This week the Buffalo Bills play the Kansas City Chiefs in primetime on Sunday night in Kansas City. This is a huge game for both teams. In most people’s opinion, the AFC is a race between the Chiefs and the Bills. The winner of this game most likely will end up being a higher seed in the playoffs. Possibly the one seed. The strength of the Chiefs is obviously Patrick Mahomes and their explosive offense. This will be a huge test for the Bills defense this week and some players will have to step up.
The Linebackers Responsibilities
This week the linebackers have the most important job on the field, they have the responsibility to cover Travis Kelce and to spy Mahomes. A QB spy is when a player on the defense is assigned to watch the quarterback and that’s it. They don’t have a coverage responsibility, they aren’t blitzing, their whole job on that play is to watch Mahomes and to contain him in the pocket. With Matt Milano unlikely to play this week due to a hamstring injury expect AJ Klien and Tyrel Dodson to split the time normally played by Milano.
This will be a huge game for both players as well as Tremaine Edmunds. Kelce is the best route running/receiving tight end in the NFL and has had five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. I expect Edmunds to be responsible for covering him most of the game. He matches up well in size (Edmunds 6’5 250lbs, Kelce 6’5 260 lbs.) and is the best coverage linebacker that the Bills have without Milano. Most importantly, Edmunds must make sure that Kelce doesn’t get a clean release off the line. He needs to hit Kelce at the line of scrimmage immediately when the ball is snapped knocking him off his route and throwing the timing of the play off. Edmunds will have a tough night on Sunday, I believe he is up for the challenge.
The other linebackers will be responsible for spying Mahomes, which is just as important as playing in coverage. The Chiefs offense is at its best when Mahomes is on the move out of the pocket. If the Bills can keep him inside the pocket or if he gets outside we can have someone always watching him/covering him that will make his ability to extend plays less effective.
On top of being able to throw great passes outside the pocket and on the move Mahomes is a pretty good scrambling QB. He doesn’t do it often but when he does, it is effective and normally will come on third down or in the redzone. These are two areas where the spy will prove to be crucial. Having the ability to get Mahomes off the field on third down and keeping him out of the endzone with his legs would be a huge win for the Bills defense.
Pass Rush/Defensive Line
The edge rushers will play a huge part in this game and will have to help the linebackers. They help the spy players by trying to set the edge and keep Mahomes in between the tackles. To do this, the ends rush up field and without making a pass rush move inside. This is a job for all the defensive ends on the roster. Whenever they are in the game they have to try and keep Mahomes in the pocket. They have to create pressure to make it difficult for him to get passes off. Obviously, it would help to have some sacks and hit him a couple of times and that will happen also. The pass rush will get there, and it won’t be an easy day for Mahomes in the backfield.
Interior Defensive Line
The one-tech’s will have to clog the middle and allow the rest of the defense to make plays off of them. This will be a huge game for Star Lotulelei, who has been doing a great job all year. He has been taking up multiple blockers and freeing up our pass rushers to have one on one matchups. He isn’t alone out there. We will also need to see the same from Justin Zimmer and from Harrison Phillips. They haven’t been as effective as Star but they can still get the job done. If they all do their job and take up multiple offensive players on most plays, the pass rush will get there. Meaning, Mahomes will have a rough day.
If all of these factors come together, this will be a great win for the Bills.