The Buffalo Bills are back in the playoffs and back in prime time.

The Bills will host the New England Patriots in the first round of the NFL playoffs with a kickoff at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Highmark Stadium.

Discounting last year's surreal atmosphere when Covid-19 protocols limited attendance to just 7,000 fans, Orchard Park hasn't played host to a true NFL playoff game since Dec. 28, 1996, when the Bills lost a wild card game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Here's some perspective: Jim Kelly's Hall of Fame career ended that day. Josh Allen had not yet completed his first year alive.

Saturday's game will mark an oddity: two night games at home in one season against the same opponent, and three times against the same team in just over a month. The Bills punched their playoff ticket with a win on the road at Foxborough. The last time the two teams met in Orchard Park was a December regular season tilt in some of the most windy conditions ever at the stadium. That one ended with a Patriots victory.

For a generation of fans, Saturday night's rubber match will be a first, though likely not the last under a Bills regime that turned a perennial post-season afterthought into Super Bowl contenders.

Bills Mafia is getting its tailgate parties – and tailgate tables – ready. The temperature will be in the teens, but that is not expected to stop 72,000 fans from turning up the heat on Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his rookie quarterback, Mac Jones. 

Bills fans hope this game has a different ending from the last time the Patriots visited. And they hope Saturday is the start of something special.

– Eric DuVall