Chiefs’ Playoff Preview: The Buffalo Bills

January 20, 2022
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The NFL playoffs kicked off with last week’s Wild Card round. The Chiefs dominated the Steelers by a score of 42 to 21. The Bengals advanced with a win over the Raiders and will face off against the Titans this week. The Bills dominated the Patriots to advance as well. Read more about the rest of the AFC field in our Playoff Primer. Now that we know the Chiefs’ next opponent let’s take a deeper look at the Buffalo Bills.

The Chiefs and Bills will face off on Sunday at 6:30 EST at Arrowhead Stadium:

The Basics

The Bills finished the regular season 11-6. In that span, they finished 3-4 versus 2021 playoff teams. Notably, the Bills defeated the Chiefs 38-20 in Week Five. Buffalo started the season strong, going 4-1 through their first five games. Following the victory over Kansas City, the BIlls went 3-5 over their next eight in a rough mid-season stretch. They then capped off the regular season with 4 consecutive victories over Carolina, New England, Atlanta, and New York.

The Bill entered the postseason as the AFC’s third seed. Despite their success in the regular season, both on offense and defense, the strength of schedule is somewhat suspect for them this season. The Bills rank near the bottom in the overall strength of schedule after playing the Texans, Jaguars, Falcons, Panthers, and Jets (twice).

Even still, the Bills are an outstanding football team. They rank third in points scored and first in points allowed. Josh Allen is among the best quarterbacks in the NFL, perhaps second to only Patrick Mahomes in the AFC. Sean McDermott, Head Coach of the Bills, is a former Andy Reid assistant and coordinator. Furthermore, McDermott worked under Andy Reid for twelve seasons from 1999 to 2010. In five seasons as the Head Coach of the Bills, McDermott has a record of 49-32. Since 2000, the Bills have just six winning seasons. Four of those have come under the leadership of Sean McDermott. Their only two division titles in that span have come the last two seasons.

The Bills are a well-coached football team led by an elite playmaker in Josh Allen.

The Offense

Buffalo’s offense is perhaps the farthest you could get from last week’s Steeler team. Just last week the Bills completed a perfect game; every single drive ended in a touchdown. They didn’t punt, kick a field goal, or turn the ball over a single time; moreover, that performance came against a top-five ranked defense in the NFL, in the Patriots. This season, the Bills ranked third in points and fifth in yards on offense. They rank ninth in passing yards and sixth in rushing yards.

Josh Allen headlines the Bills offense. Allen finished the regular season with 4407 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Allen added an additional 763 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns as well. Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, and Dawson Knox headline the rest of the impressive Bills passing attack. Diggs led the way this season with over 1200 yards receiving and ten receiving touchdowns.

There isn’t much of a weakness in the Bills offensive attack. If the Chiefs hope to find success slowing down the Bills attack, they’ll need to put a spy on Josh Allen. Willie Gay and Nick Bolton could succeed in this role this week. In the season’s first matchup between these two teams, Willie Gay played just 44% of snaps in his first game of the season. Chris Jones also missed that game, and Melvin Ingram played for the Steelers. Also, the Chiefs should focus on making Josh Allen one-dimensional and force him to throw the ball into tight coverage.

Perhaps the most challenging thing for the Chiefs heading into this matchup will be limiting blitzes. The Chiefs’ defense thrives on exotic blitzes. So does Josh Allen. The defense must bring pressure with four and blanket coverage the Bills receiving weapons.

The Defense

What sets the Bills apart among the field isn’t Josh Allen. It isn’t even the offensive dominance. No, what sets the Bills apart from the crowd is the defensive dominance to go with it all. In 2020, the Bills reached the AFC Championship game, where the Chiefs defeated them handily. Furthermore, that season, the Bills ranked 16th in points allowed and 14th in yards allowed. They ranked 13th in passing yards allowed and 17th in rushing yards allowed. In 2021, that was all changed.

This season, the Bills rank first in points allowed and first in yards allowed. Moreover, they’ve allowed the fewest first downs, fewest passing yards, and fewest passing touchdowns of any team in the entire NFL.

Tremaine Edmunds has been phenomenal this season for the Bills. Edmunds was chosen in the first round of the 2018 draft, in part thanks to the trade that allowed Kansas City to draft Patrick Mahomes. Edmunds capped off his fourth 100-tackle season in as many years this season. Additionally, he led the Bills in tackles. Rookie, Gregory Rousseau finished second on the team with four sacks this season and ten QB hits.

The largest improvement to this defensive unit versus the season prior has been the pass defense. Veterans Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have played exceptionally this season. Both have tallied five interceptions on the season. Additionally, with the loss of star Cornerback, Tre’Davious White, to injury, the Bills have seen great performances from young corners, Levi Wallace (ten pass defends and two interceptions), and Taron Johnson.

Although the Bills have played exceptionally on defense, the Chiefs are not the same team they saw early in Week 5 of this season. Additionally, the Bills haven’t exactly played a gauntlet of Quarterbacks this season. Quarterbacks the Bills have faced this season include Mac Jones, Tua, Zach Wilson, Mike White, Cam Newton, Trevor Semien, Davis Mills, Taylor Heinicke, and Ben Roethlisberger. Furthermore, outside of games against Mahomes, Brady, and Tannehill, the Bills have played extremely weak quarterback play. I expect the Chiefs to score more points than any other team has against the Bills this season.

The Verdict

The Buffalo Bills on paper are the most complete team in the AFC Playoff field. Yes, even more so than the Chiefs. The biggest question is whether their success has resulted from a very weak schedule this season. Despite playing a much tougher schedule, the Chiefs also ranked top-ten in both points scored and points allowed, just like the Bills.

One thing is clear to me when evaluating this matchup; Sunday’s matchup between the Bills and Chiefs is the matchup between the two best teams in the entire AFC. Whoever advances to the AFC Championship game from this matchup will likely represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

I expect the Chiefs and Bills to fight this one out the entire game. Neither team is going to blow the other out like they were able to in the Wild Card round. This should end up a tough fought victory for whoever comes out on top. I expect the Chiefs to score more than any team has against Buffalo this season. The offense is clicking and reached a level last week that we haven’t seen all season. At the same time, the revamped Chiefs defense with Ingram and Jones should fare much better slowing down the Bills than we saw earlier this season.

I expect the Chiefs to pull this one out with some late-game heroics from Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. Kansas City wins this one to advance to their fourth consecutive AFC Championship game. Chiefs win, 34 to 30.