In 24 hours, the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs will kick off their Week 2 meeting at Ralph Wilson Stadium. This will be the fifth consecutive year that the two teams have played each other (Buffalo is 3-1 in the preceding four matchups), but the first time that the game will take place in Orchard Park. Buffalo Rumblings' full Week 2 preview lies after the jump.
A must-win game. On the surface, this looks like a game between two middling-at-best football teams that both believe they can't start the year 0-2 against their particular opponent. If Buffalo wants to make good on its playoff aspirations, this is a team that they must beat, particularly on their home field following an embarrassing loss. The Chiefs' perspective will be similar: they, too, have playoff aspirations, and they'll make no excuses losing to the team with the NFL's longest playoff drought coming off of a Week 1 whooping, regardless of the venue.
BUF offense vs. KC defense. Buffalo's plans of featuring two running backs offensively have been temporarily shelved with Fred Jackson sidelined, so for a month or so, the focus will be on C.J. Spiller - with perhaps a dash of Tashard Choice here and there.
Right now, this is Spiller's offense. He is the only consistent home run threat that the team has, and is by far the team's most explosive player on either side of the ball. Spiller was terrific in Week 1, piling up 169 rushing yards on just 14 carries. If Romeo Crennel has two brain cells to rub together (he definitely does), he and the Chiefs will make containing Spiller their top priority, because it'll put the game back into the hands of embattled quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The receivers will also be without David Nelson for the remainder of the year, meaning that Fitzpatrick will now lean heavily on Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler. Donald Jones stands to benefit the most target-wise with Nelson out of the lineup, and rookie T.J. Graham will get playing time as well - though don't expect him to be a major part of the passing attack until proven otherwise.
Kansas City gets stud pass rusher Tamba Hali this week; he has 3.5 sacks in four career games against Buffalo, so keeping him at bay will be a priority in protecting Fitzpatrick. From there, Buffalo's game plan shouldn't be too complex facing a fairly straightforward Chiefs defense: establish Spiller, protect the football and move the chains.
KC offense vs. BUF defense. As we discussed earlier this week, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has played rather poorly against Buffalo in three career meetings since leaving New England. That could change this week, however; Kansas City's offense looked very competent at times last week against Atlanta, and we're well-versed in what went wrong for the Bills defensively last week.
The Chiefs are a similar offense to last week's opponent in that they base their attack off of the run, and they've got two great complementary backs in Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. You'll see a lot of both; Charles is well-known in these parts and one of the most explosive backs in the league, while Hillis does some short-yardage and early-down stuff for them while handling blocking duties, as well.
From there, the Chiefs have a nice set of receiving targets in Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster, Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki. It's not a particularly explosive passing attack - especially with Cassel calling the shots - but if Cassel is on, they can pick up big chunks of yardage and move the chains effectively.
Kansas City's young offensive line will have its hands full with a Bills defensive line that is expected to far out-perform its meager Week 1 production, but it's a solid unit nonetheless. Expect coordinator Dave Wannstedt to continue to try to generate pressure with just four men, leaving numbers in the secondary to try to tighten up last week's loose coverage against a mistake-prone quarterback.
What the film says: Don't read too much into the 40-burger that Atlanta dropped on Kansas City last week. The Falcons did a great job targeting advantageous matchups that won't be present for the Bills this week, chief among them Jacques Reeves trying to cover Julio Jones. The Bills don't have a Julio Jones, and the Chiefs won't have to play Reeves this week with Brandon Flowers likely returning to the lineup. Still, this defense is not as difficult to prepare for as Rex Ryan's, so the Bills should look better this week than they did in New Jersey. A significant leap would be most welcome.
Buffalo's pass coverage was atrocious last week, but they can quickly elevate back to "moderate" simply by playing a more physical brand of football and communicating better. Buffalo's young corners are too big and too talented to simply play off like Terrence McGee has his entire career; Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams should be pressing and getting receivers out of rhythm as often as possible. The coverage will need to improve quickly, as the Chiefs have a receiving corps with a variety of different skills and can win matchups in a bunch of different ways.
Key matchup for Buffalo: Leodis McKelvin vs. Dexter McCluster. For at least one more week, it looks like McKelvin - by far the team's worst defender in Week 1 - will hold off Justin Rogers for nickel back duties. McKelvin will match up against McCluster, the former Ole Miss running back that is coming into his own as a slot receiver in Brian Daboll's offense. McCluster was solid from time to time filling in for Charles last season, but has taken off as a full-time wideout. Cassel targeted McCluster more than any other receiver in Week 1, and McCluster responded with 82 yards on six receptions. The ultra-shifty 5'8", 170-pound athlete poses a one-on-one problem for any defensive back in the league - particularly one as beleaguered as McKelvin currently is. This is a matchup that McKelvin must win.
Key matchup for Kansas City: Tamba Hali vs. Cordy Glenn. The Chiefs don't sequester Hali to one side of the field, so you're likely to see him lined up across from right tackle Erik Pears, as well. (Hali beat Pears for a sack in last year's season opener.) It will be particularly interesting to watch Glenn take Hali on this week, however; Glenn was solid in his pro debut last week, but the Jets don't have a pass rusher that's anywhere close to Hali's class. This is the first significant test of Glenn's career, and a one-on-one matchup that could decide several key plays throughout the game.
The Bottom Line: Much like last week, the Bills and their opponent will have similar game plans: run the ball well, play solid defense and force the game into the opposing quarterback's hands. Both teams have potentially explosive playmakers on both sides of the ball, and their weaknesses are similar. Which team makes more plays - and which team wins the classic battles such as turnovers and field position - will go a long way toward deciding the outcome in this one.