Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills (3-1) travel to Arrowhead Stadium for their first measuring stick contest of the 2021 NFL Season to face off with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) on Sunday Night Football. Buffalo still feels the sting from the last time they faced the Chiefs, which ended in a dreadful AFC Championship loss. After decimating their previous three opponents, the Bills hope to prove that their hot streak is no fluke and establish themselves as the top dogs in the NFL.
Here are the five biggest storylines to follow in Week 5 of the 2021 NFL Season.
Will Josh Allen rise to the occasion against poor Chiefs defense?
The Kansas City defense that will take the field on Sunday night is far different from the one that harassed Josh Allen during their last contest. Kansas City has the NFL’s No. 31 ranked defense in terms of points, allowing 31.2 points per game while surrendering a whopping 437.7 yards per game.
The Chiefs have been horrendous when it comes to defending both the run and the pass, and Allen will look to take advantage of a team with a subpar secondary and a defensive line that has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush. Kansas City has faced some quality quarterbacks this season in Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts, but they haven’t had an answer for either and have allowed an average of 291.7 yards per game through the air.
Allen will need to prove that he can rise to the challenge in a hostile environment, and to do so, he’ll need to feature his favorite target, Stefon Diggs. Diggs hasn’t had the monster game that fans grew accustomed to in 2020, but he’s been steady and impressive through four games, catching 26 passes for 305 yards and one touchdown. Among wide receivers with at least 40 targets, Diggs is the only one without a drop this season.
Diggs will see most of his reps against Chiefs cornerback Mike Hughes, who’s been a liability in coverage this season. In four games, Hughes has been targeted 25 times, allowing 17 catches (68-percent) for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Additionally, look for the Bills to get Cole Beasley involved against Kansas City cornerback L’Jarius Sneed when he’s lined up in the slot. Sneed was one of the more impressive cornerbacks in the league last year, but has had a rough start to the 2021 season. He’s allowed 14 catches on 17 targets for 167 yards and one touchdown.
On paper, these are both favorable matchups for Buffalo and in a game that can turn into a shootout quick, Allen will need to get his top two targets involved early and often.
Can Buffalo limit Chris Jones?
Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones was a menace to the Bills’ offensive line in the AFC Championship game. He destroyed Jon Feliciano and his seven pressures with a QB hit made life miserable for Josh Allen. Jones is one of the premier defenders in the NFL and is a matchup nightmare for just about any offensive lineman in the league. He’s 6-foot-6, 310-pounds and brings insane power, quickness and length that’s overwhelming for his opposition.
This year, Jones has been playing on the edge and has still been impactful, tallying seven tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, four QB hits and 11 hurries. Spencer Brown made his starting debut against the Houston Texans and had an impressive outing. But defending Whitney Mercilus is no comparison for a player of Jones’ caliber. Brown struggled to defend power moves against Houston and if he’s isolated on Jones for extensive reps, things could get ugly.
Brian Daboll and the Bills’ offense need to account for Jones on every snap to ensure that they don’t let him take over the game as he did during their previous two meetings. Jones will make his plays, but if Buffalo can limit his effectiveness as a whole, it will be a win for the offense.
Is Bills D ready for Patrick Mahomes?
Until Josh Allen proves otherwise, Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL. The former MVP and Super Bowl Champion picked apart Buffalo’s defense last year, completing 50-of-62 passes (80-percent) for 550 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions in the two games they faced off last season.
Buffalo made a concerted effort to rebuild their defensive line in order to replicate the success that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had against Mahomes in the Super Bowl. Now, they get to find out if that intentional effort will pay off. Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce form the NFL’s most dynamic trio of offensive players and are the main reason the Chiefs even have two victories under their belt this season.
Pressuring Mahomes will be key in this game. According to Pro Football Focus, Mahomes completes just 46.5-percent of his passes for 425 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions while pressured (43 attempts, 53 dropbacks) as opposed to an 83.7-percent completion rate for 793 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception when kept clean (98 attempts, 106 dropbacks).
The Bills have the NFL’s No. 1 defense and hope to prove that they have what it takes to shut down one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Buffalo’s defense has surrendered the fewest pass yards (595), with the fewest yards per attempt allowed (4.5). In terms of big plays, the Bills lead the league in pass breakups (26) and turnovers (11), while boasting a pass rush that’s No. 3 in hurries (20), No. 6 in sacks (12) and No. 2 in total QB pressures (43).
Buffalo has played three backup quarterbacks in their previous three games, so they’ll need to bring their best on Sunday if they want to shut the critics up about their level of competition and stake their claim as one of the best units in the NFL.
Will Bills stay committed to the run?
In a game boasting two of the NFL’s two best young quarterbacks, the Bills must be intentional when it comes to running the ball. Buffalo boasts the NFL’s No. 5 rushing attack, gaining 581 yards at 4.5 yards per carry with six scores on the ground this season. Zack Moss and Devin Singletary have been fantastic through the team’s first four games. Moss has earned the starting nod in each of the last two weeks and is a downhill tone-setter that consistently churns out positive yardage and keeps the Bills’ offense ahead of schedule. Singletary has brought an explosive element to the offense, with five runs of 10-plus yards this year.
Kansas City has gotten gashed by opponents with strong run games – most notably the Browns and Ravens. While Buffalo doesn’t possess a game-changing ball carrier like Nick Chubb or Lamar Jackson, they have enough multiplicity in their ground game that will allow them to have success against the NFL’s No. 30 run defense that’s allowed 584 yards and eight touchdowns at a rate of 5.4 yards-per-carry.
In order to win, Buffalo will need to slow the game down and keep the Chiefs’ offense off of the field. In order to do so, they’ll need to stay committed to the run, which will, in turn, open up things in the passing game.