Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The hype surrounding the Buffalo Bills' AFC Divisional Round matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium continues to build.
Here in Buffalo, the anticipation for Sunday's game has, arguably, been at an all-time high, especially after the Bills' 47-17 throttling of the New England Patriots on Saturday night in Orchard Park.
While Bills fans are gearing up for one of the most impactful playoff games in the franchise's history, what has the atmosphere in Kansas City been like leading up to Sunday's contest on their home turf?
"It's been exciting," said owner of Taps on Main in Downtown Kansas City, Grant Tower. "It's different this year than I've seen it. It feels like there's a legitimate rivalry between the two, and I think that's what we all kind of hoped for once Josh started taking off last year. You can see genuine feelings of rivalry from the Kansas City people with regards to the Bills, and that's really cool to see."
"These two teams are set up franchise-wise and quarterback-wise to be doing this a lot," said Chiefs radio sideline reporter Josh Klingler while appearing on the "Extra Point Show" on WGR. "I think this has got legit staying power to be something we're doing yearly."
It was back in Week 5 when these two teams last met, and that week saw Bills quarterback Josh Allen leading the charge for Buffalo in a 38-20 win at Arrowhead Stadium. The fourth-year quarterback managed to throw for 315 yards, while going 15-of-26 for three touchdowns. He also led the Bills on the ground with 59 rushing yards and an additional touchdown.
Since that game on Oct. 10 in Kansas City, both teams have seen some significant changes to their play on the field. This rings more true for the Chiefs, who ended up 2-3 in the standings after the loss and in last place in the AFC West.
"The Chiefs had some injuries in that [Week 5] game," said Jay Binkley - host on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. "Their best defensive lineman, really, their best defensive player [Chris Jones] wasn't in the game. They didn't have a starting cornerback in the game, and Melvin Ingram - the linebacker they traded for - was still with the Pittsburgh Steelers the last time they played.
"The Chiefs were trying to figure things out. They were kind of slumping at that time, and trying to find their identity a little bit and then they found it. So they're playing with a lot more confidence on offense and defense since that last game."
"I don't think [Chiefs fans are] so much worried about what happened in Week 5, but I do think they see [the Bills] as the final hurdle, and why wouldn't you? These are the two best teams going in the AFC, without question right now," said Tower.
So what are the the vibes among Chiefs fans heading into this pivotal matchup with the Bills with a chance to appear in a third-straight Super Bowl on the line?
"They're a little more nervous than I would expect since they have Patrick Mahomes, but everybody's excited for it," Tower said. "It's going to be such a good game, especially the way the two teams played last weekend."
Over the last two seasons in the NFL, Allen has developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Not only has he become a dangerous threat with his big-arm talent, but also with his play making abilities while utilizing his feet.
Despite finishing second in MVP voting last season to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers - and showing off his MVP caliber of play at numerous points this season - Allen still does not get the respect from many around the league as becoming one of the NFL's best signal callers.
As for Chiefs fans, there are still those that doubt Allen's capabilities as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. However, according to his conversations with fans, Tower says more and more people are finally respecting Allen and what he brings to the table week-in and week-out.
That's why Chiefs fans are taking warning this weekend when it comes to Allen and Buffalo's offense that put up a perfect performance against the Patriots. The Bills finished the game with seven touchdowns on the opening seven drives of the game, with the eighth drive seeing Buffalo kneel the clock out.
"Chiefs fans generally aren't concerned about [an opponent's] defense, just because of how explosive their offense is. I think there's some concern they could legitimately be outscored in a shootout," Tower said.
While fans in Kansas City look ahead to Sunday's game, what is some of the local media in town focusing on? What headlines are they talking about when it comes to this crucial AFC Divisional Round game?
"I think it's Buffalo trying to take that next step," Binkley said with Brian Mazurowski and Susan Rose on WBEN. "Going to the AFC title game last year; clearly that team was going places. You look at all the talent they've assembled on this roster, I really thought they'd be a one- or two-seed this year, but they're taking those steps."
And who can deny the obvious headline for this contest that is Allen vs. Mahomes? Binkley believes this rivalry could become what we saw in the 2000s between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning met up in the postseason all the time.
"I think it really does come down to Allen and Mahomes. They're such leaders for these teams," he said. "I know Sean McDermott used to work for Andy Reid, and the coaching in this game is outstanding both with Leslie Frazier and Brian Daboll, the assistant coaches over in Buffalo and Erie Bieniemy in Kansas City that's getting a run. The coaching is great, but it does come down to Mahomes and Allen. I think that's going to be the story for years to come."
The one downside of Sunday's meeting between two AFC powerhouse teams is that it comes a week too soon in the NFL playoffs.
"I think the city feels like this should be the AFC Championship Game, and it's happening a week early. The fact is it's not," Klingler said. "I think the winner of this game, likely, is the consensus AFC favorites next year, though. I feel like whoever wins this game; If the Bills win, I think it's for sure. If the Bills beat the Chiefs and knock off the Chiefs, they've slayed that dragon. They'd be AFC favorites next year, and I think the Chiefs are trying to kind of hang on to probably what was theirs, in that regard, heading into next year. That, to me, feels, maybe, more definitive even than the winner's just going to be advanced automatically to the Super Bowl."
The winner of Sunday's game will go on to play in the AFC Championship Game next week, where they will either host the Cincinnati Bengals or travel to Nashville, Tennessee to face the top-seeded Titans.
With the influx of "Bills Mafia" expected this weekend in Kansas City, Tower and Taps on Main are taking extra steps to give Bills fans a flavor of Western New York on the road.
"We've got a ton of wings coming. 15 cases of chicken wings, which is well-above our normal order," Tower said. "Then we bought the city out of Labatt Blue, like we did the last time they were in town. So we don't have anything specific, as far as events or raffles or anything. We're just ready to kind of have a weekend-long party with all the Bills fans in town."
While Taps on Main is not an official Bills Backer Bar in Kansas City, it has become known as a main gathering spot for Bills fans in the Downtown area whenever Buffalo comes to town.
Part of the reasoning for that is because Tower and his family are lifelong Bills fans. Grant and his two brothers were born and raised in Kansas City, but grew up cheering for Buffalo after their father spent his days growing up in the City of Tonawanda.
So what's the one thing Tower recommends when Bills fans stop in to Taps on Main?
"Make sure you try the wings," he said. "It's my dad's recipe, a 50-year-old recipe that he's been making. He's from the City of Tonawanda, and brought it here for college and he stayed."
For those interested in going to Taps on Main this weekend, Tower says they have two parking lots that are free to park. He also says the bar is within walking distance of most of the major hotels in Downtown Kansas City.