In a couple days the Kansas City Chiefs leave for Buffalo, NY to square off against the Bills in the Chiefs’ first road game of the regular season. Tensions are high for both teams as both suffered crushing defeats in their first games of the season. Of course, Eric Berry also has a bone to pick with Stevie Johnson, but if Stevie’s smart, he may just get “injured” before the game even starts and avoid the abuse every KC defender is likely to inflict on him.
Continuing the Know Your Enemy series, let’s take a look at this weekend’s opposition:
The Buffalo Bills’ offense is led by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is the type of QB that when he’s on he’s on, but when he’s off he’s really off. Last year, the Bills started off strong and some started to think that they could be the real deal; this started with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s early on. Unfortunately for Bills fans, that also ended with Fitzpatrick when the Bills followed up this hopeful beginning with a massive losing streak. Fitzpatrick wound up throwing 20 INTs over the last 13 games of the 2011 season. That trend appears to have continued. Fitzpatrick threw 3 INTs to the Jets last week; one of which was a pick six. This is also the fourth game in Fitzpatrick’s last nine starts in which he threw 3+ INTs. Mind you, Fitzpatrick also threw for 3 TDs on Sunday, but two of those came midway through the 4th quarter when the Jets were leading 41-14, and have been considered by many Buffalo news outlets to be junk TDs.
As far as receiving threats go, Stevie Johnson shouldn’t be underestimated and Donald Jones does well enough, but neither of these players come close to being more formidable than Julio Jones and Roddy White. Likewise Bills TE Scott Chandler is no Tony Gonzalez. Add to the mix WR3 David Nelson suffering an ACL injury in Sunday’s game that has him out for the season, and the subsequent replacement of him by rookie T.J. Graham whom the Bills’ coaches acknowledge is behind in learning the pro game, and the Chiefs are looking to have an easier time with pass defense this weekend.
Onto the running game, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news (at least for us) is that Fred Jackson will be out for a knee injury that he incurred during the Bills loss to the Jets. The bad news? Jackson’s back-up C.J. Spiller is no slouch. Though listed as No. 2 on the depth chart, Spiller prides himself in preparing for games as though he were the No. 1 guy, and he looks like he could be a No. 1 RB in the NFL even without injuries elevating him to that position. Following Jackson’s injury in Sunday’s game, Spiller managed to finish the day with 14 carries, 169 yards and 1 TD. To spare you doing the math, that’s an average of over 12 yds/carry. This average is as large as it is due to two large breaks of 56 yards and 49 yards, the 56 yarder being his TD carry. Even factoring out those big gains, though, Spiller still averaged over 5 yards per carry. I won’t go so far as to say Spiller is a better back than Michael Turner (there has to be more frequent and consistent success before that could ever be said), but the Chiefs’ defense will have to be wary of Spiller’s presence on the field and prevent any big breakaways Spiller is hoping to repeat this week.
One last note on Buffalo’s offense: you may or may not have heard of/remember Brad Smith. Drafted out of Missouri in the fourth round of the 2006 Draft by the Jets, the Bills retained his services last year in hopes of utilizing his unique athleticism. Listed as a QB/WR, the Bills intend to utilize Smith in the capacity of a Wildcat QB. Last year’s shortened offseason saw the Bills not quite being able to get this new look off the ground last season; however, with Smith getting in a full offseason this year, the coaching staff will be looking to integrate the Wildcat package all the more into their offensive attack this season. It doesn’t hurt that the Bills hired David Lee to be their QBs coach this season. For those of you who don’t know, Sporting News named Lee “Innovator of the Year” in 2008 for introducing the Wildcat offense to the pro game during his time as OC for the Dolphins. If the Chiefs look to be doing a sound job of neutralizing Spiller and frustrating Fitzpatrick, don’t be surprised to see some Wildcat added to the mix.
