This upcoming Sunday Night Football matchup might take the cake as “NFL game of the year.” But for Chiefs fans, this game is so much more…
After week four’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Chiefs are back on the winning track. Now, a true Super Bowl contender comes to Arrowhead looking for revenge over last year’s AFC Championship game.
That team, of course, is the Buffalo Bills with their (3-1) record and their fourth-ranked offense according to Lineups.
Leading that vitriol offense is former Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen who is having one of his best starts to a season in his career. So far through four games, Allen has thrown for 1,056 yds and 8 TDs, both of which are just short of his career-high totals through four games last year (1,326 yds/12 TDs).
It is important to mention that, just like the Broncos’ undefeated start, all of the Bills’ wins this season have largely come against mediocre QBs and weaker teams who have a combined record of 5-11. But with these weaker teams, Buffalo has found plenty of creative ways to score and appear even more dangerous than they looked last year on their way to the AFC Championship.
The Chiefs know that Allen is dangerous, especially with weapons like receivers Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders, but they need to understand just how important this game is in the long term.
Strength of Schedule
Thanks to a huge victory over the Las Vegas Raiders this last Monday night the LA Chargers now have a commanding lead over the AFC West with their 3-1 record and two victories over divisional opponents…and their reign doesn’t look to be short-lived.
At the moment the Chargers have the 18th-toughest remaining schedule with their opponent’s combined win percentage sitting at .500. They play teams like Houston (1-3), Minnesota (1-3), and New England (1-3) before the end of the calendar year.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs currently have the toughest remaining schedule (.635 win%) with games against Green Bay and Dallas on the docket before playing Los Angeles again in December.
So until the Chargers–and the Raiders for that matter–begin to stumble, the Chiefs will have to always be playing catch up, something they have not had to do since Patrick Mahomes started under center.
That’s not a great place to be when the first-place team from the AFC East is coming to town off their second shutout of the season with a relatively healthy group of players, and an offense fueled by revenge.
What should KC be looking for?
The Chiefs are not in this position because of one particular thing but, in actuality, they are in this predicament due to a multitude of reasons. But it all begins with their pitiful red zone defense (worst in NFL) and their rushing defense (3rd-worst in the NFL).
So what can Reid and Mahomes do? They already put up an average of 33.5 points per game (T-2nd) and 427.5 total yards per game (2nd overall), yet their defense is letting teams stay close to Kansas City throughout every quarter.
The first thing that Coach Reid and Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo need to address is the pass rush. The movement of Chris Jones to the edge position seemed like a shining light of the offseason but it has yet to produce many sacks (KC tied for 3rd-worst in league) or much pressure on the QB.
Entering week five the Chiefs are only successful on their pass rush 38% of the time (T-24th) which is extremely troubling considering Kansas City is spending almost 23% of their cap on the starting defensive line.
On the other side of the line, the Bills rank 17th in the NFL in pass blocking (57% win rate) and 7th in run blocking (73% win rate), meaning the Chiefs desperately need for the Bills’ offensive line to flounder throughout the game if they want to look any better than they have so far.
Outside the D-line, there are certainly problems with the Chiefs’ secondary that were not expected after the dominant year they had last year when they finished tied for second in interceptions (16).
So both the rush defense and the pass defense are having a down year–something that can be worked on and buttoned up–but this weekend the Bills are likely going to be able to exploit some part of Spagnuolo’s defense at some point.
And since Buffalo throws the ball 56.16% (21st in NFL) it’s easy to think that they will be attacking the Chiefs’ weakened core of linebackers over the middle and corners trying to cover the likes of Diggs and breakout TE Dawson Knox.
The fallout on Monday
Win or lose, the Chiefs desperately need a big win by the Cleveland Browns against Los Angeles and need the Raiders to continue their losing streak against a resurging Chicago Bears under the reigns of 11th-overall pick QB Justin Fields.
If those two teams fall this weekend while the Chiefs win then the AFC West will be filled with 3-2 teams although Los Angeles will still be in charge until at least November 28th when they finally play another AFC West opponent (Denver).
The Raiders will have their chance to reclaim the top spot before then but first must beat Denver at Mile High Stadium and Kansas City on SNF next month, both of which appear to be tougher matchups than they may have previously thought based on their win probability for both games being under 38.1% (according to ESPN’s Power Index).
But if the Chiefs do fall to the Bills for the first time since November 2017–when Tyrod Taylor and Alex Smith were the combatting quarterbacks–then Kansas City will have to dig their way out of an even bigger hole while also falling from grace as the favorite to come out of the AFC this postseason thanks to losses to Baltimore and Buffalo.
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