WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
Don't be fooled by Buffalo's poor overall defensive ranking and low sack total (25). The Chiefs face a pass defense this weekend that has the potential to throttle a weak opponent, and given that Matt Cassel totaled just 84 yards passing last Sunday, there is danger here.
The Bills have a pair of athletic, experienced outside rushers in Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay. Both are undersized and rely on their quickness to make plays. Neither quite compares to the league's elite pass rushers, however, but against an offensive line that has struggled like Kansas City's, there's reason for concern.
Schobel and Kelsay would probably have more sacks if Buffalo's run defense presented them with more opportunities to rush the passer. The old adage of "you earn the right to rush the passer by stopping the run" applies here. The Bills are dead last in run defense, and teams simply don't challenge them much through the air.
You can see why. With Schobel and Kelsay and a defense that has racked up a surprisingly high 21 interceptions this season, it's far easier just handing the ball off against Buffalo. The Bills have a pair of experienced, fast corners in Terrence McGee and Drayton Florence. If the Chiefs are forced to throw to catch up, things could get ugly in a hurry.
WHEN THE BILLS PASS
Has benching Trent Edwards paid dividends for the Bills? After three weeks with Ryan Fitzpatrick, it's a mixed bag. While Buffalo's offense was dreadful last week in a 19-13 loss to the Jets and not much better in an 18-15 loss to the Jaguars, Fitzpatrick has had his moments. He threw for 297 yards against Jacksonville and turned in another solid game against the Dolphins, leading the Bills to 24 fourth-quarter points.
Since Fitzpatrick took over, Terrell Owens has become more of a weapon in Buffalo's passing game. In the last month, Owens has 20 catches, 407 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were long plays – 51 yards and 98 yards. Clearly the Bills have made some progress in their passing game, because previously, Owens was fighting with running back Fred Jackson for catches.
The Bills actually have a nice corps of skill position players in their passing game between Owens, Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. There's plenty of talent here, but they are clearly being held back by Buffalo's offensive line, which has allowed more sacks than all but three teams. Buffalo's starting left tackle, Demetrius Bell, will miss Sunday's game but his backup, Jonathan Scott, might actually be the superior player. Even so, between Bell and Scott, the Bills have allowed 10 sacks from the blindside this year.
Fitzpatrick has only completed 52 percent of his passes this season, and has a terrible touchdown-to-interception ratio (four to eight). But really, he's just an average quarterback who is overmatched with the offensive line in front of him. Because the Chiefs have struggled to rush the passer so much this year, Fitzpatrick may have chances to get the ball to Owens and Evans, who is a major deep threat. With Brandon Flowers possibly out of the game for the Chiefs, there is the potential for some big plays from Buffalo's passing attack.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
If the Chiefs can't run on the Bills, something is wrong. Buffalo's run defense, as previously stated, is the league's worst and not only do they allow more rushing yards than anyone, they surrender more yards per rush than any other team and only two teams have allowed more rushing touchdowns. Even Jamal Lewis and Ryan Moats ran for over 100 yards on Buffalo this year.
The problem is that the Bills are just too small up front to consistently stop the run, especially against above-average offensive lines. Their ends are small, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams is a stout, but undersized player. Buffalo's linebackers are all in the 230-pound range and they have a safety moonlighting as a weakside linebacker.
The problem of terrible run defense isn't new in Buffalo, as this is the fourth year in a row the team has been unable to stop the run. They made an effort in signing defensive tackle Marcus Stroud this offseason to fix the problem, but he's not exactly the world's best run plugger. He's a tall, lanky defensive lineman who's better at penetrating than being the lynchpin of a team's run defense.
The Bills have plenty of speed in their secondary so Jamaal Charles may not go off as some might expect. But there is definitely the potential here for the Chiefs to have their best rushing performance of the season, particularly because Buffalo's inept offense will give Kansas City chances to run the ball in what could be a close game.
WHEN THE BILLS RUN
Between legal troubles and a shoulder injury, 2009 has been a disappointing year for Marshawn Lynch. He has been replaced by Fred Jackson as Buffalo's feature back and that won't change against the Chiefs. The problem for Kansas City is that after giving up 245 yards to the Broncos a week ago, the Bills may be looking to keep it on the ground, particularly with their pass-blocking woes.
Buffalo's running game isn't altogether horrible, as they average 4.2 yards per carry on the ground, and Jackson is a quick, compact runner with a burst who can break a tackle. Interestingly enough, the Bills don't really appear to be committed to running the football, which might play in KC's favor.
At the beginning of the season, the Bills wanted to install a no-huddle, quick-strike attack featuring Owens, Evans and Trent Edwards at quarterback. It failed, obviously, but their lack of commitment to the running game – they are 24th in rushing attempts – indicates an offensive philosophy that is focused around the pass. How can you really blame them when they know they'll be playing catch-up in most games, however?
The Bills have a dangerous punt returner in Roscoe Parrish, but have been unable to provide him with the lanes to do any damage. That's good news for the Chiefs because punting in late-season affairs at a frigid Arrowhead Stadium is always a difficult task.
Rian Lindell has missed only three kicks all season for the Bills but doesn't get the ball that deep on kickoffs. Jamaal Charles may have some opportunities to break a return.
The Bills, with an interim head coach and a backup quarterback who doesn't figure to be the team's long-term starter, may not have their heart in much of anything the last month of the season. The key for the Chiefs is whether or not they will mirror Buffalo, especially because they appeared to quit late last Sunday against the Broncos. Last season the Bills put 54 points on Kansas City at Arrowhead.
Two bad teams are playing out the string Sunday at Arrowhead, so this is a difficult pick. Ask yourself which team has more playmakers, however, and the answer becomes obvious.
Bills 27, Chiefs 17
The Matchups - Chiefs vs Bills
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