On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs face the Buffalo Bills. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Kansas City is favored to win. We welcome Matthew Byham of Buffalo Rumblings — our sister SBNation site covering the Buffalo Bills — for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1. A couple of years ago, Chiefs-Bills was widely considered to be the next great rivalry. How has this faded away so quickly?
I’d blame most of it on exposure and recency bias — but I don’t believe that it’s faded away. What may be at play, however, is how much time has passed since the last time these two teams played. Strange, I understand, considering the Bills and Chiefs have faced off eight times in eight seasons. With their last matchup happening well over a calendar year ago (October 16, 2022), it’s just that the media hasn’t had a recent matchup to discuss. I am very shocked this game didn’t make it to primetime, but the same thing happened last season. CBS must have some real clout to pull Bills-Chiefs games — likely due to Jim Nantz and Tony Romo.
The Cincinnati Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow have played a part in this, given how much success they’ve had in recent seasons — and the matchups with Kansas City. With the national media (by and large) down on Buffalo this season (due to that 6-6 record they’ve compiled), it’s natural that they’re less likely to mention the Bills in rivalry spots as it relates to 2023.
I have a hunch that Sunday’s game should help renew your trust in this as a rivalry for the ages.
2. When Josh Allen is good, he’s excellent. When he’s bad, he’s awful. That’s an exaggeration — but which version of Josh Allen are we seeing this season?
That depends on how you’re digesting Bills football. If the bulk of it comes via highlight shows and through the national media, you’re probably more familiar with his negative plays. If you’re the sort of football fan who can (and does) enjoy tuning in to see the Bills play, then you’ve possibly formed a much different narrative than many talking heads want you to believe. The worst-kept secret about Allen, of course, deals with the turnovers tied to his name.
Consider the clip below:
Mike Greenberg begins by stating Allen’s eight-game turnover streak — and that he leads the NFL in turnovers over the last four years. But this isn’t another bit of film that is intent on bashing Josh Allen.
Lately, too many analysts go straight for that “but” (yes, I heard it, too), ignoring the stats that nearly every other quarterback would have — and currently finds themselves praised over. For those who don’t click on the embedded tweet, here are the figures Greenberg points out:
Seventeen more touchdowns than turnovers this year (behind only Dak Prescott)
Allen has a +94 turnover ratio the last four seasons (second only to Mahomes’ +97)
In those four seasons, no team has scored more points than the Bills
Only the Chiefs have a better record in the last four years
In those four seasons, Allen has 163 touchdowns
Should Allen score seven more touchdowns this season, he will become the first quarterback with at least 40 touchdowns in four consecutive seasons
No “buts” about it. Greenberg — an admitted diehard New York Jets fan — goes to great lengths to re-frame the narrative about Allen. Greenberg isn’t the only one to do so this season. On several occasions, ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky has taken part in deep dives showing how great Allen is and in what situations he’s near unbeatable. Yet, all anyone wants to hang their hat on are those turnovers. Those who really understand football knows that not all turnovers are created equal. That’s as true of Josh Allen as it is for Patrick Mahomes.
Go back and match their stats up just this season alone — I’ll grab the numbers to share here:
Josh Allen (12 games)
Passing: 295-of-433 (68.1%) for 3,214 yards, 24 touchdowns 13 interceptions
Rushing: 62 rushes for 342 yards, 9 touchdowns, 4 fumbles
Patrick Mahomes (12 games)
Passing: 301-for-444 (67.8%) for 3,127 yards, 22 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Rushing: 57 rushes for 331 yards, 3 fumbles
Four turnovers separate Mahomes and Allen — yet even in a similarly down season for Mahomes, he’s still considered an MVP candidate while Allen is a labeled a regressing player.
To my way of thinking, the NFL has seen the Josh Allen from the last few seasons. Then why such a divided, often negative-heavy narrative? The Bills have been in more national games, and in several of those games Allen hasn’t played his best game, so all people recall are the turnover-heavy spotlight games. That’s, of course, isn’t dismissing his performances — but it does say that too many don’t pay attention to Allen unless he plays in primetime.
Another thing that would take far too many words to fully explain: the clear issues that plagued the Bills’ offense earlier this season under previous offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. He, of course, put up stats — but he just didn’t have the same moxie that’s become synonymous with Allen on the gridiron.
3. With the Chiefs missing Isiah Pacheco, what defensive game plan will the Bills adopt?
Whether they modify their game plan is perhaps the question. I remarked to myself how odd it was that with Pacheco going down, it was a concern that a former first-round pick would now be forced into more work. For sure, draft status doesn’t equate greatness — but it’s not as if Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a terrible option at a position where production is often easily replaced. I suspect they proceed similarly — even if Andy Reid alters his game plan. Reid’s going to test the yards per carry Buffalo gives up.
Apart from the running game, you have to believe the Bills will try to take tight end Travis Kelce out of the picture as often as possible. He’s impossible to negate entirely — but with the issues plaguing Kansas City’s other pass-catchers, I’d predict they’ll pay less attention until the boundary and slot roles prove reliably dangerous. I’d argue that Rashee Rice could be the Chiefs’ X-factor this week.
4. How will the Bills attack the Chiefs’ defense?
Obviously, I can’t be sure. If we’re to take the last two games they’ve played under interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady, then expect a more balanced attack with a diverse overall route tree and target share for Allen’s receiving options. However, given Kansas City’s injury issues in the middle of its defense, I’d be shocked if they don’t intend to feature rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid early and often — and late with an aggressive attack should points be at a premium. While the Chiefs’ defense has played fantastic this season, the Bills’ offensive line has held up well against other formidable defensive units this season — namely those Jets, Washington Commanders before they had a fire sale, Philadelphia Eagles, and I’d even include the Jacksonville Jaguars. Where Buffalo has found the most struggle has been against 3-4 alignments — especially units that employ uber-athletic linebackers who thrive on a “see ball, get ball” mindset.
5. Do you have a DraftKings Sportsbook prop bet that you like? And how do you see this game playing out?
I keep coming back to the run game, and the potential for the Bills to attack that perceived weakness of the Chiefs’ defense. In the last seven weeks, running back James Cook has rushed for more than 54 yards five times — so James Cook over on 53.5 rushing yards (+135). With how explosive a runner Cook is, he could surpass this total in one or two carries at any point on Sunday.
While the run game seems to be the way to attack Kansas City’s defense, I don’t believe that Buffalo will stray too far from what’s made them such a successful team with Josh Allen. I’d expect Allen to throw early and often — and to involve a wide array of receivers not named Stefon Diggs. Teams want to take Diggs away, and that’s understandable. But doing so lately has left Dalton Kincaid, Khalil Shakir, Gabe Davis (and even Cook) open for big gains in key moments. The Bills have their back firmly against the wall as a 6-6 team, clearly better than their record, but finding their way through a difficult season. Add in the off-field issues dominating the team’s media coverage right now (Von Miller’s arrest and and unflattering 25,000-word three-part exposé on head coach Sean McDermott) and I think the Bills leave Arrowhead 7-6. Why? Determination — and having seen the Buffalo Bills play their best football when the chips are down. Their season is on the line this weekend.