KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs (5-3) put a three-game winning streak on the line Sunday against a familiar opponent, the Buffalo Bills (5-3).
Despite being in different divisions, the Chiefs and Bills have played in each of the last six seasons and both bring identical records and similar styles of play into the matchup.
Each team ranks in the top 10 in total defense and in the bottom third of the NFL in total offense.
The Bills have been decimated by injuries at running back, meaning quarterback Kyle Orton has become the focal point of the team’s offense. Orton threw four touchdown passes in the Bills’ last game, a 43-23 Week 8 win over the New York Jets, and the Bills are 3-1 since Orton took over the starting job.
Bills coach Doug Marrone is happy with the production he’s seen from the 10-year veteran.
“I think the one thing you see in this league is the guys that have been around they understand situations,” Marrone said. “But still it’s the same thing you need people around you to make plays. We’ve been fortunate where he’s made some great throws and we’ve had some people make some good plays.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid is well aware of the challenges the former Chief brings to his defense.
“My teams have faced him a few times and he’s a very good football player, he has been for a number of years,” Reid said. “They’re one of the top long ball teams in the National Football League and that’s a great challenge for our secondary that way.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
• The Chiefs rank sixth in rushing (136.9 yards per game) and 29th in passing (201.1 yards per game).
• The Bills rank 23rd in rushing (98.9 yards per game) and 20th in passing (228 yards per game).
• The Chiefs rank 19th in rushing defense (116.1 yards per game) and have the league’s best pass defense (199.4 yards per game).
• The Bills rank eighth against the run (92.3 yards per game) and rank 13th in pass defense (233.8 yards per game).
THE LAST TIME
This will be the seventh consecutive season the Chiefs have faced the Bills and the third straight year in Buffalo.
The Bills lead the all-time series, 25-19-1 and have won five of the last seven against Kansas City.
The Chiefs are 6-12-1 all-time in Buffalo, but are seeking a second straight win in Buffalo for the first time in 45 years. In last year’s 23-13 win, the Chiefs benefitted from a 100-yard interception returned for a touchdown by cornerback Sean Smith.
The Chiefs will see a Bills defensive front four that appears familiar to what the team faces on a daily basis during practice.
Defensive ends Mario Williams (6 sacks) and defensive end Jerry Hughes (5 ½) anchor a unit that currently ranks third in the league in sacks with 28, one spot ahead of the Chiefs’ 27.
Additionally, defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus offer formidable immovable objects on the interior line, much like the Chiefs’ Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey.
The play of the front four allows the linebackers and defensive backs to rally to the ball.
Sound familiar to what the Chiefs deploy every week?
Nevertheless, Buffalo’s front four drew praise from Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
“I’m singling out just their defensive line because they’ve got a great combination there with their secondary linebackers and front and they’re very explosive in all those categories,” Reid said. “Their defensive line is quick and athletic and they do have size. You see them dominate in games at times. Again, that’s a great challenge for our offensive line.”
Another area the Bills defense excels is getting teams off the field on third down, where Buffalo allows opponents to covert 36.2 percent, which ranks fifth in the NFL and two spots behind the Chiefs (33 percent, third in the league).
The Chiefs faced a stout New York Jets defensive line in Week 9, but Buffalo offers arguably the biggest test for the Chiefs and the offensive line.
Simply put, Sunday’s game will be won or lost in the trenches.
“By far, this will be the best front we’ve faced up to date,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “This is a good group. This is an active group. They’ve got some guys that can rush the passer. They are very active with the linebacker crew. Not a ton of blitzing, but yet they don’t have to because they’re active with their front four. It’s another challenge for our guys up front.”
Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins is officially listed as questionable against the Chiefs after missing the last two days of practice with a groin injury suffered Wednesday.
While it’s unclear whether Watkins will play, the Chiefs know the explosive rookie presents a challenge to defend against.
“That’s a good football player and there’s a reason why he was drafted as high as he was and he’s producing,” Reid said. “They’re one of the top long ball teams in the National Football League and that’s a great challenge for our secondary that way.”
Watkins produced two straight 100-yard receiving efforts prior to Buffalo’s Week 9 bye. He totaled 12 catches for 279 yards and three touchdowns in that span.
The 6-1, 211-pound rookie wideout currently leads the Bills in receiving with 38 catches for 590 yards and five touchdowns.
The Chiefs and Bills have something in common for the 2015 season, as the league announced Wednesday both teams are among six teams to play in London as part of the International Series.
The Chiefs’ trip to London next year marks the first time in franchise history, and Kansas City faces the Detroit Lions in Week 8. The Bills square off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7.
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt has been the chairman of the NFL’s International Committee since 2011, so it’s no surprise the team will play overseas. While some players aren’t thrilled with giving up a home game, most seem to realize the potential advantages of a game in Wembley Stadium.
“We understand that losing the home field advantage stings a little bit,” kicker Cario Santos said. “But in the long run, I think it’s just exciting for the whole organization to go abroad and hopefully to gain more fans.”
Although fans may be upset with losing a home game to the International Series, the Chiefs front office is excited about the prospects of the game.
“This is a long-term prospect and this is a long-term benefit for the league,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said. “But selfishly, it’s a long-term benefit for the Kansas City Chiefs. Our brand, our region, the opportunity to be on this stage is valuable.”
Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt on what comes to mind when he thinks about England:
“Tennis … Abbey Road, the Beatles.”
Bills quarterback Kyle Orton on his living situation as a member of the Chiefs in 2012:
“I stayed in a hotel.”
Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub on Cairo Santos:
“He’s gaining confidence every day, everything’s new to him, even tackling (laughs).”
Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos on playing in Wembley Stadium next year:
“It’s one of the most iconic soccer stadiums in the world so it’s a pleasure to go there and feel the energy of the British fans so I think it’s going to be a really fun experience.”
While both teams enter this week on a winning streak, the Bills are without starting running back C.J. Spiller (collarbone, injured reserve) and could be without running back Fred Jackson (groin, questionable).
Additionally, wide receiver Sammy Watkins is questionable after he suffered a groin injury during Wednesday’s practice.
Both teams feature strong defenses, meaning points will be at a premium.
In a close game, look for Kansas City’s strong special teams unit to continue creating opportunities as it has in each of the last two games. Additionally, the Chiefs have been better at limiting mistakes. Kansas City has committed the fewest penalties in the NFL this year and rank fifth in fewest giveaways.
Look for the Chiefs to play a mistake-free game, allowing their strong pass defense to take charge late in a close game.
Outcome: Chiefs 24, Bills 21.