Videos by OutKick
Some great NFL rivalries come naturally because of geography or perhaps divisional alignments like the Cowboys and Redskins of yesteryear. Some arise because the personalities involved become foes contending for the same prize — like great quarterbacks or coaches trying to reach a plateau that has room for just one.
Think Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning starting 17 years or so ago. Think the Cowboys and the 49ers in the 1990s or, if you’re old enough, recall the Steelers and the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s and ’80s.
And now fast-forward to today, to the AFC Divisional playoffs where a potentially epic rivalry is blossoming:
The Buffalo Bills vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.
Andy Reid vs. his pupil Sean McDermott.
Elite QB Patrick Mahomes vs. elite QB Josh Allen.
The AFC’s dominant team the past three seasons versus the club that sees itself inheriting that mantle.
“That’s the type of level that we want to be; in order to be the best, you got to beat the best,” Allen said this week. “And they’ve really been one of the, if not the best team in the last four years. … We’ve got a good opportunity here and we’re excited for it.”
This is not a new mindset in Buffalo. When the Chiefs beat the Bills in the AFC championship game last season, the Bills trained their sights on the Chiefs both literally and figuratively.
You’ll recall Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs staying on the field after that 38-24 loss to watch how the Chiefs acted afterward, to see how they celebrated accomplishing that which he wanted his team to accomplish.
And it was cornerback Tre’Davious White who articulated what everyone in the Bills locker room knew: “Plain and simple, to get to where we want to be, that’s going to be the team we’re going to have to go over,” he said. “We’re going to have to find a way to beat them. That’s the standard right there.”
There were whispers and speculation the Bills — 13-3 a year ago — used the 2021 offseason to set their team for beating the Chiefs.
So not the New England Patriots.
Not the Miami Dolphins or New York Jets.
And that’s exactly what happened Oct. 10 when Buffalo visited the Kansas City and, well, dominated, 38-20. Someone wrote that Buffalo’s Week 5 victory over the Chiefs felt like a changing of the guard game in the AFC.
This one could be.
The winner of this game should be expected to advance to the Super Bowl. All respect to the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals which would argue differently and get a chance to convince everyone differently, but this game feels like a wrestling match to see who sits on the AFC throne.
And how else to portray it when the conference’s two best quarterbacks are playing?
Mahomes and Allen are friendly although they’re not necessarily friends. Whatever their relationship, game recognizes game.
“What you see with Josh as he gets better and better every single year is he’s not satisfied with where he’s at,” Mahomes said. “He works through his throwing motion, he works on his feet, he does different types of stuff to give himself an edge and I think that’s what all the best quarterbacks do.
“You’ve seen that with Josh. They put a lot on him. They make a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage to make all the right decisions, throw the ball, run the ball, do all that different type of stuff.
“I think that’s what’s put them at this level where they’re a dominating team. He’s definitely gotten better and better each and every year and I’m sure we’ll have lots of battles as both of our careers go on.”
No one’s going to argue with that when the manifestation is right before our eyes. This obviously isn’t Manning versus Brady viewed through the lens of time based on what we know today.
But it’s Manning versus Brady 2004.
Allen, for the record, isn’t saying he’s as good as Mahomes or has accomplished anything to the level Mahomes has. Mahomes, after all, has been the MVP. And has won a Super Bowl.
Allen was the MVP runner-up in 2020. And last week both threw 5 TD passes in playoff wins that gave their teams the right to play each other Sunday.
So Allen, it could be said, keeps the same company as Mahomes.
“To think about people saying that, it’s obviously pretty cool to be in that conversation with a player who has won MVP and has won a Super Bowl already,” Allen said. “He’s done all the major things you want to accomplish in your career and obviously he wants more, too.”
And there’s the problem. Mahomes and the Chiefs and Allen and the Bills want the same prize that only one can claim. This will likely continue for years.
And so a great rivalry is born.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero