AFC Divisional Preview: Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
For fans of revenge and redemption, you could not have selected a better start to the Buffalo Bills postseason than games against the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. After putting on the best offensive performance in NFL Playoff history last week, the Bills return to Kansas City. They hope to avenge the loss that crushed their Super Bowl dreams last year.
The Last Five
Bills 38 Chiefs 20 (2021 – Week 5)
Chiefs 38 Bills 24 (2020 – AFC Champ)
Chiefs 26 Bills 17 (2020)
Bills 16 Chiefs 10 (2017)
Chiefs 30 Bills 22 (2015)
This will be the 4th meeting between these two teams since Week 6 in October of 2020. The two games that got the most attention this week are the 2021 AFC Championship game and the Bills’ relatively easy victory in Week 5 this year. Don’t expect these two teams to stop seeing each other anytime soon, either. They will play next regular season as well.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills defense is so impressive that the loss of Tre’Davious White has hardly been noticed. How often can you say the loss of an All-Pro corner hasn’t hurt the team who he plays for? No disrespect to White, but the defense around him is just that good. Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson are playing at levels nobody anticipated. Sunday evening will be the Bills’ biggest test yet without White.
The Bills’ plan in Week 5 was to generate sufficient pressure from the front four with solid deep pass coverage to force Mahomes to take the underneath, check-down throws. The Bills executed that plan to perfection. They forced Mahomes had one of his most frustrating games of the year without a single blitz. I suspect Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott try to replicate that plan, even with White missing. The Bills will trust their secondary to hold up once again. Frankly, they have given us no reason to believe they won’t be up to the challenge despite White being sidelined.
The Bills played the perfect offensive game last weekend against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. In fact, the Bills have not punted in three of the past four games. Bills fans will have to remember that the occasional punt is not the end of the world; it’s actually expected in NFL games. As unlikely as last week’s record-breaking performance was, it’s even more unlikely the Bills can replicate it again this week. Make no mistake, the Bills can have a successful game even without scoring a touchdown on every single possession tomorrow night.
The real question for the offense is how they will respond when adversity strikes: the first time the team doesn’t convert a 3rd down or has longer than 3rd & 3; the first time they have to punt or when the first mistake or turnover occurs. That is what I will be looking for. How does the team who was immune to mistakes last week responds when a mistake happens? The Bills will have to remain mentally tough and shake off the occasional miscue, despite not having any practice at it last week.
Eyes on Special Teams
As I mentioned, Matt Haack hasn’t had much in-game practice over the past month. His performance in the season finale against the Jets left a lot to be desired. So, when he is called upon on Sunday, it will certainly result in Bills fans scooting to the edge of their seats. The same can be said for kicker Tyler Bass. If there was one area needing improvement from the 47-17 throttling of the Patriots last week, it is Bass.
Bass missed two extra points, which has been rare for him. One kick was a clear block and the other was tipped. Another kick took a fortunate bounce off of the goal post, too. The zero degree weather could have had something to do with the missed kicks, something the team will not have to deal with this weekend in Kansas City (the expected temperature is ~40 degrees). The missed kicks did not matter last week, but I don’t think the same will be said on Monday morning. Against this Chiefs team, every point will matter.
What To Watch For: Kansas City Chiefs
Additions Since Week 5
A lot has been made of the Bills’ dominance back in Week 5, and while that win should not be taken away from the Bills, it is necessary to note that the Chiefs defense is much different today than it was that Sunday evening. Not only in performance, but in personnel. The biggest name missing from that Week 5 matchup, was defensive tackle Chris Jones. The Chiefs were also missing two starters in their secondary, Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton. Melvin Ingram, a midseason acquisition from the Steelers, was also not on the Kansas City roster yet. Those are four difference makers on the Chiefs defense that the team will roll out Sunday that they did not have the last time these teams met.
To me, the changes on the Kansas City Chiefs defense is the story this week and could be the main reason why the Bills struggle tomorrow night. The Bills defense knows how to limit and beat Mahomes, they constructed their roster to do so. But the Bills offense, which has been inconsistent at times this year, has a new challenge in front of them Sunday night in form of a handful of new players to contend with.
Plan for Allen
For a team to have any success against the Buffalo Bills, they need to have a plan in place to limit Josh Allen. The Chiefs were unable to stop Allen from getting outside the pocket and hurting them with his legs earlier this year. The early success running the ball was the reason why Allen and the Bills offense had so much success running play action throughout the rest of that game.
In their weekly press conferences this week, members of the Chiefs defense acknowledged that, without stopping Allen, they cannot have success. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo went as far as to to say that the team has spent time this week discussing how to tackle Josh Allen properly. The Chiefs’ new and improved defense are hoping they can stop Allen on the ground early in this game, and put pressure on him to win the game through the air and, possible, force him to make mistakes.
Prediction: Bills 33 Chiefs 31
The Buffalo Bills built their roster to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs. Sean McDermott said it after last year’s game: The Chiefs are the gold standard and would be the Bills’ measuring stick as they headed into the offseason. I think the Bills have succeeded in building a more talented roster than Kansas City. The question becomes if they can execute when it matters most. With the Bills offense and defense playing like they are right now, it would take a nearly perfect game to beat them and I don’t see the Chiefs being able to make that one extra play to put them over the top. For every punch the Chiefs will pack, I think Josh Allen and the Bills will have the extra counter to will them to victory.