After being handed their first loss in 2020, the Buffalo Bills will try to get back on track this Monday, with the defending champions, Kansas City Chiefs, coming to town. They’re also coming from their first loss of the season and both teams should be ready to play at their best and looking for redemption. Here are my thoughts on the Monday night matchup:
Bills Offense vs. Chiefs Defense
The Bills offense is the seventh ranked unit in the league, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. They’re the fourth best passing unit in the NFL, but the 32nd rushing attack. On the other hand, the Chiefs defense is ranked ninth overall, succeeding mostly stopping the pass (second overall) and struggling to stop the run (28th).
It’s a good matchup to, finally, get the running game going. Buffalo has become a pass happy offense, and a pretty good one. They throw to set up the run, and not the opposite. However, to beat this Chiefs defense and, even more importantly, keep Patrick Mahomes and their offense on the sidelines, the ground game needs to work. No matter how improved this Bills offense is, I’m not very confident in trying to go toe to toe against this powerful and proven Chiefs offense.
Bills Run Game: "Plays are there to be had"https://t.co/RKCAGwDTc8
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 18, 2020
To avoid that, Buffalo’s offensive coordinator Brian Daboll should make adjustments in his group. He will have rookie running back Zack Moss back from injury, but I’m not sure about his capabilities of impacting the game. In fact, with what he has done recently, T.J. Yeldon can even get the nod over him as the second back behind Devin Singletary. The truth is, the Bills need more from their rushing attack which can make all the difference in the world between succeeding and failing.
To help the running backs and offensive line, Daboll can implement more 12-personnel in the gameplan. Tight end Dawson Knox will be out with a calf injury, which means veteran blocking specialist Lee Smith should be active. If the Bills want to run the ball successfully, Smith should see an uptick in his snaps. Also, running more from single back formation, with Allen under center, should help the run blocking on the interior and set up more play action opportunities for the quarterback. A win-win situation.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 15, 2020
Another option to help the ground game is the return of more designed quarterback runs. After calling it often in Week 1 against the Jets, Daboll has avoided it ever since. Allen has succeeded as a passer, even not threatening opposing defenses that much by running the football, but there’s no doubt he can have a huge impact in the team’s success on the ground and add another dimension to the offense. With Frank Clark (three sacks) and Chris Jones (3 1/2 sacks) leading a strong pass rush, it’s not a good idea to be so one-dimensional.
Most passing yards under pressure:
1. Russell Wilson – 495
T-2. Josh Allen/ Justin Herbert – 482
4. Patrick Mahomes – 422 pic.twitter.com/m5ljZNoe2M
— PFF (@PFF) October 16, 2020
Looking at the Chiefs secondary, Tyran Mathieu stands out. He’s a true playmaker who’s always around the ball forcing pass breakups (three) and interceptions (one). Cornerback Rashad Fenton has stood out too, having a good year so far.
#Chiefs 2020 Week 5 Highest-Graded Defensive Player: CB Rashad Fenton – 82.9
• 35 snaps played
• 84.8 coverage grade
• 76.2 tackling grade
• Season grade: 78.6 (5th out of 58 CB’s with 200+ snaps)
— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) October 12, 2020
The Chiefs love to send blitzes to bring the heat to opposing passers. Adding pressure in their secondary, Fenton, Breshad Breeland and Charvarius Ward had held their own. Allen is a different animal, though, and it’ll be interesting to see how Kansas City adjusts its defensive strategy.
Josh Allen vs. the blitz this season:
🔹 6 TDs (most in NFL)
🔹 0 INTs pic.twitter.com/v44UDoKguD
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 16, 2020
With wide receiver John Brown practicing in full capacity on Saturday, it’s fair to expect him back in the lineup too — and that’s huge. Brown was missed last week and, with him on the field, the Chiefs should be more worried about the deep ball. Allen needs to be smart and take what the defense gives him, even if it’s consistently short passes at the middle of the field. Buffalo surely needs to score, but the ball possession battle is important in this matchup.
- Biggest advantage: Josh Allen dual-threat skillset and success against blitzes.
- Reason for concern: Running game struggles.
Bills Defense vs. Chiefs Offense
If the Chiefs defensive strengths match up well against Bills offensive ones, the same can’t be said about the opposite.
