The two sides have battled at this stage before, as the Chiefs defeated the Bills in 1967 to go to the first edition of the Super Bowl before Buffalo returned the favour in 1994.
On each of these occasions, the victorious side came up short in the big game, but the talent on show at Arrowhead on Sunday suggests that the 2021 AFC Championship Game will produce this year’s favourite to lift the Lombardi Trophy in the big game.
The Chiefs’ brilliance needs no introduction. This is the third successive season that the AFC’s representative in the Super Bowl will be decided in Missouri – only one other team has ever hosted three straight conference championship games, the Philadelphia Eagles from 2002-04, coached by none other than current Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.
“I’m honoured that we’re able to play in front of our home crowd, and I know they’ll be out of their minds and help lead us on through this game,” Reid said.
While the fans could be a factor, Patrick Mahomes’ health is likely to decide the winner. The 2018 MVP was knocked out of the Divisional Round win over the Cleveland Browns, and he remains in concussion protocol. His presence of the field will go a long way to deciding which team will come out on top.
Ironically, the intertwined franchises’ history extends beyond the pitch – and Buffalo have a chance to put their demons surrounding Mahomes to bed.
In Sean McDermott’s first draft as coach, the Bills traded down with the Chiefs to acquire three picks – including two firsts – in exchange for the tenth overall selection that would become the league and Super Bowl MVP.
Buffalo emerged from the trade with three franchise players in cornerback Tre’Davious White, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and tackle Dion Dawkins – but despite impressively wielding those picks, the value of Mahomes is arguably even more.
But the Bills certainly don’t appear to mind now. They drafted Josh Allen in the first round of the 2018 Draft, and the quarterback truly blossomed in 2020. Allen set single-season franchise records for passing yards in a season (4,544) and touchdowns (37), and he is right next to Mahomes in the MVP race.
After Buffalo’s victory over the Colts on Wild Card weekend, Dawkins said: “Josh is almost like a character on Madden – a 99 overall.
“I’m happy to call him my quarterback and I’m happy to block for him.”
Buffalo’s offence was truly dominant to close the regular season. Allen has established himself as a top-tier quarterback, while Stefon Diggs led the league in receiving yards. If Mahomes is fit and playing, Buffalo will need a full complement to keep pace – Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis struggled against Baltimore, with the former playing with a knee injury.
There is yet more history between the two teams when it comes to the sidelines, as McDermott faces his mentor Reid. They worked together in Philadelphia, and Buffalo employ an offence that changes drastically between games. Reid would have been particularly proud of the fact that Buffalo ran the ball just three times in the first half. If their young, explosive quarterbacks are fit, this could be a real thriller.
The Chiefs haven’t quite been themselves this season, but the defending Super Bowl champions are still alive after coming out on top in close games. This historic Chiefs outfit want to become the first franchise to be back-to-back champions since the Patriots in 2004 and 2005.
Like Kansas City’s regular season, Buffalo have been erratic in the playoffs. They keep winning despite not yet playing a complete game in the postseason. Historically, that is the mark of a good team but the Bills will need both their offence and defence to turn up on Sunday if they are to win.
With a victory over the Chiefs, the Bills will be able to say that they passed on a generational talent like Mahomes – and still came out on top.
How many teams in history can say that?