A year’s effort culminates in one game for the Buffalo Bills
The Kansas City Chiefs ended the Bills’ season last year. It was far from a drubbing—38-24 was the final score—but that outcome seemed inevitable. The Chiefs outscored Buffalo 24-3 from the top of the second quarter to the opening drive of the third. The Bills had 15 points on a touchdown and three field goals—two of which came from inside the Chiefs’ 10—with four minutes left in the third quarter. Buffalo came for the king and decisively missed.
Since then, the message in Buffalo’s team building has been very clear: We’re here to beat the Chiefs. Head coach Sean McDermott has become more aggressive on fourth downs as a direct result of those short field goal attempts he took against Kansas City. The Bills added consecutive pass rushers at the top of the draft in Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham, and now have the deepest defensive line in the league with which to chase Patrick Mahomes around the field: Per Next Gen Stats, nine Bills defensive linemen have played at least 20 percent of the snaps this season, which is the highest number in the league. Two-high coverages with four pass rushers were difficult for the Chiefs to handle this year—no team played more two-high against Mahomes than the Bills did in Week 5.
What to know for officiating: Referee John Hussey’s regular-season crew threw the third-fewest flags per game (12.1), but he has been assigned to officiate two of the most penalized teams in the league. The Bills ranked No. 29 (139) and the Chiefs No. 24 (129). The Chiefs were flagged for 36 offensive holding fouls, third most in the NFL, while Hussey’s crew called 40, the sixth most among crews. Hussey’s crew called the league’s second-most taunting fouls (seven), but it threw the fewest flags for illegal contact, defensive holding and defensive pass interference combined (18). — Seifert
Betting nugget: Buffalo road games are 12-4-1 to the over in the past two seasons.
Getzenberg’s pick: Bills 34, Chiefs 31
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 27, Bills 24
What an absolute banger of a game. My CBS bosses are running pure right now, catching 49ers/Cowboys and now this Josh Allen/Patrick Mahomes matchup. If you claim to KNOW how this game will go, you’re a liar. Or Biff Tannen. This is a heavyweight title fight on divisional round weekend. Mahomes gets the edge at QB, even if Allen has played better of late. Andy Reid is a fairly big edge over Sean McDermott, but let’s not forget Reid FIRED McD from the Eagles. These teams have met plenty of times previously, but running through Bill Belichick/New England, Reid/K.C./Mahomes and then maybe even Tom Brady is a gauntlet. The Bills could snuff out some curses with a win here. I don’t think anyone can guarantee a winner here, so I’ll take the points and the scrappy underdog with the better roster in a shootout.
The Pick: Bills 35, Chiefs 31
Bets: Over 54
What the Chiefs must do to win: Target split-field coverage with three-level concepts
The Bills will make some defensive adjustments off the Week 5 tape, but we know that Buffalo played a ton of split-field coverage in that matchup, with 52 coverage snaps featuring safeties aligned in two-deep shells. That’s why I’m looking at the flood concepts in the Chiefs’ playbook. With multiple personnel and alignment variations to get to a three-level read, Kansas City can set up quarterback Patrick Mahomes to target schemed voids. The idea here is to clear the top of the defense and carve out intermediate windows for receivers Tyreek Hill and Byron Pringle and tight end Travis Kelce. Mahomes is playing like a ball distributor right now, throwing with rhythm and efficiency from the pocket.
The player I’m watching closely: Jerick McKinnon, RB, Chiefs
McKinnon logged 18 touches for 142 total yards in the Chiefs’ wild-card win over the Steelers, and it’s obvious that he brings some juice to this offense, especially as a receiver. I think the Chiefs’ screen game will play a role on Sunday night, and the underneath throws will be there for Mahomes to target McKinnon against two-deep zone coverages.
30 - Kansas City Chiefs
SELECTION: Jameson Williams, WR
This just seems too perfect to not happen. Williams will slide after tearing his ACL in the College Football Playoff National Championship. God help the rest of the AFC if this speed merchant lands with Patrick Mahomes.
