The Buffalo Bills head into Arrowhead on Sunday, a rested football team. They’ve had two weeks to prepare for their Arrowhead encounter with the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite the recent turmoil surrounding Head Coach Sean McDermott, they’re facing a do-or-die game against the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Hopefully, this is the week that everything comes together. Andy Reid told us they would work on it and get it right. Green Bay had the Chiefs number, and the result was an upset by an upstart team with a 1st-year starter. Jordan Love is no rookie, and having sat under Aaron Rodgers for three seasons has been a positive for him. Those experiences seem to prepare better new QBs coming into the league, like Patrick Mahomes, who was Alex Smith’s understudy for a year.
Even though Sunday’s loss stings, there are several positives. Rashee Rice continues to gain the trust of Andy Reid and Matt Nagy. He had another eight grabs for 64 yards, though no scores this week. Isaiah Pacheco is turning into a veritable beast as a runner. His angry running style and absolute tenacity resulted in another 100+ yard game. He ran for 110 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown and added three catches for 13 yards.
However, he won’t be available Sunday because of a shoulder injury. In his place will be Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who will be making his first start of the season. Of note, he’s played well against the Bills in the past, and Head Coach Andy Reid stated emphatically on Friday his faith that CEH will get the job done Sunday.
Travis Kelce had 81 yards on four catches, and Noah Gray caught the lone receiving touchdown for the Chiefs. The lack of production is as much to blame on the Kansas City offense as it is on a superior defense by the Packers. Holding the Chiefs to just seven total drives for the game (when they average 10.5 per contest) is an excellent way to hold them down. But Kansas City going 2 for 4 in the red zone, which included an interception, taking three sacks, and only scoring field goals, isn’t going to cut it.
Grinding the ball into chunk gains will offset the “must catch” passing game that seems to be the Chiefs’ default when things get tight. Building on the run game makes the opposing defensive line unable to push hard because they get tired of having to bang into the big bodies up front. This falls to offensive line play, and offensive line coach Andy Heck needs to get this line in tune. I’ve said this before, but Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor are not long-term fixes. Wanya Morris hasn’t shown much, but he’ll start on Sunday at left tackle for the Chiefs.
Mahomes has little time to dance in the pocket with suspect tackle play on offense. If he gets chased out and must improvise, being in sync with your receivers is critical. So far, that hasn’t happened to a consistent degree. Mahomes’ usual safety valve, Kelce, gets double and sometimes triple coverage. Vision by and with the QB is the key to successful improvisation. Mahomes’ receivers either do not understand the need to keep their eyes on Mahomes and follow his lead, or they are just running a route that won’t help their scrambling quarterback.
Regardless of the root problem, this team should be clicking on all cylinders by this time of the season. With only five regular season contests remaining and home-field advantage still up for grabs, the margin for error is closing. The Chiefs are home for three of the final five games, including this one, then Christmas Day against the Las Vegas Raiders and New Year’s Day against the Cincinnati Bengals. They should realistically be able to take care of the New England Patriots and the LA Chargers on the road.
I know this stretch will be challenging because the injury bug bites Kansas City. LB Jack Cochrane did an admirable job relieving Drue Tranquill, who was put into the concussion protocol and will not play Sunday. Tranquill was already in as an understudy to the injured Nick Bolton, and Chiefs Blitz is confident he’ll be active Sunday. Still, Cochrane is going to get more reps.
Cochrane had the second most tackles behind Justin Reid and tied with Bryan Cook. Cook later left the game with a severe ankle injury that looked gnarly at the time, but he may only miss a game or two after a follow-up revealed a bad sprain. If Cochrane gets the start, I’m sure Steve Spagnuolo will have him prepared.
What is required to win Sunday, the Chiefs’ pass rush needs to ramp up. The Chiefs know that two sacks and four quarterback hits will not cut it against Buffalo. Chris Jones stated that the defense didn’t do its job, so that’s the explanation. Win as a team, lose as a team. With the three-headed running monster of James Cook, Latavius Murray, and QB Josh Allen, the Chiefs will have their work cut out for them.
Also, Kansas City must find a solution to wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis. With capable 3rd and 4th receivers in Khalil Shakur and Deonte Harty, Allen can stretch the field. Tight end Dalton Kincaid can take care of business, as well. L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, Justin Reid, and likely starter Mike Edwards will need to use Spags scheming to keep the Bills honest.
The Chiefs are ranked 8th in total offense, 11th in scoring, 8th in passing and 16th in rushing. The Bills, meanwhile, sit at 12th in total defense, 5th in scoring defense, 8th against the pass, and 20th against the run. It looks like a close matchup for the Chiefs offense.
Defensively, the Chiefs rank 4th in total defense, 3rd in scoring defense, 6th against the pass, and 19th against the run. Buffalo comes in at 4th in total offense, 5th in passing, and 10th in rushing. Again, it looks like a close matchup.
The challenge is going to be team cohesiveness and consistency. If the Chiefs can assemble a complete game in all three phases, this tilt should be good work and result in a win. However, this depends on adequate preparation and the coaches doing their job. Staying with the running game through the contest is vital to winning this game. Elevating the effort to reflect the ability of this roster will go a long way in batting away the naysayer flies.
I’m confident the Chiefs have the right mindset going into this game. Andy Reid, Matt Nagy, Dave Toub, and Steve Spagnuolo will have their respective units ready. Even though this game will take place in the friendly confines of a rocking Arrowhead, I’m sure with a ton of Swifties in attendance, Kansas City needs to remain focused on the prize.
Chiefs 28, Bills 21