Bills vs. Chiefs: How much has Josh Allen closed the gap on Patrick Mahomes? Or is he better?

Let’s study the two superstar quarterbacks before their marquee matchup on Sunday.

Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, the preeminent quarterbacks in today’s NFL. They’re in the top two in essentially every statistical category at their position entering Week 6, which just so happens to be when the Bills battle the Chiefs inside GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. 

The first few Mahomes and Allen contests hardly met the intensifying hype. Then the divisional round game happened in late January 2022, probably the best playoff game in the history of the NFL. You know, just a 42-36 thriller that featured six lead changes, four of which occurred in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime.

What’s more, it instantly set a new standard for elite quarterback play in the modern NFL. In fact, that legendary Bills-Chiefs postseason clash was only the second time, since the merger, that each quarterback had a passer rating of 120 or higher in the same playoff game.

The other was the off-the-rails Packers-Cardinals contest in the wild card round in January 2010. In that game, Aaron Rodgers was 27 and Kurt Warner was 38 years old, playing what would be the final season of his NFL career. 

Allen and Mahomes accomplished their tandem feat at 25 and 26 years old, respectively, providing hope to all that we very well may witness similarly spectacular quarterbacking performances many times over when this duo takes the same field over the next decade.

Since erupting with 50 passing touchdowns and running away with the MVP in his first full year as the starter, Mahomes has triumphantly stood at the top of NFL’s quarterback mountain, especially when projecting into the future. Yes, Rodgers owns back-to-back MVP awards yet they were won at the tail end of his career. Lamar Jackson appeared on Mahomes’ radar in 2019, when the Ravens passer unanimously won MVP, but we’ve since realized he’s not quite on Mahomes’ level. 

Allen is Mahomes’ new challenger, the most daunting yet. He’s younger, can match — if not better — Mahomes’ previously thought to be unprecedented arm strength and is the more ferocious, dynamic runner. 

But just how close is Allen to Mahomes right now? Or is he better?

With Mahomes-Allen 5 upon us, let’s find out. 

Remember, Mahomes arrived at the top. And the Chiefs were fresh off four straight winning seasons. Allen had a much rockier ride to get to where he is today, and while the Bills did make the playoffs the season before Allen arrived in Western New York, it was the first playoff appearance for the club since January 2000.

Therefore, that data for this study begins in 2020, when Allen and the Bills began to ascend into the Mahomesian and Chiefs stratosphere, and really, started to make this debate a serious one. Also, starting in 2020 provides a 53-game sample size for Allen, which is safely out of flash-in-the-pan territory. Plus, these more recent figures serve as better indicators than 2018 or 2019 when attempting to determine how Allen plays now. 

This is about as close as it gets with elite quarterbacks. Mahomes has been a touch more accurate while throwing it, on average, shorter. Allen’s fired more big-time throws all over the field, and Mahomes has been a bit more careful with the football. The two have incredibly low (and nearly identical) pressure-to-sack rates, which tells the story of how frequently a quarterback being pressured leads to a sack for the opposing defense.

Everyone’s takeaway from the above table could be different, and those differences are probably based on what you value most at the quarterback position. To me, it feels like a push. 

But, in today’s NFL, running with the football has become increasingly part of the job description at quarterback. particularly for Allen and Mahomes, who are third and eighth in quarterback rushing attempts since the start of 2020.  

These two boasting the exact same yards-per-carry average over the past two-plus seasons seems like it’s straight out of a conspiracy-theory video circulating on your dad’s Facebook. But it’s true. 

However, when digging further, into the individual aspects of carrying the football, Allen has clearly been the more impactful runner, which is expected based simply on watching these quarterbacks each weekend. 

If by chance the difference in yards after contact per rush seems small, I’ll provide this context. The 1.53-yard difference between the two in that category represents nearly the exact same disparity between Nick Chubb (fourth place) and Jamaal Williams (41st place) among running backs this season. And the carries per missed tackle forced rates are light years apart.

So there you have it — Allen has become every bit the passer Mahomes is, and he’s the more dynamic running threat. 

Of course, Mahomes has the more impressive NFL resume to date — MVP, Super Bowl MVP, more total wins, better completion rate, the list goes on. And the Chiefs, they’ve been more successful than the Bills, regardless of the starting point selected during the Mahomes and Allen eras. 

Those are different distinctions than the task at hand here, all of which patently favor Mahomes.  

But now you know there’s a quantifiable case that Allen is a better quarterback than Mahomes right now.