upon us — perhaps just a week too soon.

What many believe to be the de facto AFC Championship game will take place on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium, where the No. 3 seed Bills will meet the No. 2 seed Kansas City Chiefs for the two teams’ second meeting of the 2021-22 season, this time in the Divisional round. The winner will host the conference title game next week.

The previous meeting between the two teams came in Week 5 and finished with the Bills taking home a 38-20 primetime victory behind an all-around effort from quarterback Josh Allen and opportunistic play from the Bills’ defense.

Allen performed admirably in what was perhaps Buffalo’s biggest regular-season win of the year, throwing for 315 passing yards while completing 58% of his passes and recording three touchdown passes, two of which went to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Allen was also the Bills’ leading rusher in the win, totaling 59 rushing yards and a rushing score on 11 carries.

The Buffalo defense stepped up in big moments in the win, finishing with four takeaways. The Chiefs’ turnover count included an interception that safety Micah Hyde returned for a touchdown and another pick that rookie defensive end Gregory Rousseau recorded in the red zone to help thwart a potential KC scoring drive. Rousseau also recorded one of two Buffalo sacks in the win as part of a healthy day of production from the Bills pass rush, which recorded eight quarterback hits on the night without blitzing Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes a single time.

Kansas City was in the midst of an early-season rough patch in that Week 5 matchup but have since reclaimed their vaunted status and are currently performing as a surefire Super Bowl contender, much like the Bills have in recent weeks.

The Chiefs have won 10 of their last 11 games behind the efforts of Mahomes and the KC offense, but also a defense that has risen in the ranks to quickly become one of the most feared units in the league. Kansas City opened the postseason with a 42-21 Wild Card win over the No. 6 seed Pittsburgh Steelers last week.

Buffalo is coming off of a 47-17 domination of the New England Patriots, a game in which the Bills’ offense didn’t punt, turn the ball over or kick a field goal the entire game, becoming the first team in NFL history to do so in either the regular season or postseason.

The Bills’ defense has consistently performed as one of the best in the NFL throughout the year. But one thing that has changed for the better throughout what is currently a five-game Buffalo winning streak has been a reclamation of the offensive consistency and depth that propelled Buffalo when it reached great heights a season ago. The Bills’ running game, particularly running back Devin Singletary, has taken positive steps over the past several games, coinciding with a leap forward from the offensive line.

Sunday’s tilt between the red-hot conference foes is set for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff from Kansas City. The Divisional round matchup will be televised by CBS, whose top broadcast team consisting of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson will be on the call.

All eyes will be on Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night, with the Bills having the opportunity to overcome the Chiefs when it matters most and punch their ticket to a second consecutive AFC title game. Kansas City hopes to advance to its third straight Super Bowl and win its second title in the last three years, but Josh Allen and all of Buffalo stand in its way.

INJURY REPORT

For the second consecutive week, the Bills do not have a single player listed with an injury designation as they prepare for the Chiefs.

After serving as a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, veteran defensive end Mario Addison (shoulder) practiced fully on Friday and is good to go for this Sunday’s matchup with Kansas City.

Except for Tre’Davious White’s season-ending knee injury, Buffalo remains one of the healthiest rosters in the NFL. Per WGR 550’s Sal Capacciohe, the Bills rostered the fewest players in the NFL during the regular season (63). That is a credit to the team’s front office, coaching staff and strength and medical department, along with the recently constructed state-of-the-art athletic training facility at One Bills Dr.

For the Chiefs, the most notable question mark this week was the potential absence of linebacker Willie Gay Jr., who dealt with off-the-field issues in the days leading up to KC’s Divisional round contest. However, the Chiefs announced that Gay practiced with the team Friday afternoon and is set to play against the Bills on Sunday.

Elsewhere for KC, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who had missed the Chiefs’ previous three games with a shoulder injury, was a full participant in practice this week and is in line to play on Sunday against the Bills. In the two teams’ previous matchup, the Bills limited Edwards-Helaire to just 13 yards on seven carries, while Mahomes was KC’s leading rusher with 61 yards on eight totes.

The Chiefs have two players listed as questionable to play on Sunday — cornerback Rashad Fenton (back) and running back Darrel Williams (toe).

With both teams near full strength, this weekend’s game has the makings of an instant classic.

TIMES HAVE CHANGED

Plenty has changed since the Bills and Chiefs last met in Week 5 at Arrowhead, beginning with the Bills’ offense, which has taken on a new identity in recent weeks. Buffalo now features a multi-faceted attack powered in part by a developing running game that’s been highlighted by a surging Singletary and a much improved offensive line.

Behind the development of the running game and the O-line, which have worked hand-in-hand throughout each unit’s reclamation, the Bills have become what many never believed they could transition into this season. Buffalo is now a team that can move the football in various ways, and one of those ways is by utilizing Singletary in early down situations to set up favorable down and distance. Another is by employing the talents of budding WR Isaiah McKenzie to spread the defense.

Lately, the Bills have started to insert McKenzie into the game plan more regularly than had been the case for much of the year. Since doing so, Buffalo has seen successful returns. In the Bills’ playoff win over the Patriots, McKenzie caught three passes for 45 receiving yards and totaled three carries that he took for 29 rushing yards.

Along with McKenzie, the Bills have all of their other pass-catchers available for the second consecutive week, coming off of a game that saw Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll act like a kid in a candy store in the way he was able to mix and match personnel groupings, specifically wide receiver groupings. According to The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia, Daboll utilized 14 different wide receiver groupings with great success during the Wild Card win.

