Chiefs Will Win if They Stop Bledsoe

For all the early season superlatives for the Buffalo Bills, one of them was the play of quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The Bills opened the season 2-0 and looked like a Super Bowl Contender. Now they face the Red Hot Kansas City Chiefs on the road in a game that might elevate or pummel their playoff chances.

The numbers are staggering. Bledsoe since 1998 is 2-15 on the road against teams who finished the season at .500 or better. Bledsoe has engineered six losses in his last seven road games. They have lost their last two road games at Miami 17-7 and an embarrassing loss to the Jets 30-3.

Despite those losses the Bills come into Arrowhead with a 4-3 record and need a win to keep pace with the suddenly surging New England Patriots who appear to be taking control of the AFC East.

The Bills offensive line has done a terrible job of protecting Bledsoe. This season he's already been sacked 20 times and was mercifully pummeled 54 times last year. The Chiefs are not known as being a sack happy team but they have the ability to break out of that slump Sunday.

Linebackers Scot Fajita and Shawn Barber have been in a zone the last two games. They've pounded Brett Favre and Rich Gannon in the last two weeks. The Chiefs defensive line has not played well the last four weeks and Kansas City has been forced to bring the heat from their linebackers and safeties.

Bledsoe is not known for being a mobile quarterback and he rattles easy, especially with the lack of confidence he has in his offensive line. His only saving grace has been running back Travis Henry who leads a long list of great NFL running backs that the Chiefs have faced this season.

Henry might be the best of the bunch based solely on his versatility. He can cutback better than any other back in the NFL. The Chiefs are very susceptible to that type of running back because they still over pursue. The primary reason for that is their linebackers tend to take on blockers instead of sliding over to jam up holes on running plays.

Too often this season their linebackers and cornerbacks have not been in their assigned lanes and are often out of position. That has allowed opposing running backs to gain huge chunks of yards. Chiefs will get burned badly by Henry if they don't lock down those defensive assignments.

Henry also is a very capable receiver. He can turn a short pass into a long gain when he gets in the open field. The Chiefs are fortunate that they have the speed at linebacker to cover him out of the backfield.

But the Bills also have great wide receivers. Eric Moulds, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury and his status for Sunday is still 50/50. But they also have Josh Reed who has become Bledsoe's favorite target this season. Both have speed, power and can stretch the field. They have no flaws in their game and Chiefs cornerbacks Dexter McCleon and Eric Warfield need to bring their ‘A' game on Sunday Night.

McCleon has been surprisingly effective in bump and run coverage. Warfield still plays too far off receivers at the line of scrimmage but when he is in zone coverage, he's much more effective. The interception he had last week against the Raiders was a good example of his closing speed. But he still needs to do a better job at jamming the receiver at the line of scrimmage. The Bills are not known for a lot of timing patterns. They have more of a run and gun philosophy. Bledsoe likes to throw the ball down field.

The Chiefs offense has had some good moments the last two weeks. Against the Packers, when the pressure was on, Trent Green and company stepped up their game. On Monday Night against the Raiders, the Chiefs moved the ball consistently but fluttered once they made into Oakland territory.

Part of their problem this season is not taking advantage of what the defense has given them and trying to be too fancy. In the Raiders game they tried motion plays designed to fool the defense instead they knew the plays were coming. When they lined up and played straight up, they were much more effective.

The Bills defense is ranked third in the NFL for a reason. They are outstanding against the run and pretty good against the pass. But they wear down if they're on the field too long and the Chiefs need to sustain some long drives.

Green has done a good job at play action passes this year and Buffalo will be focusing on Priest Holmes on every down. The Chiefs philosophy should be to attack that thinking and be very pass happy in the first two quarters. The Bills must pay for brining eight men in the box and the Chiefs can use Tony Gonzalez like they did last weekend against the Raiders.

Gonzalez has had three great games in a row and he seems to more of a target for Green. That's a good sign for the Chiefs offense. Wide receivers Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton have each made big plays the last three weeks while Dante Hall and Marc Boerigter are missing in action on offense.

The Chiefs must get the latter two receivers more involved in the offense. Hall should be used more in fly or go patterns to stretch the defense. Boerigter must do a better slot of finding the open spaces in the Bills zone coverage when he lines up as the slot receiver.

Speaking of Hall the Raiders did a great job of keeping the ball out of his hands. The Bills would be wise to do so even though they have outstanding special teams. But Hall like he has in recent weeks will get an opportunity and when he does look out. He was very upset after the Oakland game last week and his injured shoulder appears to be healed. I look for Hall to break at least one kick or punt return for a long gain on Sunday. He's overdue after being shut down the last two games.

This is a big game for the Chiefs. A win would give them an 8-0 record but more importantly it would give them seven wins in the AFC. If the Chiefs want to be a lock for the Super Bowl, they MUST secure home field advantage. They need to win their AFC contests to do just that. Kansas City only has five remaining AFC teams on their schedule after the Bills game. They'll need at least five more AFC wins to secure the best conference record.

After the Bills, the Chiefs face the Browns, Bengals, Raiders & Chargers before closing out their AFC schedule with the Broncos. Three of the Chiefs last four regular season games are against NFC opponents.

Nick's Notes

*The Chiefs are only 9-19 against AFC East opponents dating back to the 1992 season. However, they are 3-1 against the Bills in the regular season within that time frame including a narrow 17-16 victory last year in Kansas City.

*The Bills don't fair much better against the AFC West. They have won only 12 of 15 games against AFC West opponents in the last 10 years. Even more glaring is their 1-5 record the past three years against the powers of the AFC West.

*Over the last three seasons the Chiefs were only 7-11 against teams with winning records. Already this season they have three victories over teams with more wins than losses. The Bills come into Arrowhead with a 4-3 mark.

*If the Chiefs get past the Bills on Sunday Night, they won't face a team with a winning record until they play the Broncos on December 7th in Denver. The Chiefs with each victory to start the season are setting a new franchise record for wins to start the season and consecutive wins.

Fearless Prediction: Chiefs 31 – Bills 7

Season Record: 6-1

2003 Game Recaps
Week #7: Chiefs 17 – Oakland 10
Week #6: Chiefs 40 – Packers 34 OT
Week #5: Chiefs 24 – Broncos 23
Week #4: Chiefs 17 – Ravens 10
Week #3: Chiefs 42 – Texans 14
Week #2: Chiefs 41 - Steelers 20
Week #1: Chiefs 27 - Chargers 14


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