Fantasy football owners, listen up. If you're in a jam at quarterback, pick up Tyler Thigpen right now. Not Yancy. Not Hansbrough. Tyler Thigpen.
The Buffalo Bills are walking into Arrowhead Sunday more decimated in the secondary than it has been all season.
Head coach Dick Jauron announced that Jabari Greer (knee) and Donte Whitner (shoulder) will each miss Buffalo's game against the Chiefs. The injuries are two major black eyes for a unit that's been inconsistent all year. And oh yeah, Ashton Youboty is out for the season.
The Bills current crop of cornerbacks hasn't been this thin since the Pre-Winfield/Clements days. While Terrence McGee appears fully recovered from his midseason knee injury, all that's behind him are Leodis McKelvin, Reggie Corner and Dustin Fox. Not much of a crutch to lean on there.
It's not much better at safety – especially if Bryan Scott (knee) can't go. He's a game-time decision. His absence would springboard George Wilson from No. 3 to No. 1 on the depth chart. Awaiting across the line is possibly the greatest tight end of the generation, Tony Gonzalez.
Pitting its third-best strong safety against Gonzalez isn't a predicament Buffalo anticipated – not even last week. But that's the scenario, and it hits at the most crucial juncture of Buffalo's season. Kansas City's offense is flying high.
Jauron doesn't seem overly worried about a Wilson v. Gonzalez matchup quite yet.
"George is versatile and a very smart player and he's got a good feel and he has played there," Jauron said.
McKelvin will most likely assume Greer's starting spot opposite McGee. He showed marked improvement in the second half against the Browns, but remains an uneasy liability. He's freaky fast, but extremely raw. Kansas City may be 1-9, but its passing offense has been on fire lately.
In the past four weeks, Thigpen has thrown for 945 yards, 8 touchdowns and only one interception. The eight scores tie Arizona for most touchdown passes in the four-week span. Thigpen is mobile, athletic, has a very strong and – now – is comfortable. The Chiefs were in a position in the fourth quarter of each of their last four defeats, strictly because Thigpen has turned around a dreadful offense in a dangerous one. In Dwayne Bowe and Gonzalez, Thigpen has two of the best receivers in the NFL at his disposal. Both have 55 receptions and five touchdowns.
The Bills jumbled secondary must be ready.
The 6-0, 212-pound Wilson matches up favorably physically with Gonzalez. The former wide receiver likes to jam receivers and throw off timing. But he's raw and loses discipline in coverage at times. Wilson hasn't fared well against premier tight ends. Last year, after returning an interception for a touchdown against Dallas on MNF, Wilson and Whitner were collectively chewed up and spat out by Jason Witten (9 receptions, 103 yards, TD). Chris Cooley seven weeks later? Seven catches for 89 yards.
With Ko Simpson back from injury, Wilson hasn't seen the field as much this year. There's a good chance he'll be cold if he needs to start. The task would be a daunting one even if Whitner was healthy and starting. Gonzalez is the complete package.
Kansas City could easily turn Sunday into a shootout – and Trent Edwards would need to answer drive-for-drive. Judging by Edwards' recent play, this is certainly a worst-case scenario. Whereas Buffalo's offense is in a Greg Norman-sized funk, the Chiefs haven't passed the ball this well since Trent Green was flinging it to Eddie Kennison deep and Priest Holmes short.
Let's be real, too. The Chiefs have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. Lame-duck Herman Edwards probably has other GMs on speed dial. The team already knows its winter fate – golf courses and vacations. Absolutely no exterior pressure. In Buffalo, it's the exact opposite. A loss to the one-win Chiefs all but kills the Bills' playoff hopes, whipping the franchise into a five-week malaise no one anticipated. Think Edwards and co. played tentatively last Monday? The pressure on the Bills Sunday will be incredible. Ahh, let the dump-offs to Marshawn Lynch reign.
In short, the quartet of McGee-McKelvin-Wilson-Simpson must gel and produce on the fly. If not, Edwards and Buffalo's offense will need to step up to a level they haven't sniffed all season.
And if Edwards can't keep pace with Thigpen, kiss January football good-bye…