The Chiefs’ offense has also evolved since they met the Bills in Week 5, as it’s no longer solely the ‘Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce Show’ in KC. Head coach Andy Reid has started spreading it around to his many weapons in the backfield and outside.

According to Locked On Bills host Joe Marino, Kelce and Hill have recorded 32 and 31 targets over the last six weeks, respectively, while WR Byron Pringle and WR Mecole Hardman are close behind with 30 and 24 targets, respectively. Hill (1,239 yards) and Kelce (1,125) have both eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, while Hardman (693) and Pringle (568) have each recorded over 500 receiving yards on the year. Hill and Kelce have scored nine receiving touchdowns, Pringle has accounted for five, and Hardman has scored twice through the air.

Also, last week, in Edwards-Helaire’s absence, backup RB Jerick McKinnon acquired six targets, all of which he caught for a total of 81 receiving yards and a touchdown. McKinnon also added 12 carries that he took for 61 yards, introducing yet another threat for the KC offense approaching this week’s game against the Bills.

While the improvement KC has shown offensively has been impressive, the Chiefs have shown the most significant development on defense. Over the Chiefs’ past 10 games, KC has become one of the elite units in the NFL, allowing 16.1 points per game which is the fewest of any team during that stretch. Kansas City allowed a league-high 29 points per game over the previous seven weeks.

Several personnel adjustments keyed Kansas City’s defensive revival, including the addition of pass rusher Melvin Ingram, who Bills fans may remember from Week 1 when the former Steelers defensive end wreaked havoc on the Bills offensive line. Ingram was traded to KC near the trade deadline and has since significantly impacted the Chiefs’ rejuvenated defense.

Another frightening threat within the Chiefs’ pass rush is three-time pro bowler Chris Jones, who missed Buffalo’s early-season matchup with KC but has since returned to his game-wrecking ways. Since missing the Chiefs’ Week 5 loss to the Bills, Jones has recorded seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits in 11 games.

The Bills’ defense has been solid all season but lacked one significant area of production until recent weeks. Since recording five sacks in a Week 17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Buffalo pass rush has come alive and is operating on all cylinders as its enters a game in which its services will be as much-needed as ever. Over the last three games, Buffalo has recorded 17 sacks. Buffalo had recorded 25 sacks in their previous 17 games.

One last note, linebacker Matt Milano, who missed the two teams’ previous matchup, will be in the lineup on Sunday night which is a boost for the Bills this time around. Milano also missed last season’s regular-season meeting between Buffalo and KC but returned in time for the Bills’ loss in last season’s AFC title game.

These are two entirely different teams than those that we saw in Week 5.

IMPACT THE QB

When it comes to defending the Chiefs’ vaunted passing attack, the most important focus for an opposing defense is impacting Mahomes and disallowing the Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning QB from gaining comfortability and rhythm to the point where he can take over the game.

More specifically, while it’s easier said than done, the key to making Mahomes’ night a difficult one is applying pressure, but without dialing up anything beyond a natural pass rush. When opposing defenses blitz Mahomes, he’s at his best. But when opposing defenses are able to apply pressure without blitzing, that is when things get tricky for the Chiefs’ QB.

According to Marino of Locked on Bills, when Mahomes is blitzed, he completes 78.3% of his passes and has a passer rating of 137.8. However, when Mahomes faces pressure, his completion percentage decreases by 40% and his pass rating dips by 50 points as opposed to when he is unfazed in the pocket.

If the Buffalo pass rush can continue its string of solid performances and come through with another effective game on Sunday, that will go a long way toward slowing the KC attack and Mahomes specifically.

With that said, the Chiefs have one of the most talented pass-blocking units in the NFL and will present a steep challenge for Buffalo’s red-hot rush. The Chiefs allowed just 28 sacks during the regular season, tied for the third-fewest of any team in the league.

KICK BASS

After a shotty performance against the Patriots, the Bills’ kicking game must get back on track this week against a high-powered and high-scoring Chiefs’ offense.

With plenty of points expected from both teams, a missed PAT or field goal could prove costly this week. Therefore, it will be critical for Tyler Bass and the rest of the Buffalo field goal-kicking unit to be on their A-game.

As teams get deeper in the postseason, the chances of a game coming down to a final field goal in the waning moments increase.

It’s the time of year when only the most talented teams in each conference remain. There will not be much room for error come Sunday night.

Elsewhere on special teams, punter Matt Haack has displayed troubling inconsistency in recent weeks. If he shanks another punt for short yardage, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Chiefs will take advantage.

With so much at stake, the Bills must lock-in in all facets of the game this weekend. Every side of the ball and every play will hold great significance.

SURVIVE AND ADVANCE

By no means will this week’s matchup with the Chiefs be a walk-over as last week’s win over the Patriots turned out to be.

Kansas City is a much more talented team than NE, with a more talented quarterback that has been in this position twice before. Get ready for a four-quarter battle, as Mahomes and Allen will square off in what has the makings of the ‘Game of the Week’ in the NFL Divisional round, and perhaps the Game of the Year.

Prediction: Gimme the Bills to win, 35-31. In a back and forth affair, Allen leads the Bills down the field for a game-winning drive in the closing moments. Singletary helps power Buffalo’s offense with 150 scrimmage yards and a touchdown, including five receptions for 50-plus receiving yards. Buffalo’s defense fails to limit Mahomes, who records 300-plus yards and three-plus touchdown passes, but Allen and the Bills’ offense have the last laugh and walk out of KC a winner en route to a second straight AFC Championship berth.

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