Despite it being 9 months ago, it seems like yesterday that the Bills walked out of Arrowhead Stadium falling just short of an AFC Championship title. Patrick Mahomes picked apart a Bills defense that, one week prior, shut down Lamar Jackson. Evidently, this was enough to convince Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott that re-loading the defensive line and pass rush was key to beating the Chiefs. With that goal in mind, the Bills spent the next few months of the offseason doing exactly that.
This revitalized defense will face its first true test of the season on Sunday night. A primetime matchup that is easily billed as the “Game of the Week”. The game has huge implications for both teams involved so let’s dive right in.
The Last Five
Chiefs 38 Bills 24 (2020)
Chiefs 26 Bills 17 (2020)
Bills 16 Chiefs 10 (2017)
Chiefs 30 Bills 22 (2015)
Chiefs 17 Bills 13 (2014)
The Chiefs have given the Bills plenty of fits lately, winning 6 of the last 7 against them. None are more glaring for the Bills than the two losses last season. The bigger loss obviously occurring in the AFC Championship Game. The Bills have not been able to beat Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback that they passed on in 2017. If the Bills are to take the next step as a franchise, they will have to bust this trend.
What To Watch For: Bills
SERIOUS seeding implications – What a swing this game can be for either team. At 3-1, the Bills are currently one game in front of Kansas City in the standings. A win would push them to 4-1 and drop the Chiefs to 2-3. A Buffalo win would also give the Bills the head-to-head tiebreaker against Kansas City. This means the Chiefs would have to beat the Bills in the standings outright to gain the one seed.
A Bills win would essentially give them a three-game lead over the Chiefs with 12 games to play. Given the Bills have one of the easiest schedules remaining, I like their chances at holding onto a higher seed. The Bills will play it off as “the next game on the schedule”, but this one is huge.
Big night for Beasley? – The last two weeks we have seen the breakout games for Emmauel Sanders and Stefon Diggs that many had been waiting for. Could this week be Beasley’s turn? Cole Beasley responded to someone on Twitter who said he was in a sour mood from his bad game last Sunday, saying that he had a great game because he helped his teammates get open.
As of now, it is Emmauel Sanders that is benefiting from playing alongside Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. It’s not as if Beasley was getting targets against the Texans. Beasley was rarely on the field as the Bills changed up their personal groupings from what we were used to. Were the Bills keeping it vanilla last week in anticipation of this matchup against KC? Fresh off of another round of Twitter arguing, Beasley is due for a big game and hopefully can silence some of the criticism (regarding his lack of production) that he has been hearing recently.
Defense – As I mentioned earlier, this is the unit that Beane said in his season ending press conference had to get better if the Bills were to take the next step. Recording two shutouts in the first four games is a good start. A consistent front four pass rush has helped the Bills defense shoot out of a cannon so far. How will they do in their first real test against the man that they were brought in to defeat? Mahomes will be less careless with the ball than the last two quarterbacks this defense has faced. So turnovers will be harder to come by this week.
Additionally, the Matt Milano injury is a really big deal; one that could potentially swing this game in Kansas City’s favor. Although, Milano did not play in their first meeting last year and the defense played better that night than it did in the playoff game. How the Bills contain Patrick Mahomes and limit Travis Kelce will determine the outcome of this game.
What To Watch For: Chiefs
Defense Must Show Up – Typically, when one of the better offenses in the leagues faces off against one of the worst defenses in the league, the advantage shifts to the offense. The Chiefs already have a blue print to beat the Bills: make stops in the red zone and force them to kick field goals. Should they try that again, it will fly in the face of what their defense has done so far this year.
The Chiefs have given up 31.3 points per game and 438 yards per game to opposing offenses (both second-worst in the league). If this continues on Sunday night, it will be tough for them to win, even with Buffalo’s offense looking less prolific than they did last year. Conversely, if their defense improves their play, then this game will be a toss up.
Josh Gordon – Many teams have taken a flier on wide receiver Josh Gordon as he has tried to return to the league in recent years. It has not worked out for any of them. But the Chiefs are hoping that their future Hall of Fame coach and quarterback can get Gordon back on track. Gordon will be active this Sunday night and is could see significant playing time. There has been a lot of hype for Gordon this week despite not being in the league for a year. I don’t expect Gordon to be a game-changer this week, but his lack of game film could frustrate the Bills defense.
A Must Win? – Coaches like Andy Reid and Sean McDermott will tell you that every game is a must win for a football team. The difference is, when Reid says that this week, you actually should believe him. This game is huge for Kansas City, a team that has already lost to Baltimore and the LA Chargers. A loss to Buffalo would put them three games (including tiebreaker) back of the Bills. The Chiefs already lost the tiebreakers to Baltimore and Los Angeles and cannot afford another loss to an AFC contender. A loss on Sunday night would make home-field advantage very unlikely for the Chiefs.
With a team as seasoned as Kansas City, I wouldn’t go so far as to imply that if they are down early we could see them fall apart, but knowing the situation that they are in, anything the Bills can do to add pressure to the Chiefs throughout the game will help their cause.
Chiefs 31 Bills 30 This one was tough. I do believe the Bills have closed the gap on Kansas City defensively. However, the Bills’ slow start on offense has me concerned. If the offense was clicking on all cylinders then I would have picked Buffalo here. I think red zone offense will once again be the difference-maker as the Bills settle for three Tyler Bass field goals. Beating the Chiefs now is similar to what many of us felt about Brady and the Patriots: we’ll believe it when we see it. The Bills have something to prove this weekend, and let’s hope proving the skeptical fans wrong is one of them.