3TFO: Chiefs @ Bills, Week 9
Having played their past three games at home, the Chiefs are looking to stay undefeated and go into their bye with a win in Buffalo. The Bills are coming off a tough road loss in New Orleans and clearly have another tough task this week, though they’ll have to be up to the challenge in order to stay in the AFC East race.
Kansas City has relied heavily on their defense — and in this game they’ll certainly have the advantage, facing either a hobbled Thad Lewis or Jeff Tuel (or possibly even Matt Flynn). On offense, they haven’t had quite the same success and are facing a solid Bills defense, so this game should be more competitive than the team’s records would indicate.
Here are some matchups to keep an eye on.
Bills Rushing Offense vs Chiefs Run D
With uncertainty at quarterback this week, and against a dynamic pass rush, the Bills will likely opt for a run-heavy offensive game plan. And unlike facing the Saints a week ago, they won’t have to keep up with a high powered offense, which should enable them to stick to their game plan better. At running back, CJ Spiller has been limited in two days of practice this week, while Fred Jackson practiced fully on Thursday. So far Jackon’s been the better of the two with a 4.2 YPC average, 2.54 of that coming after contact. With 12 missed tackles as well, he ranks sixth in our Elusive Rating. Run blocking has been an issue, though, as evidenced by Jackson’s average yards after contact. Only one of Buffalo’s starters on the offensive line — LT Cordy Glenn — has graded positively in run blocking, though 22 other tackles have done better than his +1.4 in that area.
Kansas City’s allowed 4.7 YPC rushing this season, a figure that’s in the bottom third of the league. However, they’ve graded extremely well in run defense, especially up front with Mike Devito, Dontari Poe, and Tyson Jackson. In fact when those three are on the field in the team’s base 3-4, the team allows just 3.1 yards per carry. However, it’s when the Chiefs have been going to their sub-packages that they’re getting gashed, surrendering over 6 yards per carry in nickel and dime. This will be interesting to watch considering the Bills utilize 11-personnel 61.8% of the time, well above the league average.
Eric Fisher vs Mario Williams
When the Chiefs are on offense, Buffalo will be looking to exploit a matchup on the right side of the offensive line, where rookie Eric Fisher will attempt to block Mario Williams. It’s safe to say that the first pick in the draft has struggled adjusting to the NFL, coming from a smaller college and playing right tackle. Fisher’s comes in as our third-lowest graded tackle at -17.9 having surrendered 27 QB disruptions, with 16 of those coming in the last three games. He’ll have his hands full with Williams, whose 12 sacks are more than any other defender (PFF doesn’t award half sacks), though he’s been mediocre in run defense, so he likely won’t be able to exploit Fisher’s struggles there to the same extent.
Williams spends more than 30% of his snaps on the defensive right side, so Fisher won’t see him exclusively, but when he does the rookie will have to watch out for an array of pass rush moves — 14 of Mario’s pressures have come to the outside, 10 to the inside, and seven via bull rush, with the remaining of the unblocked or cleanup variety. Conversely, Fisher’s distribution of pressure allowed has been roughly league average with 50% coming to the outside. Another interesting note to be aware of — Williams spends slightly more snaps with his hand on the ground, but has gotten pressure at a higher rate when rushing from two-point stance.
Chiefs Passing Game
When Alex Smith holds on to the ball for longer than 2.6 seconds in the pocket, his completion rate drops from 67.1 to 50%, and his passer rating faces a similar decrease from 94.7 to 67.7. Therefore, the Bills will be trying to disrupt the routes of the Chiefs WRs and cover them early, forcing Smith to stay in the pocket and likewise give their talented pass rush more time get there. In the flat, Buffalo will have to contend with one of the league’s best receivers out of the backfield in Jamaal Charles, who’s accounted for roughly 22% of Smith’s targets through eight games. Buffalo may have an adequate match for Charles in Kiko Alonso. Last week Alonso had his worst performance in coverage, statistically, having allowed six catches and a 141.0 passer rating, though few players have done better against Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. Even so, Alonso has graded at +5.0 in coverage, one of the best marks at the position and good for second on the Bills’ defense. The team could also get their highest-graded pass defender back in Manny Lawson, who’s held opposing players to just 2.4 yards per reception.
On the outside, the Bills have gotten a boost from the return of Stephon Gilmore, who saw his snap count increase from 36 in Week 7 to 60 last week, and he responded by not allowing a single reception. Though he plays mostly at RCB (60%), Gilmore should see a fair amount of Dwayne Bowe, who’s behind Charles at 44 targets. Smith favors Bowe on hitches and in-breaking routes, and generally stays short throwing to all of his receivers — only 5.6% of Smith’s targets have travelled over 20 yards in the air, the lowest rate in the league.