The two teams met for the AFC championship just under a year ago. 15 weeks ago, they met again in the regular season — this time, with every NFL pundit in America characterizing it as a preview of this season’s AFC championship. Now that the playoff seeding has guaranteed that the two teams won’t meet in the conference title game, it’s being characterized as the unofficial AFC championship — that the winner of this game will clearly be the conference’s representative to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
Still... now on a quest to reach what would be their fourth consecutive appearance in the conference championship — and with the Bills arriving in Kansas City on the heels of near-perfect 47-17 beatdown of the New England Patriots in the Wild Card round — it’s difficult to avoid asking Chiefs players if they feel like their team is the one to beat in the postseason.
But defensive tackle Chris Jones isn’t having any of it.
“I don’t think we’re looking at ourselves as the ‘team to beat’ or ‘the best team in the AFC.’” insisted Jones when he spoke to reporters on Friday afternoon. “We look at ourselves as fighting for a position to compete to be in the AFC Championship — and maybe a championship. So anything outside of that is irrelevant right now — especially coming up [to] playing an important game. Our focus point is on the Buffalo Bills. We’re not really focused on anything else. We worry about the Buffalo Bills — and keep this team going.”
Even when he was asked about how the Kansas City defensive line and the Buffalo offensive line got chippy with each other during the actual AFC championship a year ago, Jones wasn’t willing to take the bait.
“Especially in the playoffs, the intensity is already high,” he explained. “We never plan for it to get chippy; it was just an emotional game. Two teams battling — competing for a spot [in] the AFC Championship. It tends to get like that when you have two competitors battling. I take nothing from that; it was last year. They have a different mentality; they’re a different team this year. We’re a different team since the first five weeks. So it’s going to be a heck of a game. It’s a battle — and I’m excited.”
Nor was he interested in discussing any perceptions of his team — or his teammates.
“Man... listen: we’re in the playoffs,” he said — with more than a touch of exasperation. “I don’t care about what anybody says about this defense — you know what I mean? The most important thing right now is the guys in this room believing in one another — that we can go out and we can play our best ball and put ourselves in the best position. But what anybody else has got to say about it? It doesn’t matter.
“You know, we have fought a lot of adversity this year. Whether it’s defense [or] offense, people talk. [Whatever] sells tickets — [or makes] television ratings go up, you know — people talk. So they have to do their job. But what’s the main, important thing right now for us is to worry about is us — what we can control — and worry about playing the Buffalo Bills.”
And after that... the next team they’ll face on their journey — no matter if it’s two weeks from now in the AFC championship, or in Week 1 of the 2022 season.