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Weekend Look Ahead

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5 things to watch for in Bills at Chiefs | Week 14


1. Elite company

Everyone knows who the headliners are anytime the Bills and Chiefs square off, and it will be no different Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium when Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes take the field for their respective teams. The matchup between the two elite quarterbacks will be the sixth time since 1970 that the top two all-time leaders in offensive touchdowns per game face one another.

Mahomes averages 2.5 touchdowns per game, while Allen averages 2.4, which is the most in NFL history for quarterback with at least 60 games played. It should be noted that the quarterback that is second highest in touchdowns per game has won the last four such matchups, including Buffalo's 24-20 victory in Week 5 last season.

The mutual respect between the two quarterbacks is well known, which Allen reiterated this week.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks at the position, really to ever play the game already at such a young age for him and he's already accomplished so much in his career," Allen said of Mahomes. "I can't help but respect a guy like that and he's an even better person off the field."

Allen (117) and Mahomes (106) are the only two players with 100 or more total touchdowns since 2021 and are also the only two quarterbacks to average more than 300 yards per game over that span with Mahomes averaging 310.6 and Allen 306.

2. Crunch time

With the Bills currently sitting at 6-6 on the season and 11th in the AFC conference race, the players know all too well what they'll need to accomplish over their final five regular season games if they want a shot at the postseason.

"We understand what's in front of us and what situation we're in," said Allen. "But we've got a lot of guys in this locker room that are very excited to be back and have a very good feeling in this locker room right now for what we need to do.

"You take it one game at a time, but you rely on the leaders on this team. You rely on Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. You rely on Mitch Morse and Stefon Diggs and guys that have been in these situations before. It's nothing that's super new to us. Obviously, we don't want to be in situations like this all the time. But we feel like we've been in this situation before and that's produced a lot of our best football so, we've still got a lot of games left, a lot of time left, but it starts on Sunday."

Both the Bills and Chiefs will be looking to bounce back from losses in their last outings. Buffalo's last defeat came two weeks ago in overtime at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. Kansas City fell on the road at Green Bay this past Sunday night.

Each of these clubs have been very good at not allowing a single loss to snowball. Since 2018, the Chiefs hold the best record in the league coming off a loss at 17-3 (.850). Buffalo holds the second-best winning percentage over that span thanks to a 22-10 record (.688).

3. Run game surge

The Bills offense is back to its high-scoring ways the past couple of weeks under new offensive coordinator, Joe Brady. And while it's certainly encouraging to see the team averaging 33 points per game over their first two outings with Brady calling the offensive plays, there is another area of the offensive production that has seen a sharp spike of late.

Over the last three games, the Bills have averaged 165 yards per game on the ground. Their 495 rushing yards from Weeks 10 through 12 ranks second most in the league behind only Pittsburgh during that stretch.

Buffalo also leads the league during the span in rushing first downs and stands third in rushing third down conversions. ESPN NFL analyst, Dan Orlovsky, in his weekly appearance on ‘One Bills Live’ believes part of the production does stem from Josh Allen's greater willingness to run of late, but feels there's more to it than that.

"Part of it is embracing the Josh movement stuff, and embracing the plus plays that he has created over the past couple of weeks and encouraging that more out of him," said Orlovsky. "Now it's not every single time on third down, get out of there, but that has been a plus play for them. I've said this for weeks now. (James) Cook is a really good player. I think really leaning into running the football with him has been a big deal. I think they've called more runs. If you go back to last year, and for most of this year, a lot of their run game wasn't necessarily called runs. It was the RPO."

Orlovsky believes calling more straight run plays has invigorated the men on Buffalo's offensive line.

"It's a confidence thing. When you call runs, sometimes the look isn't perfect. And the coaching objective is, 'Guys, you got to move them off the ball,'" said Orlovsky. "And offensive linemen I feel take that to heart. It's a challenge to those guys. They've called more runs. We call them CIRIs. C-I-R-I, call it and run it. And I think that's been a beneficial like attitude thing for their offensive line and I think it's something that they need to continue to push."

James Cook leads Buffalo with 731 rushing yards and 1,039 total yards from scrimmage, which is fourth most in the league among running backs. Cook has six games with 100 or more scrimmage yards, including each of the last three games.

4. A different Chiefs team

The strength of the Kansas City Chiefs has switched sides of the ball. No longer are they the offensive juggernaut that would simply outscore teams for victories. Now the Chiefs' defense is their strength. They stand third in the league in points allowed allowing just over 17 points per game (17.3), which is the fewest allowed by an Andy Reid coached team since his 2004 Eagles squad (16.3 ppg).

"Their defense is absolutely the strength of this team and keeping them in games," said Bleav in Chiefs podcast host and former Chiefs offensive lineman, Joe Valerio on the ‘Bills by the Numbers’ podcast this week.

Not only is Kansas City's defense holding the Chiefs in games, but they're also taking a very aggressive approach under coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo.

"This is a defense that wants to play man coverage. They're good at it. They get up in your face at the line of scrimmage," said Orlovsky. "They want to beat you up. All 11, not just your offensive line. They want to beat your wide receivers up at the line of scrimmage. They're going commit numbers pressure-wise and they're going to stop the run. And then they're going to play man and they're going to give you all kinds of crazy pressures. And so, the willingness to do that is a little bit different and the capability is a little bit different."

Kansas City could be a bit shorthanded on defense at middle linebacker with starting MLB Drue Tranquill in concussion protocol. Meanwhile original starting MLB Nick Bolton, who has been on injured reserve after wrist surgery, began practicing last week and has a chance to come off injured reserve. At safety, starter Bryan Cook is nursing an ankle injury suffered last Sunday. Neither Cook nor Tranquill were able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday this week.

The Chiefs offense has seen their point production drop noticeably this season. Kansas City is averaging its lowest point total (22.9 ppg) in the Mahomes era (since 2018). It's partly due to drops by receiving targets as Kansas City leads the league in drops with 21 through their first 12 games.

Mahomes has scored two or fewer total touchdowns in each of his last five games and is averaging the fewest passing yards per game and has the lowest passer rating of his career.

"The offense has a lot under the hood, and I think (offensive coordinator) Matt Nagy and Andy Reid are just trying to figure out the chemistry," Valerio said. "This is a wide receiving corps that's a 'B' to 'B'-plus receiving corps. So, they're trying to figure out how to best use this receiving corps and mix in a running game that's had a little surge with Isiah Pacheco. You put all that together and you think it would be a great thing to have the running game going but they've always been an offense it didn't really rely on that. And they just haven't found that number one receiver to start drawing coverage. They're an undefined offense right now."

5. Dominant in December

Over the last three seasons the Bills have been a dominant team when it comes to the final months of the regular season. Since 2020 in December and January, Buffalo has compiled a league best won-loss record of 14-2, including a 5-0 mark in 2022.

Josh Allen has been extraordinarily productive late in the regular season as well with a league leading 45 total touchdowns in December and January since 2020.

"I think obviously, we've got a lot of trust in this locker room," said Allen of the upcoming stretch run. "Lot of confidence in each other and that's what it's going to take going forward. We're going to have to believe it to do it and this is a team that I feel like believes it. So now we've got to go out there this week with the product on the field and take it one game at a time because we can't win them all this week. We can only win one this week. And that's going to be our focus going from here on out. It's essentially playoff time for us, we understand that so we're going to play our best ball."

Scroll to see photos from the Buffalo Bills Week 14 practice as the team prepares to take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

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