Buffalo’s defense has been unrecognizable in 2020, being ranked 27th in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. They’ve been the 22nd unit versus the run and the 24th versus the pass. It doesn’t look good when the second-ranked offense in the league (No. 1 passing and No. 17) is coming to town.
Despite what seems like a bad matchup, the Chiefs will be out some important pieces. Old friend (or not so much) Sammy Watkins is out with a hamstring injury, as is veteran guard Kelechi Osemele, after injuring both of his knees. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is listed as questionable with a back issue.
Speedster wideout Mecole Hardman should replace Watkins in the lineup. Alongside Tyreek Hill, they form the fastest wide receiver duo in the league. What Hardman doesn’t have is the all around ability that Watkins brings to the table and his absence should be missed. Tre’Davious White seems recovered from his back issue and should play, allowing the Buffalo secondary to be at its best against the biggest challenge of the year.
Most catches without a drop this season (TEs):
◾ Darren Waller – 34
◾ Travis Kelce – 32 pic.twitter.com/UqXhF7fzHm
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 16, 2020
Another key factor in this great passing attack is tight end Travis Kelce. He’s arguably the best player at his position in the entire league and slowing him down is a must. Bills linebacker Matt Milano practiced this week after missing a game with a pectoral injury and is listed as questionable. His presence is crucial. If he can go, the secondary will be able to focus on limiting Mahomes’ options downfield and trying to be opportunistic when needed. Creating turnovers and getting off the field on third downs will be huge in this game.
Most TD passes on 3rd & 4th down:
1. Patrick Mahomes – 7
T-2. Josh Allen/ Justin Herbert – 6 pic.twitter.com/GA7bDWDZVn
— PFF (@PFF) October 15, 2020
The Bills defense has blitzed on 40.6% of the plays this year, good for third most in the league. Even with this approach, they’re 31st in the NFL in QB hurry percentage, only making the quarterback throw early or escape the pocket on 4.8% of pass plays.
I have good news, though.
Buffalo has faced three strong running attacks in the last three weeks, and contained two of them (Raiders and Titans) after struggling earlier in the season. The run blitzes utilized there don’t impact the passing game that much.
#Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes stats when kept clean vs under pressure
• 93/132 (70.5% Comp)
• 1,052 Yards (7.97 YPA)
• 10 TD
• 0 INT
• 30/61 (49.2% Comp)
• 422 Yards (6.92 YPA)
• 3 TD
• 1 INT#ChiefsKingdom
— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) October 15, 2020
Another positive for Buffalo is the changes in the interior offensive line. Buffalo needs to get to Mahomes and Osemele’s absence makes it easier. I believe Schwartz will play, but if not, it opens an even bigger hole in this unit. Jerry Hughes certainly can take advantage of facing Mike Remmers consistently outside and the same can be said about Ed Oliver and Quinton Jefferson inside. The Bills defensive line need to step up after recent sub-par performances.
Most total pressures without a sack:
🔹 Jerry Hughes -19
🔹 Jadeveon Clowney -16
🔹 Clelin Ferrell -16 pic.twitter.com/mawbg5n4xX
— PFF (@PFF) October 17, 2020
Last but not least, the Chiefs aren’t a run-first offense, like the Rams, Raiders and Titans. It’s a better fit for what Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s defenses like to do, playing nickel as base defense and even allowing some yardage on the ground if it doesn’t cost the passing defense. The play action has killed this unit recently, with the unit focusing on stopping the run. Against the Chiefs they should be able to play to their strengths as a unit and, hopefully, look more like the defenses from the last two years. I don’t expect them holding Mahomes and company to 21 points or fewer, but some turnovers and good red zone play can give the team a better shot at a win.
- Biggest advantage: Run defense vs. Chiefs rushing attack.
- Reason for concern: Recent defensive woes paired with Kansas City’s explosive passing game.
Monday’s matchup offers Buffalo’s biggest challenge of the year. The defending champs are coming to town, humbled after a divisional loss and hungry to get back to the winning ways.
The Bills also had an eye opening loss and should be better prepared this time. After building a strong reputation, I’m sure McDermott, Frazier and their defensive players are eager to show the world that this defense still is the unit that put Buffalo back on the map. There’s no better opportunity than this game. Will they succeed? The answer to this question can decide this game.
At the end of the day, the Bills are the team with most to prove. It’s difficult to give them the advantage without seeing more from this offense and something from this defense.
Prediction: Chiefs win, 31-24.