Pre-Snap Read: Chiefs vs. Bills

With a record of 3-5 the Buffalo Bills don't really sound like a team in contention for a division title. Yet lingering only one game behind the division leading Patriots the Bills are still surprisingly in the hunt and right now the 5-3 Chiefs are standing in their way.

With all of the X's and O's aside, emotion may play a much larger role in this game than most people realize. The Buffalo Bills happen to be coming off of their bye week in what will be the first home game they have played in nearly a month. This factor alone will send the 75,000 Bills fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium in to a frenzy. It is also important to remember that prior to their bye the Bills had a two game road stretch that resulted in back to back losses to the Raiders and Patriots. The Bills players will be fired up to be back in front of their home crowd ands those two losses they experienced on the road have put them in a must win situation. The Chiefs better be bringing their A-game against a Buffalo team that could erupt in to an emotional buzz saw.

Chiefs Offense vs. Bills Defense As you look at the strengths of the Chiefs and the Bills there is an interesting parallel that can be drawn between the two teams. While the Chiefs have held one of the top two spots in total offense over the past two seasons the Bills have done relatively the same thing on defense. With a stingy secondary and powerful front seven the Bills finished the 2003 and 2004 seasons rated second in the league in total defense. Like the Chiefs however the Bills were unable to turn their high rankings in to playoff wins or even playoff appearances for that matter.

Another parallel between the Chiefs offense and Bills defense can be seen this season as both units have tailed off in production. The Bills have fallen to the middle of the pack on defense while the Chiefs have plummeted to seventh on offense (it might not seem that far but 7th is a long way from where the Chiefs have been). Free agency and injury have been the primary cause for the drop off with each team. For the Bills being without defensive tackle Pat Williams (free agency) and linebacker Takeo Spikes (injury) has left a gaping hole in their front seven. The loss of Spikes has been particularly hard for Buffalo to overcome because the Bills not only lost their best player on defense, they lost their emotional leader as well.

When considering personnel match-ups and game plans the Bills should have every expectation that the Chiefs will try to attack their defense by running the ball. With the NFL's 31st rushing defense the Chiefs would be foolish not to. Though the Chiefs are now without Priest Holmes for the remainder of the season they have the luxury of falling back on the younger, faster, more powerful back Larry Johnson. Johnson happens to be coming off of a 107 yard 2 touchdown performance against Oakland and is probably the best running back that Buffalo has seen to this point in the season. His style of downhill running should be especially effective against a Bills defense that currently allows 150 yards rushing per game.

The majority of Johnson's yards will likely come in the middle of the field as Al Saunders will lean on Casey Wiegmann, Brian Waters, Tony Richardson, and Will Shields as his battering rams for the offense. Lining up across from them will be defensive tackles Sam Adams and Tim Anderson along with middle linebacker London Fletcher. As in last weeks game and all of their games to come, the Chiefs ability to run the ball between the tackles will be detrimental to the outcome.

Fortunately for the Chiefs interior offensive linemen both Adams and Anderson have not been playing well all season. In fact Buffalo's head coach Mike Mularkey was so fed up with Adams play two weeks ago that he benched him in the second half at New England. Apparently Adams is still disgruntled over the benching and in his own words said it did little to motivate him. What this means for the Chiefs is that if Adams continues to struggle it will allow Wiegmann and Richardson to get up field and tee off on the middle linebacker. Though Fletcher is a talented middle linebacker he can not be expected to handle those types of repeated assaults. This in turn will create large running lanes in the defensive front seven that could possibly result in a career day for Larry Johnson.

On the left edge of the offensive line things become a little more difficult for the Chiefs. With Willie Roaf missing his second game in a row Jordan Black will be back at left tackle and he'll draw the task of blocking Buffalo's leading pass rusher Aaron Schobel. The 262lb Schobel is the type of player that usually gives Black trouble with his pass rush and in his previous game alone he racked up 4 tackles, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. In order to give Black some confidence and control the left side of the line the Chiefs will likely try to neutralize Buffalo's speedy defensive end by running right at him.

On the right side of the line offensive tackle John Welbourn and tight end Jason Dunn match up well against left end Chris Kelsey and linebacker Jeff Posey. For once the right side of the offensive line should be solid in both the running and passing game.

As porous as the Bills have been in stopping the run they have still managed to play lights out in the secondary. Buffalo is currently the NFL's number one defense against pass and with that in mind they are going to do everything within their power to put the Chiefs passing situations. Strong safety Lawyer Milloy will likely spend first and second downs in an 8 man front in an attempt to stop the run and force the Chiefs to throw on third downs. The best way for the Chiefs to combat this kind of strategy is to get Tony Gonzalez involved in the passing game on early downs. If Gonzalez starts making catches down the field the defense has no choice but to play honest and pull their safeties back in to coverage.

The success of the Bills secondary is not a mirage that happens to be a reflection of their run defense. This is a very strong unit and if nothing else the skill of the secondary likely forces their opponents to run more often then they'd like. Safeties Lawyer Milloy and Troy Vincent comprise the most talented safety tandem in the league while Pro-Bowler Nate Clements excels at his duties at right corner. Left corner Terrence McGee pulls double duty as the teams return man and he might be the secondary's only weakness on Sunday thanks to a sore hamstring. If McGee is unable to play he will be replaced by Nickel back Jabari Greer and should that be the case look for Trent Green to start hooking up with Eddie Kennison down the left sideline.

