Led by Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs bring in the league’s second-ranked offense, and given the way the Bills defense has been struggling, this is a match-up that could turn into a real barn-burner.
Let’s take a deeper look at what we know and don’t know heading into Monday’s contest.
What We Know
The Bills offense is human, and so are the Chiefs
Through the first four weeks of the season, the Bills offense has played out of its mind, there is no doubt about it. Fans can obviously point to talent, execution, and growth from Josh Allen as reasons for it, but at some point, the offense had to throw a clunker out there. While I do not classify the Tennessee game as necessarily a “clunker,” some serious concerns came from the game, which we can get into a bit more later. Josh Allen threw a pair of interceptions, from which the Titans went down the field and scored a touchdown off of both.
Across a full season, offenses will have bad games, and the Bills are not immune to that. On the other hand, the Chiefs have shown the last couple of weeks that they have their share of struggles as well. The Chiefs offense was shut out of the end zone in the first half versus New England, and had the Patriots had Cam Newton, they perhaps would have won that game. Mahomes has been a tick off with his throws, with the Raiders following the blueprint the Patriots set out, rushing three or four guys and playing coverage. This is a blueprint the Bills defense is going to have to follow.
Both defenses are NOT great
As good as the Bills defense was last season, they haven’t quite had the same bite so far in 2020. Granted, they are playing ahead most of the game, so teams are passing a lot more; the Bills are likely playing conservatively, but they have allowed teams to creep back into the game multiple times this season. That obviously does not sit well with a defensive-minded head coach in Sean McDermott. The team ranks 19th overall in total defense, which again, does not tell the whole story, but still shows a slight decline.
On the other side, the Chiefs defense ranks 22nd overall, and that mostly comes from their struggles to stop the run. While they rank 12th in pass defense, they rank 30th in rush defense, which has been an issue over the course of the last few seasons. However, they thrive on getting out ahead, forcing the opponent to throw, and pinning their ears back and coming after the quarterback. This is where the likes of Frank Clark and Chris Jones thrive.
What We Don’t Know
Will the Bills get their run game going?
This has been the million-dollar question in 2020 for the Bills offense. The team has invested two-straight Day 2 draft picks on running backs, and neither have been able to get much going. The Bills currently rank 27th in total rushing, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. A bulk of that production comes from their quarterback. If there is one week to get this turned around, the Chiefs present that opportunity.
For long term success of the offense, the team is going to need the running game to get going. Dropping back and passing upwards of 40 times a game can lead to being a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.
Can the secondary slow down Patrick Mahomes?
There is no question the Chiefs passing offense poses the biggest challenge the Bills defense has had yet this season. It would bode well for the Bills to adopt the strategy laid out by the Patriots and Raiders, rush their front-four, and play coverage. The key is Tre White matching up on Tyreek Hill, and whether Matt Milano can play and cover Travis Kelce, who has proven to be just about impossible to cover.
Coming into a game with hopes of stopping the Chiefs offense is a hopeless task. All a defense can do is play as tightly as possible and slow them down. The Bills have the talent to do it, but will they play disciplined enough? That is the key question.
Tre White vs. Tyreek Hill: The Bills will hope White can force Mahomes to go at his other targets, and not let Hill hurt them.
Bills OL vs. Chiefs Front-Four: The Bills have struggled to create run lanes; they will need that to change to win Monday night.
Bills Linebackers vs. Travis Kelce: Kelce is tough to cover; the Bills will need to try to slow him down.
Prediction: Kansas City 34, Buffalo 24
(Featured Image Credit: BuffaloBills.com)