When the Kansas City Chiefs last hosted the Buffalo Bills, it was January of 2021, and it was Buffalo’s last game of the 2020 NFL season. The Chiefs defeated the Bills 38-24 in the AFC Championship Game, embarrassing the Bills in the final step before the Super Bowl.
That contest showed exactly how far the Bills had to go to make up ground on the, at the time, defending Super Bowl champs. The Chiefs gained a total of 439 yards in that game, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes able to do essentially whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it.
On Sunday night, Buffalo will have the chance to prove that they have gained ground on the now defending Super Bowl runners-up when the two teams meet on NBC Sunday Night Football. In order to come out of Arrowhead Stadium with a win, Buffalo will need to contain Kansas City’s star players.
Which players are we watching this week? Here’s our list.
QB Patrick Mahomes
The stud quarterback lit Buffalo up twice last year, completing a total of 78 percent of his passes for 550 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. Needless to say, the Bills need to hit Mahomes and find ways to disrupt him via their retooled pass rush. Buffalo drafted defensive ends Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham with this in mind, and they added Efe Obada via free agency, as well, in hopes that they could create more pressure on Mahomes. If the Bills do what they did last year on defense, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll lose the game. They need to find a way to beat Kansas City’s offensive line and force Mahomes to take some hits.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
With heavy rain and thunderstorms possible in Kansas City on Sunday night, the running game could be important for both teams. Edwards-Helaire shredded the Bills in a primetime game last year, rushing for 161 yards on 26 carries in a bad-weather game in Buffalo last October. The Bills can’t allow such huge rushing lanes like they did in that contest, so they’ll have to hope that Star Lotulelei can continue to play as beastly as he has thus far this year. Lotulelei was clearly missed last year, and a stronger push up the middle should leave more space for the linebackers to make tackles. If the weather is ugly, forcing the Chiefs to put a wet ball in the air might be the Bills’ best bet on defense.
WR Tyreek Hill
When Tre’Davious White covered him, things were okay. When anyone else covered him? Ick. Hill was held in check during the first half of the AFC Championship Game, but once head coach Sean McDermott and assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier switched White to Travis Kelce, Hill exploded. That was because the Bills tried to use slot corner Taron Johnson to cover Hill one-on-one, and that matchup did not go well for the Bills. Granted, Buffalo doesn’t quite have any other options if they use White to bracket Kelce. Levi Wallace definitely can’t stick with Hill in a man defense, and Johnson has proven that he can’t do it, either. Mixing zone coverages and hoping that the defensive line can force Mahomes to work faster are the best ways to win this matchup.
TE Travis Kelce
When Tre’Davious White covered him, things weren't horrific. When anyone else covered him? Ick. The Bills tried to use Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds, and a combination of their stud safeties (Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer) at different times last year, and nothing worked. Kelce was just too big, too strong, and too good for the plans Buffalo drew up to stop him. Hopefully, the coaches have figured out a different plan of attack, because the personnel hasn’t changed for the Bills. Making matter worse, Milano is going to be listed as questionable at best heading into the contest. If the defensive front can bring pressure, that will really help.
DE Frank Clark
If defensive tackle Chris Jones can’t play, that would be really helpful for a Buffalo team that has shown a propensity for allowing physical defensive tackles to blow them up (just see what Cam Heyward did to the Bills in Week 1). That would leave Clark as the biggest threat up front, and given that Buffalo will probably be starting a rookie at right tackle, that will become a huge matchup. Buffalo has to protect Josh Allen and give him time to operate, or at least force Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo into bringing extra rushers. If the Chiefs can play zone and pressure with four, that’s a recipe for success against any opponent. Working in Buffalo’s favor this time is that Kansas City’s defense has been horrendous this year. If they can stay awful for one extra week at the very least, it will help the Bills to earn a victory.