Bottom Line: - If the Chiefs find themselves in to many third and long situations they will play in to the strengths of the Buffalo defense. Kansas City needs to be successful when running the ball and Tony Gonzalez needs to become more of a factor.

Bills Offense vs. Chiefs Defense The Chiefs primary concern on defense will be containing running back Willis McGahee. As the primary weapon of the Bills offense the Chiefs know that victory comes by stopping him first. McGahee is currently the league's 5th leading rusher but he'll have his work cut out for him against the Chiefs defense. To date the Chiefs front seven has held LaDainian Tomlinson, Curtis Martin, Lamont Jordan, and Clinton Portis to well under one hundred yards rushing.

Like Kansas City the Bills offensive line has been plagued with injuries and inconsistency. Buffalo's left tackle Mike Gandy and center Trey Teague are the only offensive linemen that have started every game for the Bills this season. Things have been so unstable that the Bills were still juggling offensive linemen as late as this week. In their latest move they have asked former starting right tackle Mike Williams to take over duties at left guard. Meanwhile Jason Peters, the back up left tackle, has been moved the right side and will start his second game in a row at right tackle against the Chiefs.

When you further examine the personnel along the offensive and defensive lines the Chiefs could have several match-ups that go in their favor. The first one stems from Mike Williams move to left guard. At 6'6" Williams will be asked to block a low and powerful defensive tackle in Lional Dalton. Williams has never played guard at any level of his career so he might find it terribly difficult to adjust to the interior of the line against a player that uses his leverage as well as any defensive tackle in the league.

The communication factor could also be a problem on the left side of Buffalo's offensive line. Williams and Gandy have never played side by side before and mixture of Jared Allen, Lional Dalton, and Kendrell Bell might be a little much for them to handle. Look for Gunther Cunningham to test the execution of their protection schemes by calling numerous blitzes, dogs, and stunts aimed directly at the left side of Buffalo's offensive.

In the passing game the Bills feature a talented trio of wide receivers comprised of Eric Moulds, Lee Evans, and Josh Reed. Somehow, even with all of this receiving talent, the Bills have only managed to become the 30th ranked passing offense in the league. Fortunately for Buffalo their drought in passing game seems to be coming to an end thanks to quarterback Kelly Holcomb. Since Holcomb took over the reigns at quarterback in week 5 he has thrown for 763 yards, 6 touchdowns, and his lowest quarterback rating was an impressive 80.9.

In all likelihood Kansas City's secondary will enter this game at full strength which is something they have yet to accomplish this season. Cornerbacks Patrick Surtain, Eric Warfield, and safety Greg Wesley were all able to practice later in the week and should be ready to start on game day. With all of their starters on the field at the same time the Chiefs defense is much better than their ranking. Buffalo might be in for a surprise if they think they can attack the Chiefs secondary based on numbers from earlier in the season.

Bottom Line: Just as they did one week ago against the Raiders the Chiefs front seven has to get up field and create havoc across the line of scrimmage. Now that the secondary is finally intact Gunther Cunningham should feel a little more comfortable in unleashing his linebackers and letting them play downhill.

Kansas City needs to have a great deal of respect for Willis McGahee as he is a strong tailback with immense lower body strength and blazing speed. The Chiefs defenders will need to emphasize wrapping him up and tackling him from the waist down. If they fail to do so they will open the door to another incident like Ronnie Brown's 65 yard touchdown run in their game with Miami.

Special Teams - Dante Hall rarely competes against a return man considered to be his equal but this Sunday he has the chance to face off with the very player that replaced him in last seasons Pro-Bowl. With his three kick off returns for touchdowns in 2004 McGee has become the most feared return specialist in the league outside of Hall (McGee currently leads the NFL in kick off return average with 32 yards per return).

Chiefs & Bills 2005 Stats and NFL Rankings

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Total Offense: 357.0 (7)
Rush Offense: 128.9 (7)
Pass Offense: 228.1 (10)
Total Defense: 355.3 (28)
Rush Defense: 94.6 (8)
Pass Defense: 260.6 (31)
Turnover Ratio: +5 (9)
Pts./Game: 24.5 (8)
Opp. Pts./Game: 22.9 (22)


BUFFALO BILLS
Total Offense: 257.5 (29)
Rush Offense: 127.4 (8)
Pass Offense: 130.1 (30)
Total Defense: 307.6 (13)
Rush Defense: 150.8 (31)
Pass Defense: 156.9 (1)
Turnover Ratio: +8 (4)
Pts./Game: 16.0 (26)
Opp. Pts./Game: 19.9 (17)

GAME DAY - Injury Report
CHIEFS
DT Ryan Sims – foot – Out
FS Jerome Woods – hamstring – Out
OT Willie Roaf – hamstring – Doubtful
WR Samie Parker – knee – Questionable
OT Kevin Sampson – shoulder – Questionable
CB Dexter McCleon – groin – Questionable
CB Eric Warfield – hip – Questionable
CB Patrick Surtain – knee – Questionable
DT John Browning – knee – Probable
DB Greg Wesley – back – Probable


BILLS
G Greg Jerman – ankle – Out
CB Terrence McGee – hamstring – Questionable
DT Sam Adams – knee – Questionable

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