The Buffalo Bills have played the Kansas City Chiefs in each of the last four seasons, so the team is well-versed in just how good Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and pass rusher Tamba Hali are. Both of Kansas City's elite-level players, however, are coming into Week 2 from unusual circumstances.
Charles spent the majority of the 2011 season on Injured Reserve with a left knee injury. Now one game into a season that could put him in line for a Comeback Player of the Year award, Charles rushed 16 times for 87 yards in the Chiefs' Week 1 loss to Atlanta.
I asked Joel Thorman of ArrowheadPride.com if Charles is still awesome and if the Bills should correspondingly be worried about him. His response: "Yes and yes."
"He's awesome and you should be worried about him," Thorman wrote. "The Chiefs really felt good about him being back when he took some cuts early in preseason. He looks fine and he carried the ball 16 times last week. His 5.4 yards per carry last week is actually a yard less than what he averaged in 2010. So, yeah, the bar has been set very high. He'll be a big part of the game plan against Buffalo."
In four career games against Buffalo, Charles has averaged 138 scrimmage yards per game and has three total touchdowns (as well as two fumbles lost).
On the Hali front, the Chiefs are welcoming back their most important defender (and probably their most important player, period) after he missed last Sunday's loss due to a suspension. The Chiefs missed their top pass rusher against a high-powered Atlanta offense last week.
"Tamba will be the focus this week," Thorman writes. "Shut down Tamba and you will more or less shut down the Chiefs pass rush. That's a difficult thing to do, though. Tamba is very good at creating a lot of pressure, even if it doesn't result in a sack. He disrupts plays."
Is there anyone else that Buffalo should be worried about from a pass rush standpoint?
"Justin Houston has shown some ability at times," Thorman finishes. "He didn't become a starter until late last season, but including last week's game he now has 6.5 sacks in his last six games."
As the Bills have been preparing their game plans this week, you can bet that - aside from fixing their own problems, of course - dealing with Charles and Hali has been the chief focus.