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Bills vs. Chiefs: Five playoff questions with Arrowhead Pride, Round 3

There’s a storied playoff history between the Bills and Chiefs — this chapter finally tell the tale of a winter in Orchard Park, NY

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs meet this evening to close out the 2023 NFL Divisional Round of the playoffs. For the first time ever, quarterback Patrick Mahomes is going to take his playoff show on the road. Mahomes has been must-see TV since he entered the starting lineup, and word on the street is that even Taylor Swift enjoys watching him play — so you can expect to see her somewhere within the confines of Highmark Stadium tonight.

This year’s Chiefs team looks different than those of recent past. Instead of the suffocating brand of offensive play so often associated with a Mahomes-led Kansas City team, they’ve embraced balanced attack more reliant on the run game to complement what many believe to be the best defense in the NFL this season. While the Bills and Chiefs met just over a month ago, the teams appear different enough that each side should prepare for the unexpected.

This week, I spoke with Tom Childs, writer and podcaster with Arrowhead Pride. Tom and I touched on everything from key differences with the Chiefs since Week 14, and game-planning to disrupt KC’s offense and counter its defensive line. Plus, will the Chiefs be ready for their first road playoff game in a fully hostile Highmark Stadium — especially the pair of offensive tackles, and whether Kansas City’s injured list is concern, especially at wide receiver. Tom also gives his thoughts out tonight’s matchup and how he sees things playing out.

1. Perhaps the biggest difference from their Week 14 meeting is that running back Isiah Pacheco will play. Apart from the Bills having to face Pacheco, what are KC’s key differences since that game in December?

Pacheco playing will make a huge difference in terms of what they can offer on the ground. For Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s improvement, the Chiefs are a different animal when Pacheco plays. Statistically, he may not blow anyone anyway, but he brings energy on offense which has been lacking in a big way in his absence. His unique running style just oozes smashmouth football. It’s not a tangible difference but everything just feels different when #10 plays.

Something else of note is that the Chiefs are finally steering into the talent that Rashee Rice possesses. Since the Bills game, Rice has averaged 101 yards a game. They’ve stopped trying to force passes to bad receivers, instead relying on the guys who are... actually.... good.

2. If you’re game-planning to face the Chiefs, what do you scheme up on offense to counter the defensive line, and what might you try to do on defense to disrupt KC’s offense?

The Bills will need to get Josh Allen running.

The Chiefs were hellbent on not allowing Allen to be a factor on the ground in week 14. The Bills have to find a way to counteract that. Allen is a mutant of a quarterback who can beat any defender one-on-one. If the Chiefs do decide to spy Allen, then he has to find a way to beat it. The Chiefs corners are so good in coverage that the Bills will need the ground attack to move the ball. An emphasis on James Cook and Josh Allen running the ball seems smart to me.

As for stopping the Chiefs offense, I would suggest throwing extra attention at Rashee Rice. He is particularly good across the middle of the field — similar to JuJu Smith-Schuster — so the Bills would be wise to keep defenders in the middle of the field. Now obviously bringing defenders down into the box opens up deep ball potential, but I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you — the Chiefs have been dreadful at deep shots this year.

3. The Chiefs have never played a true road playoff game since Patrick Mahomes entered the NFL (not counting neutral-site Super Bowls, of course). Do you believe the hostile environment they’re heading into is going to wreck havoc for the offense — especially as it relates to both offensive tackles?

I’m not sure that the atmosphere will have any effect on Mahomes. As soon as the playoffs start, Patrick seems to go up a gear or two — similar to Allen, so I don’t think that either quarterback is particularly bothered by road crowds.

I’m annoyed that I can’t find the post, but I saw this week that Mahomes is better in some categories on the road than in Arrowhead.

Pat will be fine.

As for the tackles, yeah I am worried. Penalties have been a killer for the Chiefs all season and no one has been more guilty than Jawaan Taylor. Multiple trips to the red zone have stalled this season because of bad penalties. Should the Bills Mafia get him early, then things could spiral for him.

As a Chiefs fan, I don’t want to hear his name mentioned once — good or bad.

4. How concerning is the the Chiefs’ injury situation, specifically to the wide receiver room?

The injuries to Chiefs receivers do not concern me at all because they’re not using them anymore.

As I mentioned earlier, Rashee Rice’s development has led to less playing time for the likes of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore, albeit Moore has been injured.

Against the Dolphins, the Chiefs relied on four things:

  1. Rashee Rice
  2. Isiah Pacheco
  3. Not turning the ball over
  4. Adding points when possible,

And once Travis Kelce finds his hands again, the Chiefs have all they need to consistently score points.

It must be said that the coaching staff have done quite well to make the lack of talent at receiver a non-factor recently. It’s just a shame that the coaches are about 3 months behind the fans.

5. DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the Chiefs as 2.5-point underdogs. Are you surprised by the line, and how do you see things playing out on Sunday?

I’m not surprised by the line at all. This game is a coin flip and so the line should always favor the home team in these situations.

I’ll not lie, I’m going for a heart-over-head prediction. Not that you would expect anything less, right?

Before the 13-second game, I predicted the Chiefs to lose to the Bills. Josh Allen and the Bills were the in-form team at the time and were widely tipped to go on and win the Super Bowl. That was the last time I predicted against Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs, and I swore I would never do it again.

And I’m not.

Yes, it probably makes more sense to back the Bills in this game given both teams’ recent form. But I just cannot bet against 15. Last week against the Dolphins was the most Chiefs-like performance we have seen all year. And with this defense playing how it is, it’s hard for me to go against KC.

Chiefs 26 Bills 20. Harrison Butker scores 4 field goals and the Chiefs intercept Allen twice.

Thanks again to Tom Childs for taking the time to chat Chiefs-Bills ahead of the latest installment in their already storied rivalry. To read my thoughts on tonight’s matchup, head over to Arrowhead Pride for the companion article linked here (and on the Buffalo Rumblings home page).

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