Which divisional-round game are you most excited to watch?
Clark: Aside from Bills-Chiefs, give me Packers-Niners: A different Niners team gave it to the Packers pretty good in the playoffs two years ago, and this season’s version just toppled a pretty good Cowboys team. The Packers have dropped playoff games they shouldn’t in the past two years and if things start to go south, I’m interested to see how they’ll respond. Aaron Rodgers is the best player in football this year, and I bet he gets this done, but it’ll be some of the best theater in the sport if he struggles against the talented Niners defense. I love this game.
Heifetz: Bills-Chiefs, obvs.
Jones: Chiefs-Bills might as well be a Super Bowl.
Kelly: Bills-Chiefs is maybe the game of the year. The Bills are on fire and the Chiefs look as dangerous as ever following their wild-card evisceration of the Steelers. Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen is the most perfect and aesthetically pleasing quarterback matchup possible, at least when it comes to dudes doing things you didn’t think were physically possible.
Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes were uneven for stretches during the regular season, but both settled into their best play as the postseason approached, as if this time of year, this game, is all that mattered. It just came a week earlier than expected.
It almost felt too on the nose when Mahomes and Allen had dueling 40-burgers in wild-card wins over the AFC powers of olden times. Tyreek Hill is healthy. Jerick McKinnon could make Clyde Edwards-Helaire unnecessary behind a diverse offensive line that can win with slow drives if necessary.
I see Allen’s legs and the Bills’ defensive consistency as the biggest separators. Allen had early designed runs against Kansas City in Week 5 and was decisive in making the Chiefs pay for their man-to-man defense. Allen led the league in yards per carry, replacing Lamar Jackson as the NFL’s most devastating runner at quarterback. Devin Singletary is playing the best ball of his pro career alongside Allen.
1. Chiefs (2) vs. Buccaneers (3)
Is there anything better than a heavyweight rematch? The first time Patrick Mahomes was given the nod as a full-time starter in the NFL, he went on a record-setting tear to lead the Chiefs to a playoff berth and a clash in the AFC Championship against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, losing in overtime thanks to a clutch throw from Brady to future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski. Mahomes would avenge his budding legacy by going on to win a Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP honors, but he didn’t again got a shot at Brady and Gronkowski in the postseason — until last year.
Brady, Gronk and Leonard Fournette helped lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first championship since 2002, with great help from a Todd Bowles-led defense that beat Mahomes like a dirty rug. Until Mahomes can best Brady when it matters most, he’ll never have a shot at being the GOAT, and no matchup would arguably be a bigger draw than seeing the the two who own this year’s Madden clash in another postseason fight to the finish.
Buffalo Bills (+2) at Kansas City Chiefs
This is a rematch from a game earlier this season that the Bills won on the Chiefs’ home field. The Bills and Chiefs are both coming off impressive victories. Both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen lit up their opponents last week, but this is a big step up for both in terms of defenses. The Bills have the top-ranked defense in the league and built their pass rush in the offseason to beat Mahomes. The Chiefs defense isn’t as good, but it played much better over the course of the second half of the season. The Chiefs love to blitz, which will leave Allen free to run and make throws on the run. I think that will be the difference here. The Bills behind Allen will win a fun shootout for the ages.
Pick: Bills 34, Chiefs 33
In the 2020 AFC Championship game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, the Chiefs’ defensive backs played very physically against the banged-up receiver corps of the Bills—which already lacked a size presence to great effect. When the teams met again during the regular season in 2021, it was the Bills who showed physicality in coverage with the bet that the referees probably wouldn’t call penalties enough for it not to be a net positive for the defense.
Judging by the referee assignment for this week’s AFC divisional round game once again pitting purveyors of sweet barbeque against spicy buffalo zealots, we could be looking at another physical matchup.
The head referee for the game will be John Hussey, whose crew is known for a very “let them play” approach relative to his fellow officiating teams.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Treylon Burks WR
Treylon Burks in Kansas City’s offense alongside Tyreek Hill is a scary proposition. I do not think any more needs to be said.
