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Bills shift mindset from playoff caliber to championship caliber

As the Bills inch closer to the divisional round of the playoffs this weekend, players talk about a change of mindset and how they personally prepare for game day.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — When Bills quarterback Josh Allen talks to the media about what changes when it comes time to perform in the playoffs, he often says that the only big difference is a mindset switch. 

When Bills coach Sean McDermott came to Buffalo in 2017, he also brought a new mentality to the locker room as well. During the regular season, "playoff caliber" is preached in order for the team to take one game at a time and slowly earn their spot in the postseason.

However, once the playoffs come, like Allen and many of his teammates have talked about, it's suddenly all about having what they call "championship caliber." 

People tend to hear time and time again that a lot of the physical game preparation on a week to week basis is actually fairly similar. However, Bills linebacker Tyler Matakevich said that holding yourself to that championship caliber mentality is really all about pushing yourself and your teammates to that next level. 

"It's just a mentality," Matakevich said. "Everyone knows you don't do anything different than what you've done during the season, but everyone does know that it's cranked up. The intensity, everyone knows what's on the line, so you just really got to be ready to go, really focused. I mean, bad stuff is going to happen during throughout a game, you can't dwell on it too much. You just got to play one play at a time."

Just as much of this game is physical, these athletes also have to focus on being mentally prepared and ready to perform at the highest level. One thing that's known to be true is that when the stakes are at its highest, playoff football tends to require just as much mental toughness as it does physical. 

Some players even have certain things and pregame rituals that help them get into a good and positive mindset. Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie and linebacker Tyler Matakevich both said that they each have their own little things that help them to be game ready. 

"I try to keep the same routine," McKenzie said. "For me, I go out there two hours before the game. I listen to Sam Smith, my favorite artist, just calm my mind on days like that. I get to the locker room, I just talk with guys like I'm in the locker room just having fun, talking smack or whatever.

"I just try to keep it normal for me. Once I start getting in my own mind, and my stomach starts and all that, I don't want that. So when I go out there I play free and I'm at my best."

Added Matakevich: "For me, it's usually like every home game there's a lot of people in town. Everyone just brings so much to the house, so like I'm really OCD, I got to clean the house before I'm ready to leave, so I'm just moving everybody's stuff. If it's not here, I'm moving it to like where I got to move it to make sure the house is clean, so that's my pregame ritual."

The Bills will surely be doing some of those pregame rituals to get their head in a good space and ready to take on the Cincinnati Bengals at 3 p.m. Sunday in Orchard Park.

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