One of the NFL’s best rivalries since the Patrick Mahomes Era began will be revisited in the AFC playoffs on Sunday night. For the first time in his career, the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback will be on the road for a postseason matchup — this one against the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo is currently riding a six-game winning streak — an amazing turnaround for a team that had previously lost five of eight games and was thought to be out of the postseason race.
The Bills’ injury situation
Buffalo’s recent success has come despite significant injuries. Major contributors (and team leaders) like linebacker Matt Milano (leg fracture) and cornerback Tre’Davious White (Achilles) were lost for the season. Other players have been in and out of the lineup throughout the year — for example, the Bills have started four different combinations at linebacker — yet here they are in the Divisional Round after a convincing 31-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bills have a laundry list of players on their final injury report for Sunday’s game. Nine defensive players were listed. Three of those — Baylon Specter (back), cornerback Christian Benford (knee) and safety Taylor Rapp (calf) — have already been declared out for the contest. Linebacker Terrel Bernard (ankle) was listed as questionable after missing all of this week’s practices. Cornerbacks Taron Johnson (concussion) and Rasul Douglas (knee) were also shown as questionable. Johnson was limited in all of this week’s practices, while Douglas wasn’t a full participant until Friday.
The Bills’ offense is not without injury concerns in this matchup. Wide receiver Gabe Davis — who had eight catches for 201 yards (and four touchdowns) in 2021’s Divisional Round game against Kansas City — missed all of this week’s practices before being declared out. Wideout Stefon Diggs (foot/rest) was not given an injury designation for this game, but did not participate in Thursday’s practice session and was a limited participant on Friday.
Finally... Buffalo punter Sam Martin (hamstring) was also listed as questionable after missing Wednesday’s practice and being limited on both Thursday and Friday. There’s a very good chance he will play anyway — but he is not likely to be at his best.
The Chiefs’ injury situation
Although Kansas City also had a lengthy injury report on Friday, their outlook is much better than Buffalo’s. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi has been declared out with the triceps injury he suffered in last Saturday’s 26-7 Wild Card victory over the Miami Dolphins. Backup left tackle Wanya Morris was also listed as out for Sunday’s game as he continues to recover from his Week 18 concussion — so Donovan Smith (neck) will make his second consecutive start. Smith was a full participant in all of this week’s practices, even as he continues to recover from the neck stinger that caused him to miss five games.
Wide receivers Kadarius Toney (hip/ankle) and Justyn Ross (hamstring) both missed the Wild Card game — and have been listed as questionable for this one. Toney hasn’t played since he was injured in the Week 14 matchup against the Bills. Fellow wideout Skyy Moore (knee) practiced with the team this week, but is still on the Chiefs’ Reserve/Injured list.
The bottom line
The hard truth is that no NFL team is at 100% after training camp. While both teams have a lot of players nursing injuries, Kansas City is closer to full health than its AFC rival.
Still, Buffalo has proved it can overcome injuries — and remains a narrow home favorite. And as this will be the Chiefs’ first road playoff game since the 2015 season, this one has the makings to become another Chiefs-Bills classic.