When the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills, KC will be a different team than the team that lost a close 20-17 game in the Week 14 regular season matchup. In that game, the Chiefs came into the game slightly beat up, while the Buffalo Bills came out of their Week 13 bye fully armed with their offensive and defensive weapons.
Going into the Divisional Round, the Chiefs will have the full complement of weapons on offense and all the star power on the defensive side to make a strong stand against the hot Buffalo Bills.
Let's look at the players the Chiefs can expect to have on the field who were not on the field in the first meeting.
Pacheco missed the week 14 game with a shoulder injury forcing him to miss some time. The Chiefs offense looked clunky, and out of sync when Pacheco was not on the field, despite the efforts of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Jerick McKinnon who is not scheduled to return this season.
Pacheco's presence on the Chiefs offense is possibly the most important player not named Patrick Mahomes. Pacheco is on the field; he runs with a fury and a passion that few have seen from a Chiefs running back. His big-play ability and the ability to gain the "tough" yards make his availability for this game huge. Pacheco has had a great year rushing for 935 yards and seven touchdowns but also catching 44 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
When the Chiefs signed the former Los Angeles Charger Drue Tranquill in the offseason, few could fathom the impact he would make on the Chiefs' defense in 2023. Tranquill was a back-up for the early part of the season, but whenever he was on the field, it was obvious he was more valuable than that. Once linebacker Nick Bolton went on IR, Tranquill was thrust into the lineup and flourished.
Since his return, and Nick Bolton has returned to his high level of play, Tranquill has been a force in the middle of the field, making him an invaluable part of this team going forward. In fact, many Chiefs fans would love to see Tranquill re-signed for 2024. So far this year, Tranquill has 79 tackles and 4.5 sacks on the season. His presence in the backfield will be one to watch this week.
Donovan Smith's availability is significant for the Kansas City Chiefs this week.
Earlier this year, he was replaced in the starting line-up by rookie tackle Wanya Morris after suffering a neck injury. His availability is critical to ensure the offensive line can have some depth heading deeper into the postseason. Morris has been out himself but may return after missing last week's game with a concussion. However, having Donovan Taylor's playoff experience—including a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—could prove critical to the Chiefs' success.
Final Injury Outlook
When it comes to current injuries, the Chiefs are looking healthier although defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi will miss this game. Also, the Chiefs have announced that Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore are also out but some of that was to be expected. The good news is that L'Jarius Sneed is healthy and will play.
As for question marks for Kansas City, keep an eye on pass rusher Charles Omenihu, who came down with an illness, and Wille Gay Jr., who is dealing with a neck injury. Both were late additions to the injury report and are designated as questionable.
For the Buffalo Bills, wide receiver Gabe Davis and safety Taylor Rapp are both designated as out. Davis has been a thorn in the side of the Chiefs' defense the last couple of times these two teams have met, and if he's not in the lineup, it should make stopping the passing attack of Josh Allen and the Bills easier.
The Bills defense is also very beat up, and appears to be limping into the critical Divisional Round matchup. The Bills are already thin at the linebacker and cornerback positions, yet Christian Benford is already out linebacker Terrel Benard has been termed as questionable. With the Bills' defense thin at multiple positions, the Chiefs' offense should be able to take advantage and have a big day on offense.
Overall, the Chiefs are coming into this game with many players who were missed in the Week 14 matchup, and the Buffalo Bills are hurting at multiple positions on both sides of the ball. These injuries will play a large role in who will move on to the AFC Championship game and whose season will end.