The Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night with a spot in the AFC Championship Game on the line.
Here are five things to keep in mind heading into game day.
1. Here's a look at the final injury report for both teams.
The Chiefs will be without defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (triceps) and offensive tackle Wanya Morris (concussion protocol) on Sunday, while wide receivers Kadarius Toney (hip/ankle) and Justyn Ross (hamstring) are listed as "Questionable."
Overall, however, the Chiefs are relatively healthy for this time of year. Additionally, it's worth pointing out that tailback Isiah Pacheco and linebacker Drue Tranquill were each absent from Kansas City's matchup with Buffalo back in Week 14. Both players are ready to go this time around.
Update: The Chiefs downgraded Toney to "Out" on Saturday morning and added injury designations for linebacker Willie Gay (Questionable, Neck) and defensive end Charles Omenihu (Questionable, Illness).
As for the Bills, they already listed wide receiver Gabe Davis (knee), cornerback Christian Benford (knee), safety Taylor Rapp (calf) and linebacker Baylon Spector (back) as "Out" for Sunday's game. Davis has 45 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and looking at recent history, Davis has five touchdowns against the Chiefs during his career. Benford is also a significant loss, as he leads the Bills with 10 passes defensed across 824 defensive snaps – the third-most among all Bills' defensive backs.
Buffalo also listed several significant contributors as "Questionable" for Sunday, including linebacker Terrel Bernard (ankle), cornerback Rasul Douglas (knee), cornerback Taron Johnson (concussion protocol) and punter Sam Martin (hamstring). Bernard, in particular, is of note considering that he led Buffalo with 143 tackles this season while ranking second on the team in interceptions (3) and third in sacks (6.5). Bernard, who was injured during last week's game vs. Pittsburgh, would be a major loss for the Bills if he is unable to play.
2. The Bills have committed to the running game more than any other team in recent weeks.
Any discussion surrounding the Bills in recent years rightfully began with their passing game, which ranked fourth in the NFL in yards-per-game between the 2020 and 2022 campaigns. As Buffalo entered Week 14 with a 6-6 record and fledging postseason hopes, however, that formula changed significantly. In fact, over the final five games of the regular season, the Bills led the league in rushing attempts with 180.
Those rushes were primarily divided between tailback James Cook (84), quarterback Josh Allen (49) and tailback Ty Johnson (20), who collectively helped lead Buffalo to victories in five consecutive games and secure a come-from-behind AFC East title. Allen, in particular, leads all quarterbacks in rushing attempts during that span, recording six touchdowns and five runs of double-digit yardage.
It's apparent that Buffalo attempted to avoid using Allen as a runner for much of the season, as he logged just 62 rushing attempts through the Bills' first 12 games, but the mid-season move to Joe Brady at offensive coordinator – not to mention some dire circumstances – clearly changed that thinking over Buffalo's final five contests. With all of that in mind, it is imperative that the Chiefs contain Buffalo's running game – whether it be Cook or Allen – in order to slow down the Bills' offense.
For further context, Buffalo has lost all four of its games this season in which it tallied fewer than 100 rushing yards. Conversely, the Bills are 12-2 when they hit that mark. It goes beyond just production, too, as Buffalo's recent strategy is also about simply playing ball control. The Bills led the NFL in total time of possession between Week 14 and the end of the regular season, racking up a grand total of 168 minutes and 21 seconds.
A Chiefs' victory on Sunday will be contingent on not only slowing down the Bills' running game, but also preventing numerous long, clock-consuming possessions.
3. The Chiefs' offensive recipe last week was efficient and effective.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense largely funneled its production through the trio of tailback Isiah Pacheco, wide receiver Rashee Rice and tight end Travis Kelce in last Saturday's victory over Miami, doing so with quite a bit of success. Those three players combined for 289 total yards and two touchdowns on 40 touches, accounting for 71 percent of the Chiefs' offensive yardage.
Those three players also recorded 13 first downs (52 percent of the Chiefs' total) and 11 plays of double-digit yardage (65 percent of the Chiefs' total), combining to form the basis of a Chiefs offense that tallied points on six of its first eight possessions.
It's noteworthy, too, that those three players did the majority of their damage over the middle of the field on Saturday, making the Bills' injury situation at linebacker of particular significance.
4. Kansas City rebounded from a slow start to hold the Bills to just six second-half points in Week 14.
The Chiefs' defense – which allowed the second-fewest offensive points (271) of any team in the NFL this season – didn't skip a beat against Miami, holding the Dolphins to just 264 offensive yards, a 1-for-12 mark on third down and a season-low of seven points. Kansas City has now held the opposition under 24 points in 16 of 18 games this year, including in Week 14 against Buffalo.
The Bills raced out to a 14-point lead in that game, finding the end zone on two of their first three drives, but the Chiefs' defense was dominant throughout the rest of the contest, holding Buffalo to just six points on its final seven possessions. The Chiefs allowed just 190 total yards on those last seven drives, providing the Chiefs' offense with an opportunity to get back into the game.
The two key offensive plays for Buffalo on its scoring drives were chunk passes to tailback James Cook, who hauled in receptions of 25 and 27 yards across those two possessions, the first of which found the end zone. The Chiefs managed to hold Cook to just 31 receiving yards over the rest of the game, but the early possessions of that matchup should serve as a reminder of what the second-year tailback can do as a receiver.
5. This marks the Chiefs' sixth-straight season reaching the Divisional Round.
Kansas City is undoubtedly in the midst of one of the greatest runs of sustained success in recent league history, as the Chiefs' active streak of six consecutive appearances in the Divisional Round of the playoffs marks the third-longest stretch since the postseason expanded to 12 teams in 1990.
Only the New England Patriots (9 straight from 2010-18) and the San Francisco 49ers (7 straight from 1992-98) compiled longer streaks than Kansas City in that span.
The Chiefs have won each of their five previous trips to the Divisional Round as part of that streak, and now with yet another trip to the AFC Championship Game on the line, Kansas City will set out to do the same on Sunday night.