After facing one of the NFC’s best teams in Week 4 and a division rival on Monday night in Week 5, the Kansas City Chiefs’ season is on track at 4-1.
Now they’ll have the chance to prove they are the frontrunners for the No. 1 overall spot and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It won’t be decided on Sunday, but the stakes are still as high as you’ll ever see for a Week 6 game.
Expect a shootout, as the Buffalo Bills bring their “A-Game” to try and avenge the “13 seconds” game from last season. The new-look Chiefs defense may have something to say about that, featuring some rookies in key roles playing at a high level. In the end, it’s likely to come down to Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and whoever gets the ball last.
But, in the meantime, don’t overlook these trending Chiefs.
George Karlaftis: If we’re just watching the box scores, we might think that Karlaftis has started his NFL career very slowly. He just met Frank Clark at the quarterback in Week 5 for his first half-sack of the season and is averaging about two tackles per game. But, of course, those statistics don’t tell the whole story. For example, on the play against the Raiders where Chris Jones was called for that ridiculous penalty, it was Karlaftis lined up inside taking on as many as three blockers that helped free Jones up on the edge. Karlaftis has been strong against the run, and is in the top 15 in “pass rush win rate,” indicating that he’s doing his job even if it isn’t flashy. This week, the Chiefs will try to get after Allen without abandoning the run lanes and allowing him to dominate on the ground. Karlaftis’s relentless effort will be key to containing a Bills offense that isn’t likely to be stopped.
Juan Thornhill: Another Chiefs defender who has quietly been important so far this year is the young safety who came into the season with rather high expectations for himself. There have been moments of greatness, where he’s made flying pass breakups down the field. There have been other moments, though, where Thornhill has missed tackles and been beaten in coverage. Overall he’s having a good season. This matchup against the Buffalo Bills will test Thornhill as the deep safety, helping out against wide receiversGabriel Davis and Stefon Diggs. If he’s flying around and making plays on the ball, this defense has a chance to hold up better than they did last year. It may only take a couple of stops to win, and Thornhill forcing a turnover would go a long way toward that goal.
Harrison Butker: We’ve seen over the last few weeks the value of a good kicker. When the Chiefs don’t play their best on offense, field goals are important to keep them in tough games. When they are playing well against a top opponent, extra points and last-second field goals could be the difference between winning and losing. This week, winning or losing against the Bills could ultimately decide playoff seeding and home-field advantage. So, it’s huge that the Chiefs welcome back their reliable starting placekicker. Butker, even at his worst, has been one of the better kickers in the league, and the stability he brings to the special teams unit could be key to beating the Bills.
Others trending in the right direction this week: Khalen Saunders, Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Nick Bolton, L’Jarius Sneed, Creed Humphrey, Joe Thuney, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, Jerick McKinnon
Orlando Brown Jr.: This was supposed to be the year Brown bet on himself and proved he was worthy of Trent Williams money. Unfortunately for Brown, he apparently hasn’t been fully healthy and hasn’t been at his best. This week, he faces a rejuvenated Von Miller in a pretty bad matchup for his skill set. Brown has always struggled with speed rushers, even when he was moving well. But, it seems his feet are a step slower this season, which is ominous heading into a key AFC matchup.
Rashad Fenton: It’s been a trend for a few weeks now, but it’s clear now that Fenton isn’t one of the Chiefs' three best corners at this point. He has already been ruled out for the game against the Bills. Rookie Trent McDuffie could be back next week, and the Chiefs should hope he can be the reliable cover corner that Fenton hasn’t been. Rookie Jaylen Watson has also earned more opportunities given his play. Watch to see who the coaches trust against the Bills, especially in the biggest moments of the game. If the rookies step up in his absence, there might be even more risk of No. 27 not getting his job back after this week.
Darius Harris: Harris has been great filling in for Willie Gay Jr. over the past few weeks. He’s been a tackling machine and even recorded a sack. Where Harris has struggled has been in coverage where he just doesn’t have Gay’s athletic ability. The Bills will likely be throwing the ball a lot on Sunday, either targeting Harris in coverage or keeping him on the sideline while the Chiefs play a lot of Dime packages. Watch to see if an extra safety (or two) continues to see the field more this week. It could be at the expense of Harris in what could be his final start before Gay returns.
Others trending in the wrong direction this week: Andrew Wylie, Leo Chenal, Isiah Pacheco, Justin Watson
Value (Sleeper pick): Skyy Moore
It’s been a slow climb for Moore to become part of this offense, but it might just be time to see his usage reach a new level. The rookie still hasn’t seen significant snaps or targets—except last week when it matters most. Skyy Moore was featured on the Chiefs' final drive of the game, as they tried to lock up a victory.
At the same time, Moore was the primary punt and kick returner. It seems like the coaching staff is developing a higher level of trust in Moore and he’ll have the opportunity to do more this week against the Bills.
His route running and run-after-catch ability could really come in handy in a shootout.