Theresa McCarthy always roots for the Buffalo Bills, but this week her rooting interest is about more than football.
She is interim chair of the University at Buffalo’s new department of Indigenous studies. And she is astonished that fans of the Kansas City Chiefs still perform the so-called tomahawk chop.
“I’d like to see them try it in Haudenosaunee territory,” she says. “They would meet a lot of resistance.”
The Haudenosaunee (hoe-dee-no-SHOW-nee) Confederacy is made up of six Native nations. McCarthy is a member of the Onondaga Nation, a Beaver clan citizen of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, in Ontario.
The chop is a rhythmic forearm motion performed to the beat of what its perpetrators seem to think mimics a Native war chant. (It is actually a stereotypical Hollywood version.) Kansas City fans perform it gleefully at Chiefs games — and network TV cameras show it with nary a word from commentators, who should know better. (The NFL did not return emails requesting comment on its position on the chop and the chant.)
Around the NFL
The Friday memo, obtained by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, informed clubs that neither vaccinated nor unvaccinated players will be subjected to daily testing moving forward.
According to Pelissero, the NFLPA-approved change has been made based on info gathered over the past month on the Omicron variant. NFL and NFLPA medical experts saw a decrease in positive cases during that span, an encouraging sign for the league as a whole following decisions to implement targeted testing and revise the window for players to return from COVID protocol late last year.
All players and tiered staff will now be subjected to enhanced symptom screening, symptom-based testing and targeted surveillance testing, per Pelissero.
Pelissero also noted that individuals on a 90-day test “holiday” after having COVID are still subject to testing if they have symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status. So, while positive tests are near zero right now, it’s still possible a player could miss a playoff game if they’re sick.
The team announced Friday that Don Martindale, who served as the Ravens’ DC for four seasons, will not return for a fifth.
“After several productive conversations, Don and I have agreed to move forward in separate directions,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “We have had a great run on defense, and I am very proud of what has been accomplished and the work he has done. Don has been a major contributor to the success of our defense since 2012, and especially since he became defensive coordinator four years ago. He has done a great job. Now it is time to pursue other opportunities.
“Sometimes the moment comes, and it’s the right time. I am personally grateful for our friendship and for everything he has done in Baltimore.”
Butkus is now 79 years old and continues to be involved in his charity foundation. Over the last few weeks, Butkus has had one main objective: to get verified on Twitter. Butkus joined the platform in September 2020, and all the man wanted was a blue check. He went about it with his typical wit.
hey @AaronRodgers12 help me get verified or more than your toe will be hurting— Dick Butkus (@thedickbutkus) January 14, 2022
Butkus finally got his wish on Friday when a blue check mark showed up next to his name. Finally Dick Butkus was verified.
His first move with a blue check mark? Call out anyone who ever doubted his ability to get verified.
just like that got the blue hashmark— Dick Butkus (@thedickbutkus) January 21, 2022
now lets start calling out all of the doubters
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Time: 5:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time
Winning probability: Chiefs 65%
Preview: In my mind, whichever team wins this game is the favorite to win the Super Bowl. It has all of the makings of a heavyweight title fight — like in the classic boxing movie Rocky III.
In that story, Rocky Balboa is coming off his thrilling victory for the heavyweight title belt. But the newly-crowned champ struggles to stay focused when he is surrounded by the glitz and glamour that comes with being the champ. Meanwhile, a gritty brawler named Clubber Lang (portrayed by Mr. T) calls Rocky out for being a paper champion. The two fight — and Lang knocks him out toward the end of the first act.
Rocky is at an all-time low. He doesn’t know where to go or what to do.
Enter Rocky’s old friend Apollo Creed, who agrees to train Rocky as he refocuses himself — and in the rematch with Lang, knocks him out to reclaim the belt.
A tweet to make you think
On the morning of the 2017 NFL Draft, before he left for work—and before he knew how the day would go—Brett Veach opened a note from his 6-year-old daughter. It read: "Pat no matter what."— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) January 21, 2022
On 'Draft Day', Eric Stonestreet and a path to Chiefs GM: https://t.co/keJbUkrgwU