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Five playoff Kansas City Chiefs to watch against the Buffalo Bills

The Chiefs look to defend their Kingdom from a charging Buffalo squad

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs host the Buffalo Bills for the second straight postseason, albeit in a different round than last year. In the AFC Championship Game last January, the Chiefs demolished the Bills, winning 38-24 to advance to their second consecutive Super Bowl. That game was a rematch of a Week 6 matchup—a contest that Kansas City won 26-17 in poor-weather conditions.

This season, the Chiefs host the Bills in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in a game that is also a rematch of a contest played earlier in the season in poor-weather conditions. In Week 5 of the 2021 season, Buffalo beat the Chiefs 38-20 in a game delayed for an hour by lightning in the Missouri sky. Can the Bills do to the Chiefs what the Chiefs did to them last year, dealing them a regular-season loss before eliminating them from the postseason? If they do it, they’ll need to control Kansas City’s top players.

The tough part about writing an article like this against a team like Kansas City is that the Chiefs just have so many studs that it’s hard to narrow it down to five. Our “five” players to watch are below, but be forewarned: I’m an English major, not a math major, so counting isn’t exactly my strong suit.

QB Patrick Mahomes

In October, the Bills flustered Mahomes all night, harrying him and forcing him to take shorter completions in hopes of his receivers breaking big plays. The longest gain Kansas City had in the passing game was just 26 yards—for comparison’s sake, the Bills allowed a 71-yard play in the AFC title game. Buffalo didn’t blitz Mahomes once in October, choosing instead to play coverage and force the Pro Bowl quarterback to matriculate down the field in small chunks. He rushed for 61 yards in the game as a result of the Bills’ tight coverage. At times, the only play to be made was with his legs. Buffalo needs to be assignment-sound yet again, and they’ll be missing one major player on defense, as All-Pro corner Tre’Davious White is out with a torn ACL. Mahomes will certainly test his replacement, Dane Jackson, especially if Jackson ends up on Tyreek Hill. Look for the Bills to send a blitz or two early in this one just to show that the game plan isn’t exactly the same. Mahomes typically torches defenses that send extra rushers, but just giving him a different look could cause a hesitation that leads to a turnover. Mahomes threw a career-high 13 picks this year—one of which Micah Hyde returned for a touchdown.

RB Jerick McKinnon

McKinnon only played 27 snaps in the first meeting, carrying once for two yards and adding 13 receiving yards on two catches. However, McKinnon was masterful last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He carried 12 times for 61 yards, adding six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown as a receiver. Even though Clyde Edwards-Helaire should return from injury this week, McKinnon’s performance and versatility s a receiver adds another dangerous layer to an already-stacked offense. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds are going to have their work cut out for them this week, as they’ll need to worry about Travis Kelce and any speedy wideouts (Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman, Tyreek Hill) coming across the middle in addition to McKinnon in the passing game. The screen game, especially, looked good against Pittsburgh last week. Buffalo will need to have a plan and remain disciplined to stop whichever running back is in for the Chiefs. I think McKinnon is the most worrisome of the bunch.

WR Tyreek Hill

The league’s fastest receiver will have a new mark to burn, as Dane Jackson enters the fray in place of Tre’Davious White. The Bills aren’t going to play a ton of man, I don’t think, as Levi Wallace is not fast enough to keep up with Hill, which would leave Jackson to handle the man who’s caught 198 passes for over 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Buffalo typically does a great job of limiting big pass plays over the top, leaving the Chiefs to scheme crosses and over-routes to hit on those big ones. If the Bills can continue to communicate effectively in the secondary, they could stifle that element of the Chiefs’ game by switching rather than trying to trail. The Bills will have to make sure that they all flow to the ball when Hill has it, as the first man rarely takes him down when he catches the football. Hill caught seven passes for 63 yards in the first meeting. Another stat line like that would be a blessing for Buffalo.

TE Travis Kelce

Perhaps the Kansas City player who most benefits from White’s absence is Kelce, who ended up the man shadowed by Buffalo’s top corner more often than not if a “shadow” were to be implemented. Kelce will now have to find room to operate in the Milano/Edmunds level of the defense, with Taron Johnson, Micah Hyde, and Jordan Poyer sure to drop in at points, as well. The Bills played a lot of two-high safety looks last time out, so it’s imperative that Edmunds reaches the proper depth to keep Kelce from hitting on big plays in the intermediate passing game. Kelce had six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown during the last meeting, and while that’s a great day at the office for most tight ends, it’s a below-average output for a guy who’s a sure-fire Hall of Fame player. Jamming him at the line to disrupt his timing is a good start, and then flooding his zone with defenders will help limit his success.

DT Chris Jones

There are so many options here. We could talk about Melvin Ingram, who smoked Dion Dawkins when he played for Pittsburgh in Week 1 to the tune of three pressures, two hurries, one knockdown, and one batted pass. We could talk about Frank Clark, who had two sacks, three pressures, and one hurry in the AFC Championship Game last year. But I’m going with Jones, who missed the first meeting between these two teams, and who has the potential to blow up the entire blocking scheme. The worst thing for an offense to deal with is pressure on the quarterback right up the middle. Jones delivered exactly that in the AFC Championship Game, notching two hurries, a knockdown, and a pressure on his official docket. Whether he’s lined up across from Ryan Bates or Daryl Williams, the Bills will need to make sure he’s taken care of in order to win on Sunday.