1. Run from the spread formation. With a big question mark staring them in the face at quarterback, it will be even more important for the Buffalo Bills to effectively run the ball today against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills are averaging 133.9 yards per game on the ground, which is good for seventh in the league. The Chiefs meanwhile, are allowing an average of 103.2 rushing yards per game, which is 10th best in the NFL. They are giving up an average of 4.7 yards per carry, however, which is tied for 28th in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, which charts every play of every NFL game, the Chiefs are allowing an average of 3.1 yards per carry from their base formation. When they go to sub packages, however, that number increases to more than 6 yards per carry. The Bills should try to spread the Chiefs’ defense out, then run with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
2. Keep them guessing. Another benefit of a strong run game is putting a team in favorable third-down situations. That’s necessary against a Kansas City defense that is allowing opposing offenses to convert third downs on plays of more than 4 yards just 14 percent of the time (9 of 66). Being in manageable third downs presents the threat of a run play, which should help to somewhat neutralize the strength of the Chiefs’ defense, which is the pass rush. Outside linebacker Justin Houston is tied with the Bills’ Mario Williams for second in the NFL with 11 sacks, while Houston’s counterpart, Tamba Hali, has nine. sacks, making up more than half of Kansas City’s NFL-high 36 sacks.
3. Welcome back, Manny Lawson. The Bills should get Manny Lawson back today after he missed last week’s game because of a hamstring injury. It’s good timing for a Buffalo defense that faces the challenge of figuring out a way to slow Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. He leads Kansas City in both rushing (635 yards) and receiving (383 yards), accounting for nearly 40 percent of the team’s offense. Charles’ 41 catches are the most of any running back in the NFL. Lawson and Kiko Alonso will have coverage responsibilities against Charles, and will need to wrap up.
4. No. 1 pick not looking like it. Chiefs right tackle Eric Fisher has not played particularly well in his rookie season after being the first overall pick in April’s draft. Fisher will have a tough matchup today against Williams. The Chiefs’ offensive line has given up 24 sacks. If the Bills can cover well on the outside, buying extra time for the pass rush, they should have some opportunities to get to Alex Smith.
5. Catch them looking. The Chiefs have said all the right things during the week about not looking past today’s game with the Bills to their upcoming bye week, then a Sunday night showdown against the Denver Broncos in Week 11. But it wouldn’t come as a shock if they came out flat this afternoon. The Bills need to jump on them early, and get the white-out crowd at The Ralph into the game.
Outlook: Kansas City doesn’t have a win on its schedule that grabs your attention. But the Chiefs’ defense is legit. They should be able to do enough against a Bills team down to Option C or D at quarterback.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Bills 17