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After taking last year off, one of the best active NFL postseason rivalries is back. On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills will battle the Kansas City Chiefs for a spot in the AFC championship game. This will be the seventh matchup between Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, with the series tied at three wins apiece. Mahomes is 2-0 vs. Allen in the postseason, but this year is different. 

For the first time in his playoff career, Mahomes has to go on the road. His 15 consecutive playoff starts at home are the most all time. Could one of the best quarterbacks in the league struggle in the raucous environment Buffalo will surely provide? 

The Bills orchestrated quite the turnaround this season. They were 6-6 at one point, but won five straight to secure the AFC East and improved to 6-0 over their last six contests, thanks to the Super Wild Card Weekend win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Is this a team of destiny? 

Mahomes and Allen are two of the league's brightest stars at the most important position in the game. How they perform Sunday will directly affect the outcome of this game, but they aren't the only important players in this matchup. Below, we will rank the five non-quarterbacks who will impact this playoff rivalry the most. 

5. L'Jarius Sneed, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

Sneed is a legitimate No. 1 cornerback in this league, and he's not talked about enough. He has a tough matchup this week in Stefon Diggs, but he's absolutely up to the challenge. Last week against Miami, the physical defensive back allowed just two receptions for 20 yards on eight targets, per Next Gen Stats (h/t 

In order to stop the No. 8 passing offense and No. 6 scoring offense, Sneed is going to have to win his battles in the secondary. Sneed hasn't recorded a sack this year after recording 6.5 QB takedowns in his first three NFL seasons. My bold take is that he gets to Allen once on Sunday. 

4. Rashee Rice, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone knows about Travis Kelce, but the rookie wideout out of SMU has become a big part of Kansas City's offense. Against the Miami Dolphins, he caught eight passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Those 130 receiving yards were the most by a rookie in Chiefs playoff history, and also made him the first rookie in Chiefs history to record 100 receiving yards in consecutive games.

Rashee Rice
KC • WR • #4
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Rice has recorded 648 receiving yards over the past seven games, which ranks fifth in the NFL since Week 12, including postseason. He's the best Chiefs rookie wideout since Dwayne Bowe and has more yards over the past seven games than Tyreek Hill!

Mahomes was 15 for 22 for 202 yards and a touchdown when targeting either Rice or Kelce last week, and 8 for 19 for 61 yards when targeting anyone else. Rice is an important player Sunday. 

3. James Cook, RB, Buffalo Bills

The Chiefs defense surprisingly headlined this team in 2023. They finished No. 2 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense, but tied for the 17th-best run defense with 113.2 rushing yards surrendered per game. Enter James Cook. 

James Cook
BUF • RB • #4
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With Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator, Cook averaged 61.5 rushing yards per game, 22.2 receiving yards per game and found the end zone just twice. Under interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Cook averaged 72.4 rushing yards per game, 31.9 receiving yards per game and scored four total touchdowns. He finished out the regular season averaging over 100 scrimmage yards per game with Brady. 

Cook finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards this season (1,122), and his four receiving touchdowns were tied for the third most by a running back. With a big outing, Cook could dictate the outcome.

2. Rasul Douglas, CB, Buffalo Bills

Due to numerous injuries on defense, the Bills went out at the trade deadline and acquired one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Maybe Rasul Douglas isn't as popular as Jalen Ramsey or Sauce Gardner, but PFF listed Douglas as the No. 1 cornerback entering his final week with the Green Bay Packers.

Douglas did not play on Super Wild Card Weekend due to a knee injury, and he's questionable to suit up this week. However, he was a full participant in practice Friday. With Douglas in the lineup, the Bills are 6-3. He's recorded eight takeaways this season, which ranks second most in the NFL, and registered five interceptions, which is tied for fourth most. Douglas had two games this season in which he intercepted two passes. He was the only player in 2023 to accomplish such a feat. He's going to be a key player in stopping Mahomes and Co. 

1. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Regarded as the best tight end in the NFL, Kelce is already a postseason legend. He and Mahomes have combined for 14 touchdowns in the playoffs, which ranks second most in NFL postseason history, and Kelce ranks second in NFL playoff history in receptions (140), receiving touchdowns (16) and receiving yards (1,619). He has also gone 10 straight playoff games with at least 70 receiving yards, which is the longest streak in postseason history. Still, this year has been a bit different.

Travis Kelce
KC • TE • #87
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Kelce failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in eight years and recorded a career-low 10.6 yards per reception. His last receiving touchdown came in Week 11. Over the last 10 games, Kelce is averaging 5.2 receptions per game, 53.0 receiving yards and has caught just one touchdown. 

Kelce caught eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in that wild postseason matchup two years ago vs. Buffalo, and caught 13 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills in the playoffs the year prior. Mahomes' primary weapon is going to have to step up if the Chiefs want to score the upset victory and advance to the next round.