There’s an old saying in sports that says, “to be the best you have to beat the best.”
While that’s a nice cliché and we all understand what it means, it’s not always true.
Every year, in almost every sport, there are upsets in the playoffs and postseason tournaments. The top-seed doesn’t get to the Super Bowl every year. The Presidents' Trophy winner in hockey doesn’t always win the Stanley Cup. Heck, we even saw a 16-seed beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament a couple of years ago.
When those upsets happen, it paves the way for other good teams to have a much different path and not have to face, and beat, the best.
Even if you think of it ,in terms of beating the reigning champion, oftentimes that team is not nearly the same as they were the year before. Their current title may read that they’re the best, but everyone knows they’re not.
This year in the NFL, it’s proving true.
The Kansas City Chiefs were the best team in football last year. They weren’t the No. 1 seed headed into the playoffs, but it was clear they were the best team by the end of the season, and they proved it with a Super Bowl championship.
Then they rolled into this year as the favorite to repeat, and why not? They have Patrick Mahomes, one year removed from his MVP season and already on track to break a lot of NFL career passing records. A future Hall of Fame head coach in Andy Reid, who is a master game-planner and play-caller. They have offensive weapons all over the field.
All they did was go out and lose one meaningful regular season game (they lost a second one when it didn’t matter at the end of the season and they rested a lot of players, including Mahomes).
Maybe there’s a debate whether or not the Chiefs have been the best team in the entire league this season, but there’s none when it comes to the AFC. They have been.
Then there’s the Buffalo Bills.
From the very first week, we saw this team was going to be good. Sure, they opened with the hapless New York Jets that weekend, but they came out of the gate with their foot on the gas pedal and never took it off. After a 4-0 start, there was a bit of a lull in October, including two straight losses. Both games that had been rescheduled due to COVID-19, and against the two teams who played in the AFC Championship Game last year - the Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans.
The Bills didn’t play particularly well in either contest, but, of course, give their opponents credit, especially in that Chiefs game.
Buffalo came in with a game plan to stop Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. It worked, for the most part. Hill was held to only three catches for 20 yards. They did a great job on him. Mahomes was very efficient, but did not kill the Bills throwing the football. He finished 21-of-26 for 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and eventually hit a crucial third down late in the game to seal it.
The problem for the Bills in that game was stopping the run, as we all remember. They loaded up on containing the Chiefs passing game, but Kansas City had an answer and ran for a whopping 245 yards.
That’s what great teams do. They can beat you in a number of ways.
All that said, it was still a one-score game late in the fourth quarter until Kansas City added a field goal to go up by nine points, which is how the game ended, 26-17.
The Bills were in front in the AFC East all season. They were the No. 3 seed in the conference most of the year, behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. But we saw how they beat them, and the Steelers proved to be paper tigers.
The Bills were the second-best team in the AFC. There’s no question about it. The Chiefs have been, and should still be, considered the best team.
So here they are. The two best teams in the conference. Head-to-head for the right to go to Super Bowl LV.
“To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.”
This year, it’s going to be true for the Bills. They have a chance to beat the best, and are 60 minutes of football away from having, at least, a chance to be the best.
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