The final quadrant of the season is upon us, as the Buffalo Bills travel to Kansas City to take on the 3-9 Chiefs. Both teams have struggled all year on both sides of the ball and will be looking to take advantage of the weaker aspects of their opponent. The Bills will again be starting Ryan Fitzpatrick, while the Chiefs continue plugging along with the $63 million Matt Cassel experience. This isn't one of the better quarterback battles of the week. The Chiefs present potentially the last winnable game (against starters) for the Bills this year. Let's jump on in to see what they need to do to earn their fifth W.
Run wild: The last couple weeks, the Bills' running game has had some frisky moments. Last week against the Jets, Marshawn Lynch averaged 10 yards per carry and picked up his second touchdown of the season. The week prior, Fred Jackson had over 100 total yards and two touchdowns. The Chiefs are one of the worst defenses in the league trying to shut down the run, allowing 143.8 yards per game. There will be plenty of opportunities to run at this defense. In what should be a brisk afternoon, look for the Bills to try to grind out a victory. Taking advantage of the weak Chiefs front seven will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this game.
Hit a big one or two: The Bills looked to Terrell Owens deep a few times last week, but Darrelle Revis simply shut him down. A pair of Brandons (the dinged up Flowers and Carr) will attempt to duplicate Revis' success against Owen. I like TO's chances of having a bounce back performance, just as I like the potential (but not probability) of a nice Lee Evans game. In yet another game with nothing to lose, I'm guessing Ryan Fitzpatrick will air out some deep ones. Let's hope he hits a few.
Protect the football: The Bills have turned the ball over 5 times in their four victories (1.25 per game) and 18 times in their 8 losses (2.25 per game). If the Bills can hang on to the ball, with say just a lone turnover or none(!) at all, that will bode well for their chances this week. Giving the ball to a weak offense, one that is actually worse than Buffalo's, in good field position is just asking for poor results. Hang on to it Fitzpatrick and friends!
Eliminate Charles: Eliminate sounds so much cooler than "shut down" or "focus on", doesn't it? Jamaal Charles has been most of Kansas City's offense the past month after becoming the Chiefs' starting RB following Larry Johnson's dysfunctional exit. He's a big play threat every time he touches the ball, and has proven that already this season. Expect the Chiefs to run their offense (and kick return unit) through him. The Bills need to avoid giving up a big play to Charles for the same reason they need to protect the football: don't give the Chiefs offense any easy points!
Turn over the Chiefs: Obviously, turnovers have been a huge factor in the Bills' four victories this season. Maybe the biggest factor, actually. In those four games, the Bills defense has forced a whopping 16 turnovers. In their 8 defeats, they've only forced 9 turnovers. Without those key turnovers, the Bills are likely a one or two win team thus far. Against a weak quarterback and overall struggling offense, putting them in 3rd and long situations could easily result in some game-changing turnovers. (Side note: the Bills offense needs to avoid those situations just as much as the Bills defense needs to force the Chiefs into them)
Signs of Life: This is one of those games where it might be pretty easy to determine whether some players are just playing out the string while others are still going full blast. For those looking to remain in Buffalo next year, playing tough and inspired football will really give the new staff reasons to keep these guys around. There's nothing I hate more than a team that gives up and players that quit. I hope the Bills don't do that like they have the past few years.
In what should be the most exciting game of the season (/sarcasm), we will all be hoping for no major injuries and a big play or two. What a sad, indifferent afternoon this is going to be. After this week, only three more games until the Bills Super Bowl... the offseason. Yay, I suppose! Anywho, go Bills! Another 54 point explosion in Arrowhead would be a fun sight to see!