The Buffalo Bills are in Missouri today, getting ready to battle the Kansas City Chiefs late this afternoon in Week 14 game that’s likely to have a playoff vibe. It feels like ages ago since these teams last met. It’s been well over a year, when Buffalo marched into Kansas City on October 16, 2022 to hand the Chiefs a rare home loss.
The Bills and Chiefs have looked vastly different than their 2022 selves to this point in the season. Both teams have their share of struggles, with the Chiefs’ concern centered around a dip in offensive production in too many games. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is still NFL royalty, but his receivers have left him hanging in the breeze, waiting for anyone other than tight end Travis Kelce to reliably hang on to a football.
As alluded to above, the Chiefs have lost just five times at home over the last three seasons. Two of those losses, however, are against the Bills — though none have come during postseason play. Will Buffalo hand Kansas City its fifth loss of the season? Someone’s streak will add a blemish today — either the Chiefs and their 16-3 record following a loss since Mahomes took over, or the Bills, whose head coach has a perfect 6-0 record out of bye weeks.
This week I connected with Tom Childs of Arrowhead Pride to catch up on all things Chiefs (well, other than megastar significant others). Pete tackled everything from disappointments to this point of the 2023 NFL season, to defense, replacing key players lost to injury, and of course thoughts on today’s game.
Instead of bragging rights over whose fan base throws better tailgate parties, this game carries playoff implications.
1. To this point of the 2023 season, what do you see at the biggest disappointment with these Chiefs — and if it’s the drops, what additionally has stood out?
The greatest disappointment has been the Chiefs’ performance in the red zone. From the outside looking in, Kansas City’s offense has been considered a letdown, not on par with previous seasons. But they have been OK between the 20s, finishing drives with touchdowns only about half the time. Correct that aspect, and the offense wouldn’t be regarded as such a problem.
2. Kansas City’s defense has played elite football in 2023. They didn’t appear as dominant on the road in Week 13. What’s do you believe was the issue with the defense in its loss at the Green Bay Packers — and do you see it changing against the Bills?
The run defense has lacked these past few games, and it’s has much to do with the middle linebacker play. The Chiefs were down to their backup, Drue Tranquill, last game, and he left the contest very early on due to a concussion. The third-string Jack Cochrane was OK, but Sunday will see the return of the starter, Nick Bolton. Perhaps setting that tone will see the defense get back to one of the best in the NFL.
3. With RB Isiah Pacheco, OT Donovan Smith, LB Drue Tranquill and S Bryan Cook ruled out, how does that change the Chiefs’ plans on offense and defense?
Beyond Isiah Pacheco, the Chiefs will split carries between veterans Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon. Edwards-Helaire will get the start while McKinnon fits more of a third-down role.
As mentioned above, Bolton will replace Tranquill, and an off-season signee, Mike Edwards, will fill in for Cook. Edwards provides a ballhawk ability but may be a liability at times in terms of coverage.
Rookie third-rounder Wanya Morris will make his first career start at left tackle. The Chiefs have liked what they have seen in limited snaps from Morris.
4. At 8-4, the Chiefs continue their winning ways even with questions about offensive production. Does the -1.5-point spread with DraftKings Sportsbook miss something important that has you disagreeing with the line in facing a .500 club in the Bills?
I think the big dip in spread has to do with Pacheco out of the lineup. Pacheco popped up with a shoulder injury and will not play. He has been the Chiefs’ best offensive weapon this season, and that includes Travis Kelce and Rashee Rice.
I tend to think a pick ‘em for these teams in this scenario feels right, even with the game at Arrowhead considering how much it means to Buffalo.
5. Kansas City is 16-3 following a loss since Patrick Mahomes arrived, and have only lost five games at home the last three seasons. Conversely, Buffalo is 6-0 under Sean McDermott off a bye. Something has to give this weekend. Which streak do you think takes a hit?
Considering the Chiefs have Mahomes, it’s extremely rare I pick them to lose a game, but I think the loss of Pacheco is too much, as I described above.
I think amidst this tumultuous week, the Bills find a way to rally on McDermott for the victory.
My thanks to Tom for taking the time to chat ahead of today’s game. To read my responses, head over to Arrowhead Pride for the companion article, linked here.
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