Harlan has done it all and that’s why NFL Films looked at his legendary career.
The video began with Harlan’s first big job as the Chiefs radio voice from 1985-’93. Harlan recalled how a catchphrase caught on with Chiefs fans. “A lot of people would listen to our broadcast in the stands and during one of the highlights I said, ‘Oh baby! What a play!’ Didn’t think anything about. So my wife and I are listening to the postgame show and all the calls, and these people call in and host says ‘Hi, you’re on the air’ and (they) say ‘Hi, we’re in the Arrowhead parking lot. Hold on then 1-2-3, oh baby. What a play!’ They said it and that really has been the only time that I’ve ever had like a phrase and I would save it for a big play and only use it once a game. “
“It was just like a magical time That was so fun.”
The NFL Films video also shows how Harlan broke in with the networks. It was courtesy of former Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson who recommended Harlan to Fox Sports.
Around the NFL
Buffalo Bills · QB
The rising superstar is making a run at the No. 1 spot on quarterback lists around the league, but he needs some hardware to join the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes at the big-boy table. As the third player in NFL history with 30-plus passing touchdowns and 750-plus rushing yards in a single season, Allen has developed into an extraordinary one-man show for Buffalo. The fourth-year pro has the capacity to win games with his arm or legs, and the Bills have fully unleashed him this season as they seek that elusive Lombardi Trophy that would help erase the horrors of those four straight Super Bowl defeats.
If Allen is able to end the Bills’ title drought, he’ll instantly become a Buffalo legend — and could emerge as the face of the league.
2. Matt LaFleur, Packers
From the moment LaFleur arrived, Green Bay has been unimpeachable. It went 13-3 in 2019, 13-3 in 2020 and started 13-3 in 2021 before resting its players for most of a meaningless Week 18 game. The playoffs haven’t been quite as fruitful, as the Packers were blown out by the 49ers in the 2019 NFC Championship Game and lost controversially at home to the Bucs in the same game the following season, with LaFleur taking some of the blame for a now-infamous decision to kick a field goal down 8 points with 2:09 to go. Generally, though, he has been one of the best coaches in the league when it comes to handling fourth-down decisions and game management, which is one of the reasons the Packers have been so great in close games.
The NFL fined Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott $25K on Thursday for comments the QB made following last Sunday’s wild-card loss to the 49ers, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported.
In the aftermath of Dallas’ season-ending 23-17 loss to the Niners, Prescott stated that he commended fans for voicing their displeasure for the game’s officiating by throwing garbage in the direction of players and officials as they left the field.
The advert for the Pepsi Haltime Show at Super Bowl LVI is absolutely brilliant!— Brad Symcox - (Brit Chief) (@BritChiefUK) January 21, 2022
This could be up there with the greatest Super Bowl halftime shows!https://t.co/kuUw8ihxFy
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
In Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ward “traveled” with Pittsburgh wideout Chase Claypool, who had averaged 57 yards a game (and 8.2 yards per target) in 2021. Working against Ward on Sunday, Claypool managed three catches (on seven targets) for only 25 yards — just 3.6 yards per target — as the Chiefs won 42-21, advancing to the AFC Divisional Round against the Buffalo Bills this Sunday.
“We just decided to do that in that particular game,” said Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo of Ward’s Wild Card assignment. “You know, every game’s been different — and I thought he did a nice job with that. He had a good battle.”
Spagnuolo said that on the game film, it was clear that the two players had fought hard.
“They had a little tussle,” he noted. “Then when it ended, you could see that there was a lot of mutual respect between both guys toward the end of the game. So that’s good to see — good sportsmanship. And I thought both of those guys battled all night long.”
A tweet to make you think
One key thing that no one is talking about when discussing the Chiefs vs Bills game in week 5:— Tom Childs (@tomchilds56) January 21, 2022
The Chiefs were wearing red-on-red — they were doomed from the start.