Ranking the Most Important Matchups for Bills vs. Chiefs in Divisional Playoffs

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2022

Ranking the Most Important Matchups for Bills vs. Chiefs in Divisional Playoffs

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    The Buffalo Bills will see a familiar face in the divisional round of the 2022 NFL playoffs. Their matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs is a rematch from their Sunday Night Football win in Week 5. 

    In that matchup, the Bills won 38-20 to gain a bit of vengeance following their AFC title game loss to Kansas City last season. 

    Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are among the best young quarterbacks in the game, and Sunday's game is likely to be the latest in a long line of contests between these two franchises. 

    But the winner is going to come down to more than just Allen vs. Mahomes. There are key matchups all over the field that will determine the outcome.

    Here are the three biggest ones ranked in order of the impact they will have on Buffalo's hopes of progressing. 

3. Dawson Knox vs. Chiefs Linebackers and Safeties

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    Looking back on the last two matchups against the Chiefs, there is one offensive weapon that has had a good day against Kansas City on both occasions: Dawson Knox. 

    The tight end has exposed the weaknesses in the Chiefs defense twice. In the AFC Championship Game, he was instrumental in keeping the ball moving with six catches for 42 yards and a touchdown; and in this season's Week 5 matchup, he was a big threat with 117 yards on three catches and another touchdown. 

    And the 25-year-old has carved out an even bigger role as the 2021 season rolls on. He's coming off a two-touchdown performance against the Patriots in the Wild Card Round with five catches for 89 yards. 

    The Bills will look to get Knox in matchups against linebacker Nick Bolton or safety Juan Thornhill, who have recorded 113.8 and 108.6 passer ratings, respectively, when targeted. 

2. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer vs. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill

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    The Chiefs have one of the most dynamic receiving duos in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Fortunately for the Bills, they have one of the best safety tandems in the league in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. 

    Kelce is the most productive tight end in the league, and his ability to terrorize opposing secondaries is a key function of Andy Reid's offense. And Hill has the game-changing speed to force teams to provide safety help over the top. 

    With Tre'Davious White out of the lineup, Hyde and Poyer become even more important for the secondary. They will have to simultaneously ensure Kelce doesn't get lost in the shuffle on underneath routes or up the seam while also providing assistance to the corner charged with covering Hill. 

    It's a classic example of strength vs. strength among elite players that ultimately decides who advances.

1. Josh Allen vs. Chiefs Secondary

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    There's no doubt the top storyline in this game is Josh Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes. It's easy marketing, and there's a kernel of truth to it.

    Whoever has the better day between the two quarterbacks will likely walk away the winner. 

    But Mahomes won't be running the defense that Allen sees on Sunday. He may minimize the already small margin of error that comes with playing in the playoffs, but the Bills signal-caller will ultimately have to find a way to beat the Chiefs secondary. 

    The 25-year-old's ability to beat the Chiefs secondary deep was pivotal in the Week 5 win. According to Pro Football Focus, he was five-of-six for 213 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions on throws that traveled more than 20 yards in the air. 

    In the AFC Championship Game last season, Allen wasn't at that level. He only completed 58.3 percent of his passes and threw a pick. 

    With Mahomes on the other sideline, Allen has to be at his best. That will be the deciding factor in the game.