1) Tyrod Taylor vs the Chiefs defense: Buffalo has a self-imposed QB controversy, with the benching and now return of Taylor. Tyrod has been a solid NFL QB, but a guy the team is constantly trying to upgrade from. He can run a bit, and doesn’t turn it over much. Sound familiar? The Bills version of Alex Smith returns as a starter this week, and may be playing with an even bigger chip on his shoulder. When teams and players have their “backs against the wall” they are dangerous. Watch out for this Bills team and their QB this week.
Prediction: Taylor throws for 225+ yards, 1 TD and rushes for another TD
2) Kareem Hunt vs the Buffalo run defense: The Bills have allowed 144 rushing yards or more in their last 3 games, and 11 TDs. That includes a 298 yard 6 TD performance by the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps Marcell Dareus was more valuable than they thought?
The Chiefs rookie of the year candidate has struggled to find running room over the last few weeks, and it’s no coincidence that the offense has fallen off a cliff over the same time frame. Teams are crashing the line of scrimmage against Hunt, and the Chiefs haven’t been able to get in a rhythm or balance on offense. Even when Hunt has gotten the ball, and made positive yardage, Reid often goes away from him. The best thing they could do this week would be to get Hunt going again. Watch to see if he gets consistent carries and targets, especially when he gets going.
Prediction: Hunt returns to the endzone this week, but is held mostly in check, with 90 total yards and a touchdown.
3) Is Alex scared? The worst part of the Giants loss was watching Alex Smith play like he has no faith in his offensive line. He scrambled into pressure, created his own sacks and consistently threw passes short of the 1st down marker. Was this a short term issue that he can turn around? Or has the New Alex reverted back to the Old Alex (or worse)?
The offensive line needs to play better, but even in their current state, the QB needs to trust them more. Smith needs to stand in the pocket, step up and deliver the ball downfield. He did it the first few weeks, watch to see if he can get back to doing it this week.
Prediction: Smith will play more efficient this week, but still frustrate fans by not throwing downfield: 200 yds, 1 TD.
4) Can Reid’s offense get back on track by properly featuring their playmakers? The other frustrating part of this offense in recent weeks has been the way in which the Chiefs have used their best offensive players. Everyone knows they have 3 game breaking talents, and a bunch of other guys. When they were clicking early in the season, teams couldn’t take away all three. During the losing streak, teams have taken away Hunt, but then, the Chiefs have used Hill and Kelce in some dumb ways. Each has thrown an interception on an ill-advised trick play. Each has been targeted at the line of scrimmage too often.
The Chiefs need to put defenses in a bind again by making them pay for focusing on stopping any one of their big 3. Anytime Hill gets single coverage on the outside, Smith should look his way. Anytime teams take away deep passes, Kelce should eat over the middle. Watch to see if they can get the ball to Hill downfield and Kelce in space to beat zone and cover 2 looks.
Prediction: Kelce continues to get his catches (8 for 100), Hill gets at least one big play down the field
5) Can the Chiefs pass rush affect the game? Don’t buy the idea that Justin Houston is part of the problem. He’s been quiet, production wise, but has been dominant versus the run, and is getting some pressure on the QB. The same can’t be said for the rest of the Chiefs pass rush. Chris Jones, Allen Bailey (if he plays), Tamba Hali (if he plays) are among the front 7 defenders that need to win more of their individual matchups. No excuses, they just have to line up and beat the guy across from them on a regular basis. If that doesn’t happen, Sutton will have to dial up some more blitzes in order to make opposing QBs uncomfortable.
Whatever it takes, the outcome of this game and this season largely depend on the defense’s ability to get to the QB. They made a move to address the secondary this week. Watch to see if Sutton and Reid do anything drastic to address the anemic pass rush.
Prediction: Small improvement, but not good enough. 2 sacks and 4 QB hits as a defense.
6) Will Revis be active? Call it what you wish: desperation, a move for leadership, or a brilliant “buy low” opportunity. The Chiefs added a big name to their DB room this week. Darrelle Revis will at least bring some experience and leadership to a group that is very young, and perhaps lacks confidence. Can he also make an impact on the field? There are reasons to be optimistic: he’s in better shape, rested and motivated to prove that 2016 was a fluke. I don’t expect much from Revis, but if he can get on the field and help the CBs improve to ‘respectable’, it’s a big win for the Chiefs.
Reid was coy when asked whether Revis would play this week. I’d assume he won’t, but watch the game day inactive list. If Revis is ready, it’ll be fascinating to see what he has left.
Prediction: Revis won’t play this week, but starts next week against the Jets and gets an interception.
7) Which team wants it more? It all comes down to ‘will.’ Both the Chiefs and the Bills are on losing streaks. Both have embattled QBs and have struggled with injuries. Both teams are at a turning point in their seasons. Win this week, and get back on track for a playoff run. Lose this week, and the season might be all but lost. I want to see a Chiefs team fighting like they have everything to lose.
It’s time for Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Alex Smith, Travis Kelce, Anthony Sherman and the other Chiefs leaders to get this squad ready to play, and keep them fired up. The more desperate, passionate team likely wins this game. Watch to see who wants it more.
Prediction: Both teams come out fighting, but the Chiefs are able to get an early lead and win a close one.