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Bills-Chiefs preview: Buffalo’s pass offense vs. Kansas City’s pass defense

TL;DR - there will be opportunities for Josh Allen and friends to make plays

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

While the mantra is something like “It’s just the next game on the schedule,” we all know better. The Buffalo Bills are traveling to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a game many expect to have postseason ramifications down the road. With it not being “just another game,” we’re not doing “just another all-22” this week. Rather than stick to Buffalo’s play, let’s take a mini-preview of one matchup we’ll see on Sunday.

Play direction by the numbers

We’ll start off by taking a look at one of my favorite chart types: play direction. Let’s peruse our beloved Bills’s passing offense first.

I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting some stats. When it comes to average gain, no one has been as effective in the deep middle of the field than Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Gabriel Davis and a 98-yard touchdown come to mind to help that stat. Interestingly, their next-best area of the field is short right. When it comes to completion percentage, the Bills are very likely to complete passes over half the field. The other half is a bit scattershot. Now, there is a good chance stats can be a bit skewed this early in the season, but there should be some truth shaking out in aggregate numbers at this point.

Overall, Kansas City matches up better than expected when broken down into these zones. Buffalo’s best areas of the field are where Kansas City does okay. Similarly, most of KC’s weaknesses aren’t areas the Bills are exploiting as well as we might like. With all that said, overall, Kansas City’s pass defense doesn’t seem particularly strong.

Miscellaneous numbers

  • Kansas City is actually pretty good at limiting yards per play. At 6.23, that’s eighth-best in the league. They’ll be facing the second-best offense in the league with Buffalo at 7.86 yards per attempt.
  • Kansas City is second-worst at creating interceptions. The Bills are pretty average, with the 12th-best interception rate in the NFL.
  • At 6.34%, Kansas City is thoroughly average generating sacks (16th). Allen and company have been good at avoiding sacks, coming in at seventh-best in the league.


Bills Play 1

This seems like not a whole lot more than letting Khalil Shakir run fast and chucking the ball, but both angles are included here to show a couple different things. The first angle shows the chemistry needed to make this play happen. Shakir needs to turn back to track the ball, but if he does it too early, he’ll likely slow down or tip off the defense. He looks back maybe a bit early, but overall does well here.

On the second angle you see just incredible ball placement by Allen. He’s taking a huge risk throwing into what will be triple coverage, but it’s a good gamble with great ball placement. The defender on Shakir has his back turned, and the two coming from the boundaries aren’t speedy enough to beat an Allen fastball. If speed kills, then speed and timing, uh... does something worse than killing.

Bills Play 2

On this play, some kudos for Ken Dorsey for scheming space for Isaiah Hodgins (and others). This play is set up for success with a few viable options as far as routes. Allen sees arguably the best option in Hodgins, and delivers the ball quickly. That last word in the preceding sentence is huge. There are potentially two defenders who could be going after Hodgins, and it’s preferable to not allow either time to get into the passing lane. Speed, timing, and arm strength all matter.

Bills Play 3

Last but not least for our Buffalo GIFs, the zone this play creates for Quintin Morris is so awesome that I couldn’t draw it without the smiley face. Morris is able to find the Happy Zone thanks to Dorsey designing this play in a manner where most of the receiving threats aren’t doing much more than sprinting to draw as many defenders deep as possible. That worked like a charm. Morris chip blocks and delays his route, selling the idea that the throw is designed to someone sprinting away from the line. The result is nearly absurd.

Chiefs Play 1

For our first Kansas City clip, Davante Adams is asked to use his speed and see what happens. Veteran corner Rashad Fenton is slow to turn, and not fast enough to catch up.

Chiefs Play 2

The Raiders schemed their own Happy Zone versus Kansas City. This is again Adams. Morris’s catch above is more heavily a result of the play call than this one, as Adams comes nearer defenders than Morris did until he was tackled. This is more of an assist, but shows that KC isn’t immune to schemed space.

Chiefs Play 3

And finally, we have a quarterback in Derek Carr that is not afraid to give his guy a chance. Great ball placement and timing. Sound familiar?


I think we can keep this pretty straightforward. There are several reasons why the Bills will have a great chance to continue their stellar offensive production when they take on Kansas City.

  • I appreciate Carr’s capabilities as a quarterback, but I appreciate Allen’s more. Simply put, most teams need a miracle to stop the kind of passes Allen is capable of. Carr was able to find opportunities in close quarters against Kansas City, and Allen should be able to as well.
  • While it’s known that the Bills have injury problems, Kansas City isn’t much better off in that department. Buffalo has speed and talent to beat most teams’ primary starters, let alone a banged-up secondary.
  • It’s nothing new for offensive coordinators to try to scheme space, but Dorsey seems to be doing a good job of things so far. Kansas City was vulnerable to this, and it led to a close game against the Raiders.