In what is arguably the most anticipated regular season game of the 2022 NFL Season, the Buffalo Bills head back to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to take on the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo is looking to avenge their epic “13 seconds” collapse and officially put that game in the rearview as they once again push for a Super Bowl. It’s fitting that both Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes’ squads are the lone 4-1 teams in the AFC, as this game will undoubtedly play a role in playoff seeding come season’s end.
Each game is usually decided by a handful of individual players and how their respective coordinators can make the most of their matchups. Here are the top battles that we’ll be watching in Week 6.
Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Bills’ Back 7
With Tyreek Hill gone, Kansas City has altered their offensive approach, but all-world tight end Travis Kelce remains a critical weapon in Patrick Mahomes’ arsenal. The 33-year old is coming off of a monstrous four-touchdown outing against the Raiders on Monday Night Football and has tallied 37 receptions for 347 yards and seven scores on the season.
Buffalo has struggled to find a way to contain the seven-time Pro Bowler, surrendering 32 grabs for 336 yards and six touchdowns to Kelce in the teams’ last four meetings and this week will present another huge challenge.
Despite his age, Kelce is still performing at a ridiculously high level amongst his peers, particularly when working the intermediate (10-19 yards) portion of the field. He’s reeled in 8-of-9 targets for an NFL-leading 135 yards, 46 yards-after-catch, and two touchdowns on passes at this depth. He’s also forced the most missed tackles (four) and converted the most first downs (eight) among tight ends in this category.
Leslie Frazier will need to mix up coverages on the backend in order to defend Kelce, but it will be a matter of talent when it comes to limiting his effectiveness, as the veteran has been lethal when facing both man and zone coverages. Against man, Kelce is averaging 1.44 yards per route run, gaining 117 yards and four scores on 16 targets. But he’s been even more dominant against zone coverage – bringing in 14-of-18 targets for 191 yards (70 YAC) while averaging a whopping 2.41 yards per route.
Kelce will run his routes against a handful of defenders, and the Bills have tried several different ways to match up with Kelce. Look for Taron Johnson, Matt Milano and (hopefully) Jordan Poyer to play a role in defending Kelce. The team has done a good job against tight ends this year, surrendering the seventh-fewest yards (169) and zero touchdowns to the position, while holding Mark Andrews, a player of Kelce’s caliber, to just 15 yards on 2 catches during their Week 4 matchup.
If the Bills can limit Kelce in a similar fashion to how they played Andrews, the Bills will be in great shape.
Chiefs DT Chris Jones vs. Bills Interior OL
It seems like the Bills are running the gauntlet of All-World defensive tackles this season, and have done quite the job containing Aaron Donald, Jeffery Simmons and Cam Heyward. Now, they’ll look to continue that success against another monster defender in Chris Jones – a player they’ve struggled with in recent years.
Jones is once again dominating opponents, both as a pass rusher and a run defender. His 20 quarterback pressures are second to Aaron Donald and his 85.2 run defense grade (Pro Football Focus) is third-best among defensive tackles. Jones is a tough matchup for any lineman. He’s massive (6-foot-6, 31-pounds) with uncanny length and power. He’s athletic, strong and versatile, and Kansas City uses him in a variety of alignments to get him into favorable situations. With the addition of rookie edge rusher, George Karlaftis, the Chiefs are done toying with their star as an edge player, allowing him to wreck games as a full-time interior player – with great success.
Buffalo’s offensive line hasn’t performed to the level many believed it would after the addition of coach Aaron Kromer, veteran left guard Rodger Saffold and the re-signing of Ryan Bates. But the unit has flashed signs of growth, particularly inside. Last week, Buffalo surrendered just one pressure by an interior lineman (Mitch Morse), and will need another stout showing against one of the toughest defenders in the NFL.
Bills DE Von Miller vs. Chiefs LT Orlando Brown Jr.
While Patrick Mahomes has once again been playing lights out this season, the one way to knock him off of his game is to knock him off of his spot. With a clean pocket, Mahomes has obliterated opposing defenses, completing 75.6-percent of his passes for 1,011 yards (7.7 yards-per-attempt) with nine touchdowns and one interception. But when pressured, like all quarterbacks, Mahomes becomes mortal. He’s completing just 46.6-percent (18th among passers, Josh Allen ranks No. 4 at 56.5-percent) of his passes for 387 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception in these situations.
The Chiefs have a quality offensive line, but that hasn’t stopped Mahomes from being the 10th-most pressured quarterback in the NFL this season, as he’s under duress on 33.8-percent of his dropbacks.
Edge rusher Von Miller was brought in specifically to be the player that helps Buffalo knock Kansas City out of their spot atop the throne in the AFC. Through five games, Miller has been a force that’s helped elevate the Bills’ front four to one of the best in the league. He’s tallied four sacks, two QB Hits and 11 pressures and has eight pressures in the last two games.
Miller will see most of his pass rush reps against Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., a massive (6-foot-8, 340-pound) and athletic protector that hasn’t been having a great year. Brown’s 15 pressures allowed this season (one sack, three hits, 11 hurries) are the fourth-most among tackles. He’s a player that can be exposed by Miller’s speed, bend, and explosiveness. While Brown has great size and length, he’s been clunky and lunges too often in pass sets, which should bode well for a technician like Von Miller.
Buffalo’s pass rush was incredible during their playoff loss to the Chiefs, generating 29 total pressures. But Mahomes’ ability to elude tacklers, escape the pocket, and extend plays over the course of 60-plus minutes was too much for the Bills to overcome. Now, with a proven finisher in Von Miller, the hope is that Buffalo can convert those pressures into drive-stalling sacks.