The Buffalo Bills are proving the AFC title can’t be handed to the Kansas City Chiefs just yet.
As Patrick Mahomes watched from the sideline on Sunday, comfortable in the fact that he and the Kansas City Chiefs will have a week off before defending their Super Bowl title, another team may have been taking the mantle of best in the AFC.
The Buffalo Bills (13-3) are the league’s hottest team entering the postseason. Their 56-26 dismantling of the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field on Sunday, a game that meant little to them and quarterback Josh Allen didn’t play the entire second half, put an exclamation point on the Bills best regular season since 1991.
Allen, in his third year as Bills starter, drives what is becoming the NFL’s most potent offense. The Bills won their last six games to finish the season (a winning streak that would be 10 if not for the DeAndre Hopkins Hail Mary against the Cardinals in Week 10); over that span, the Bills are averaging 38 points per game, best in the NFL.
Mahomes and the Chiefs, by comparison, are just 13th. Allen set franchise records this season in passing yards and touchdowns. Receiver Stefon Diggs led the NFL in both catches and receiving yards. And the Bills scored more than 500 points for the first time in franchise history.
“We’re playing good. Guys are getting open, catching the ball, doing their job. Guys up front are blocking. [Offensive coordinator Brian] Daboll is calling an excellent game and we’re going out there and executing,” Allen said following the game on Sunday.
The Chiefs may have the best odds to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but the Bills shouldn’t be overlooked. Buffalo’s defense has allowed 18 points per game over their last six, fifth-fewest in the league; over the same span, the Chiefs are 16th.
Allen has thrown for 15 touchdowns, tied with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers for most in the league, and just two interceptions in his last 184 attempts. Both Diggs and Cole Beasley rank in the top-10 in wide receiver grades, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bills receiving corps is even getting healthier after speedy John Brown returned on Sunday after missing the previous five games, catching four passes for 72 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins. The Bills also led the NFL in third-down conversion rate at 49.7 percent.
Miami went into Sunday’s game with a playoff berth within reach and the league’s best defense. Allen still threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns in just one half, completing 5-7 for 108 yards on throws more than 10 yards down the field. The Bills put up 56 points, the second-most in franchise history, on a defense that was averaging just 18 points per game allowed.
In Week 15, they scored 48 points against a Broncos defense that limited Mahomes and the Chiefs to just 22 two weeks earlier.
Bills seeking revenge on the Chiefs
However, Kansas City does have a few factors in its favor.
First, they have Mahomes. The former NFL MVP has lost just one game since Nov. 2019; he didn’t play on Sunday as the Chiefs lost to the Los Angeles Chargers and finished 14-2 on the season. The second is their play when they first matched up against the Bills this season.
In Week 6, the Chiefs went into Buffalo on a Monday night and ran over the Bills in a 26-17 win. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged more than six yards a carry and the Chiefs rushed for a season-high 245 yards. Allen had his worst game of the season, throwing for a season-low 122 yards and completing just 52 percent of his passes, another season low.
In ten games since that October meeting, however, the Bills have allowed just two 100-yard rushers. They’re seventh in yards per attempt allowed since Week 12. Allen has only been below 60 percent in a game once.
And Edwards-Helaire, the catalyst for the Chiefs rushing attack that powered them the victory, has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain and may not be at full strength even when he does return.
A potential Bills-Chiefs rematch is still three weeks away. The Bills still have to get past the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round on Saturday, their first home playoff game since 1996. They haven’t won a playoff game in 25 years. For how well Allen and the rest of the Bills have played this season, he knows it won’t matter unless they can end that drought.
“We got to go in there and do our job. Go try to do what we set out to do before the season,” Allen said. “This all means nothing. It gave us a chance. It gave us the chance we wanted. Now we got to go take it.”
The Bills, as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, are guaranteed to play their first two playoff games at home. The “Bills Mafia,” the rowdiest fan base in the league will finally get a chance to watch their team live as 6,700 will be allowed into New Era Field for the playoffs.
Then, barring a huge upset, they’ll have to travel to Kansas City and play the Chiefs for the AFC Championship, a team virtually handed the AFC crown once again but has the Bills saying, “Hey, don’t forget about us.”