This Sunday, the Buffalo Bills (5-3) will host the Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a game that has serious playoff implications for both teams. The Bills and Chiefs are both looking to dethrone their respective divisional dominant foes, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. Each team has talent and depth on both sides of the ball, and it should make for a great game.
So, what will determine who wins the game? Let’s find out.
Bills WR Sammy Watkins vs Chiefs CB Sean Smith
Bills’ rookie wideout Sammy Watkins has taken the league by storm, catching 38 passes for 590 yards and five touchdowns in his first eight games. This week, he’ll face off with Sean Smith, a big, physical corner that’s currently ranked as ProFootballFocus’ No. 8 overall cornerback. Watkins has been used in a variety of roles this year, showing the ability to get off press, gain separation and consistently find the soft spots in zone defenses.
Twitter nearly exploded when reports of a groin injury suffered by Watkins in practice surfaced, but it appears that he’ll be playing this Sunday.
Sean Smith is a bigger, physical corner that can press at the line of scrimmage. He’s playing well this season, allowing a mere 55.6% completion rate when being targeted, but when he’s beat, he’s beat bad. Smith’s 14.4 yards-per-catch allowed is the seventh-highest total allowed by a cornerback this season, according to PFF.
Bills RT Seantrel Henderson vs Chiefs OLB Justin Houston
Seantrel Henderson has had an up-and-down start to his career, at times showing flashes of why most draft analysts had him pegged as a first-round pick, while struggling with inconsistencies that you’d expect of a rookie at other times. This week, he’ll face off with one of the most dominant young edge rushers in the National Football League in Justin Houston. Houston has already 12 sacks on the year, which leads the league. No other defender has more than nine.
Houston is ProFootballFocus’ No. 1 ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, and with good merit. He’s been a relentless pass rusher that’s a force against the run, generating 44 total QB pressures and making 21 run stops.
Henderson, who is PFF’s No .70 ranked offensive tackle of 74 qualifiers, has surrendered four sacks and 26 QB pressures. He’ll need to bring his “A” game if the Bills want to move the ball.
When the Bills Have the Ball
The Bills have seen a surge in the passing game since Kyle Orton took over as the team’s signal caller, but the struggles from the interior offensive line has really hampered the running game. This week, the Bills will face one of the most dominant nose tackles in the league in Dontari Poe. Poe has already registered four sacks and 13 QB pressures, but his real impact comes away from the stat sheet. He’s a strong, powerful athlete that can hold his ground against double and triple teams. If the Bills want to put out a better rushing attack than that from the Jets game, getting a hat on Poe will be a priority.
The Chiefs have one of the top pass defenses in the league in terms of total yardage allowed, but they’ve also faced the league’s fewest pass attempts. The Bills will need to attack the boundaries with playmakers like Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. All in all, if the Bills can establish the run, they’ll see quite a few opportunities for explosive plays in the passing game.
When the Chiefs Have the Ball
The Chiefs are an efficient offense led by Alex Smith, the prototypical “game manager” according to most fans. However, Smith has been game managing-ing his way to wins by getting the ball out quickly in the middle of the field, while relying on a strong rushing attack.
The Bills’ defensive line could prove to be a nightmare for a struggling Chiefs offensive line, led by their 2013 No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, who’s looked like a total bust to this point, surrendering three sacks and 21 pressures. He hasn’t been any better in the run game, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 4th worst tackle in that department. If the Bills front seven can play consistent and smart in the short-to-intermediate passing game, Kansas City just doesn’t have the weapons outside to be a threat.
Sleeper to Watch
TE Travis Kelce
Travis Kelce was my No. 1 ranked tight end coming out of Cincinnati in the 2013 NFL Draft, and after missing most of last season with injuries, he’s played incredibly this year, catching 32 passes for 419 yards. He’s a complete tight end that has great speed and elusiveness-so much so that the Chiefs use him on screen passes- but he’s strong enough to block as well.
Kelce is a fun player to watch and he will be a key player that Jim Schwartz will look to contain on Sunday.