There isn’t much that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has left to accomplish in his career. Two Super Bowl titles, Super Bowl MVPs, Offensive Player of the Year, five straight AFC championship games. He really has this whole NFL quarterback thing figured out.
The only thing “missing” from the legend of Mahomes is something he has been too prolific to experience yet: a road playoff game. But this weekend, for the first time in his career, Mahomes will travel for a postseason game that isn't the Super Bowl, an incredible run for a quarterback who already has 15 playoff games under his belt.
"I know it's going to be hostile, there are going to be people talking trash and everything like that, [but] I'm excited for it because it's one of the best environments in football," Mahomes told reporters Wednesday. "And you want to do that when you grow up watching these games — play in the best environment and see what it's like."
This will undoubtedly be a tough test for Mahomes and the Chiefs, partly because everything has been a tough test for them this season. Their offense has suffered through a level of imprecision that hadn’t been seen in the Mahomes era. Kansas City's passing game really only functions because it's blessed to have the best quarterback in the league under center. The Chiefs' universe this season lives and dies with Mahomes, who has still been prolific enough to rank seventh in success rate (47.9%) among the 33 quarterbacks to have at least 250 dropbacks this season, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. It’s still easy to see how impossibly good he is at playing quarterback, even in these adverse situations.
Adding a playoff win in Buffalo would be a minimal gain for Mahomes’ legacy at this point, but it's still a box to check off to see how he fares on the road. Coincidentally, his first standard playoff game away from Arrowhead Stadium will be against what feels like the newest great quarterback rivalry, as the Chiefs play in Buffalo’s winter wonderland. The Bills have had the upper hand in the regular season, with a 3-1 record — including this season's 20-17 victory on Dec. 10 — while the Chiefs are 2-0 against the Bills in the playoffs in the time that Mahomes and Josh Allen have been the quarterbacks of these teams.
Even though the Bills are extremely banged up on defense, they’re still a team to fear at this point in the season. Allen is doing his best impersonation of Atlas, carrying the Bills' offense as far as he can take Buffalo — which very well might be a Super Bowl if he can keep up this production over the workload. In a way, Allen and Mahomes are playing similar games on their respective teams, seeing who can take his team the furthest at the most critical juncture of the season.
The mission is still the same for Mahomes. The only thing that has changed is the venue — and he won’t be going into this adventure alone. The Chiefs' defense is one of the best in the league, holding the Miami Dolphins to seven points and zero red-zone trips last weekend in a smothering wild-card win. The singular force of Josh Allen at home will probably be more difficult than the Dolphins freezing their tails off in Kansas City, but this defense has the pieces to get that done.
Mahomes’ career would land him with a Hall of Fame jacket if it ended today, but being able to beat the Bills in Highmark Stadium would just add to the mythologizing of a player who has already ascended to football nirvana. Getting this done would be the cherry on top to an all-time start to his career, with a whole decade still ahead of him.