Have you heard that the Buffalo Bills signed Mario Williams? Of course you have. Have you heard that Mario Williams did next to nothing against the Jets? Perhaps not, but it is true. Mario Williams walked away from Sunday’s game recording only one tackle, and not so much as one QB pressure. He’s still the $100 million dollar man on what could be the best defensive line in the NFL, but he didn’t come close to showing why he garnered such a contract and why the Bills’ DL is speculated to be among the best against the Jets. So the good news is that Mario Williams can be neutralized altogether, with the less-than-good news being that he’ll probably have a pretty big chip on his shoulder following Sunday’s game. Though the Bills did not register a single sack in their game against the Jets, the Chiefs OL has shown growing pains in gelling as a unit and allowed the Falcons to register three. In addition to Mario Williams, the Bills DL consists of Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mark Anderson. Though it may be possible for the Chiefs OL to duplicate the output of the Jets’ generally less talented OL, it will be a hard fought battle to keep these four guys from putting the pressure on Cassel.
Buffalo’s linebacking corps isn’t incredibly noteworthy, but I would be doing him a disservice to not mention OLB Nick Barnett, the Bills greatest threat at the LB position. Prior to getting signed by the Bills last season, Barnett was drafted by, and played eight seasons for, the Green Bay Packers and was even selected by the Associated Press as a second team All-Pro in 2007. Though 31 and a few years removed from national recognition, has consistently registered 100+ tackles per season over his 10 years of experience (save for 2 years, 2008 & 2010, in which he was injured for a significant amount of games).
The Bills’ secondary may be Cassel’s bread and butter. Starting CBs Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams are both young guys, and though both players were taken early in their respective drafts (Gilmore 10th overall this year, and Williams 34th overall last year) and should develop into excellent cornerbacks in time, the key phrase there is “in time”. Both players’ performances over the preseason and during the first regular season game have caused some concern among the Bills’ coaching staff. The main problem against the Jets is that they were allowing their receivers to run too wide and open. I’m sure Chan Gailey has been and will be stressing this issue during this week’s practice in preparation for the Chiefs, but I’m equally sure that the youth of these players may very well cause them to go to the other extreme and incur quite a few pass interference calls in this weekend’s game. Were we playing Buffalo later in the season, these players might be greater cause for concern, but for now Kansas City should be able to exploit some good matchups.
The Bills are one of those teams that have decided to carry three kicking specialists: a FG kicker, a place kicker, and a punter. Rookie placekicker John Potter has gotten much praise for his work up ‘til now as he has consistently sent his kickoffs through the back of the endzone; Punter Brian Moorman has been consistently good over the years at placing his punts inside the 20; and PR Leodis McKelvin is not a bad guy to have averaging 10 yards per punt return. The Bills punt coverage team does leave much to be desired though, and allowed the Jets to return a punt 68 yards for a TD early in the second quarter.
Overall, can’t say I’m too terribly concerned about Sunday’s matchup. The Bills look to be a much easier team to exploit and defeat than the Falcons proved to be. One thing to note about Fitzpatrick’s performance against the Jets is that he performed that poorly without New York registering any sacks; with Tamba back and Houston hungry, Fitzpatrick would be a fool to think he could get so lucky a second week in a row. Given the efficiency Cassel displayed in the first half of the Falcons game, I’m one Brandon Flowers away from calling this game a definite lock.
Potential, major momentum shifts caused by Chiefs’ D: 1) Rattle Fitzpatrick early and let the interceptions spring forth; 2) Make Spiller eat turf early and often
Potential, major momentum shifts caused by Chiefs’ O: 1) Neutralize Mario Williams early and let him throw another hissy fit; 2) Play physical enough to goad the young CBs to commit pass interference until they start playing as open as they did last week
Potential, major momentum shifts caused by Chiefs ST: 1) Break open a big PR or KR, even if it can’t be returned for a TD, giving up a huge chunk of yardage should spur PTSD in some of the coverage teams’ personnel
That’s my outlook on the Chiefs’ opponent for the upcoming weekend. If there’s something I missed, you know what to do.