On paper, Sunday’s matchup seems really scary for the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills are struggling with injuries. Starting quarterback E.J. Manuel remains sidelined. Star running back C.J. Spiller is dealing with a high-ankle sprain and likely won’t be at 100 percent if he’s even in the lineup. And wide receiver Stevie Johnson was visibly dealing with a hip or groin injury against the Saints, but gutted out an admirable performance.
Still, the Bills have been competitive and fought hard this season despite obviously being a year or two away from being a team to be reckoned with, and the Chiefs aren’t blowing teams out of the water, as evidenced by their 23-17 win over Jason Campbell-led Cleveland.
That said, here are three interesting storylines heading into Sunday.
RIP Thad Lewis
After the performance against the Saints, in which Thad Lewis was nearly splattered onto the Superdome turf on several occasions, it would seem that DOOM is ahead for the young backup quarterback.
The Chiefs come into the game with the best pass rush in football. They lead the NFL in sacks with 36 and have two of the top five pass-rushers in the league in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali (11 and nine sacks, respectively). The Bills struggled with a pretty good Saints defense, and when I say “struggled”, I mean they got crushed and we all thought Lewis was hurt several times. Imagine what this Chiefs’ pass rush will do.
That’s going to be one of the biggest keys for the Bills if they hope to win this Sunday. The running game will likely get their yardage, but the Chiefs are pretty good at stopping that, too. If they don’t have to fear Lewis, they’ll stack the box and tee off. The passing game needs to have some success in the face of that pass rush.
Or it’ll go as we all think it will, and poor Thad will need several limbs stitched back on. RIP.
Run Game: Go!
What this will ultimately come down to is a battle of the running games. Turns out both are pretty good at it. Jamaal Charles is second in the NFL in rushing and the team is ninth. The Bills are fourth in the NFL in rushing. Sounds like a matchup to me.
The real difference here is that the Bills rush defense is terrible (seventh-most allowed per game) while the Chiefs are pretty good (22nd-most allowed). If the Bills sell out to stop the run and don’t get burned by Alex Smith, they could stand a chance at winning this thing.
Or, what’s more likely to happen, is the Bills will get shredded by Charles. We’ll go with that one.
It’s easy to look at this matchup on paper and immediately declare that the Bills are walking into death row. Yeah, 8-0 team and all, but they’re not nearly as good as their record says.
They’re in the bottom third of the league in passing and can be a bit one-dimensional. Their defense has carried them to this point and can be thrown on (Campbell looked good last week).
If the Bills can keep Lewis clean, this could get dicey for Kansas City. It’ll open up the ground game for the Bills and that high-tempo offense. But the Bills are going to need to be fast and aggressive if they have a hope against this pass rush.
I’m not calling for an upset, but the Bills will keep this one a lot closer than anyone expects.