Sunday’s Kansas City Chiefs game against the Buffalo Bills is potentially a massive turning point for the season.
The Kansas City offense has really gotten rolling, led by an incredible improvement in the running game and efficient performances in the passing game. The defense has gotten a bad rap, but they are getting healthier and have a chance to flip the narrative.
Meanwhile, the Bills look like one of the AFC’s top contenders — and the Chiefs can’t afford to drop another tiebreaker for a potential bye week in the playoffs.
Here are a few players that could lead the charge during Sunday’s pivotal matchup.
Josh Gordon: It started as an unexpected long-shot signing. Then we guessed it would take weeks before the wide receiver was ready to get on the field. But bit-by-bit, the hype train has gained speed. Now — less than two weeks after the Chiefs signed him off the street — Gordon is set to make his debut. It has been said that he is in great shape, has picked up the playbook quickly and has reportedly “clicked from Day 1” with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. We shouldn’t expect elite production — but even if it’s only for a deep shot early in the game and some decoy snaps, it’s reasonable to believe that the Chiefs will get him involved.
Charvarius Ward: It could be a coincidence that the Chiefs’ pass defense suffered the last two weeks without Ward. But it might not be, too. He’s the most experienced cornerback on the roster — and the only one with the size to match up with bigger receivers and tight ends. Don’t be surprised if the entire group looks a little more competent with Ward and Rashad Fenton back in the lineup. Against the Bills, they’ll have a tough matchup with Stephon Diggs, Dawson Knox and Cole Beasley — and a quarterback who can drive the ball all over the field.
Trey Smith, Joe Thuney and Creed Humphrey: The past two weeks, Kansas City’s new wall upfront has been spectacular, leading the way for back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances. They are dominating physically, executing technically and learning how to play together — and they’re getting better as the season goes on. This offense has become more balanced, efficient and unstoppable than ever — and it starts with these three guys. Buffalo’s defense presents a good challenge; it’s the NFL’s fourth-best against the run, leading to two shutout wins. If Thuney, Humphrey and Smith can build upon their recent success on Sunday night, the sky is the limit.
Others trending in the right direction: Jody Fortson, Noah Gray, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jarran Reed and Mike Danna
Demarcus Robinson: Even though he was on the field for two-thirds of the offensive snaps against the Eagles, Robinson was shut out. Other than the touchdown against the Ravens in Week 2, he’s mostly been invisible. Now — with the Chiefs all but anointing Gordon as their second or third receiver — Robinson may find even fewer opportunities to make plays.
Anthony Hitchens: What does Hitchens bring to the defense, anyway? He’s long been known as the cerebral leader who gets everyone lined up in the right spots. He also has the reputation as a big hitter who can help stop the run. But this season, the Kansas City defense has regularly been confused and scrambling both before and after snap — and has struggled against the run. When confusion appears to be a pervasive issue, the same guys who get credit for being on-field coaches should get substantial blame.
Jerick McKinnon: Coming into the season, McKinnon was thought to have the potential to be a dangerous offensive weapon — but through four games, he has yet to carry the football. He did, however, have one reception for 14 yards in Week 2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams have both been effective in grinding out rushing yards. But McKinnon has a different gear — and if given the chance, he could make some big plays. Barring some injuries, it doesn’t appear that he’s going to get that opportunity.
Others trending in the wrong direction: Alex Okafor, Juan Thornhill, Daniel Sorensen, Nick Bolton
Value (Sleeper) Pick
Frank Clark: Because of his persistent injury issues — and his lack of impact plays during the one game in which he’s appeared — most have already written Clark off. The Chiefs' defense is predicated upon pressure that comes from a successful collaboration between Clark, Jarran Reed and Chris Jones. This week, Jones has missed practice and is questionable to play — but Clark is healthy again. It’s possible that he’ll rotate with Mike Danna, once again bringing some energy and toughness to the edge of the defense. In a game where the Chiefs assert themselves on both sides of the ball, I could see Clark surprising everyone with a couple of sacks.