The Bills are back from their bye with a tough road ahead. First up is a big game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Here are six storylines to know for Sunday's game at Arrowhead.
1. An important game with playoff implications between two teams with history
The Bills are sitting at 6-6 as they head into Week 14, which means stacking wins the rest of the way is super important in order to have a chance at the postseason. All of Buffalo's remaining games are also against the AFC except for one. The Bills are 3-5 against the conference so far this season and adding a few more wins to that record could be big when it comes to the playoff standings.
"I think there's a lot of hope for the Bills if they're able to win four games here down the stretch and get to 10 wins," Bills legend and current radio analyst Eric Wood told One Bills Live. "Maybe some of the other teams that are in contention or even sitting in the Wild Card spots right now will trickle out of the picture."
Right now, the Bills are second in the AFC East and 11th in conference standings. The Chiefs are first in the AFC West and third in the conference. With a win, the Bills would increase their playoff chances and possibly move up in the conference rankings depending on what happens to the teams ranked above them. Here's how the AFC standings look ahead of Week 14.
- Miami Dolphins (9-3)
- Baltimore Ravens (9-3)
- Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
- Cleveland Browns (7-5)
- Indianapolis Colts (7-5)
- Houston Texans (7-5)
- Denver Broncos (6-6)
- Cincinnati Bengals (6-6)
- Buffalo Bills (6-6)
The Chiefs are not only just a team ahead of the Bills in the rankings. They're the team who won the Super Bowl last season and a team who the Bills have plenty of history with. Their last two meetings have come down to a difference of six points or less, and they've traded wins and losses in the last four matchups between each other. Buffalo has beat Kansas City in their last two meetings during the regular season but haven't beaten the Chiefs yet in the playoffs under Sean McDermott.
We all know how much of a roller coaster games can be against the Chiefs as the last two have come down to the final minute or play. When the Bills played the Chiefs in Week 6 of last season, Buffalo had a game-winning touchdown reception by tight end Dawson Knox that came with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter. And the game before that was one that doesn't need much reminding—13 seconds. We will see if this one goes down to the final whistle.
2. Can the Bills stay perfect off a bye under McDermott?
Buffalo is currently 6-0 coming off the bye week in the Sean McDermott era with a chance to move to 7-0 with a win over the Chiefs.
Last year, the Bills beat the Packers 27-17 after their bye in Week 8. This will be the first time Buffalo faces the Chiefs coming off a bye under McDermott. Buffalo has also gone into a bye coming off a loss three times and followed it up with a win under their HC.
"I think it gives you a chance to reset more than anything," McDermott said of the bye. "We've been able to do that effectively here over the course of our career here in Buffalo and I expect the same going forward. Some of the adjustments we need to make and the gaps we have to close were some of the things we were focusing in on so that we can close that gap, whether it be the turnovers or closing out games. I think those are important, things that we continue to find answers to over the bye week here."
ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky thinks we could see some change within the team as Buffalo takes the field on Sunday afternoon.
"I do think that there could be a pretty significant philosophical overhaul," Orlovsky said on One Bills Live. "I do believe that you could get together and say what have we figured out in the last three or four weeks that we can really major in and what have we figured out in the last three or four weeks that we got to try to stay away from so we don't beat ourselves as much as we have in the past 12 games."
McDermott can also reach another impressive milestone with a victory over the Chiefs. Buffalo's HC needs one more win to become the second-winningest head coach in Bills history. With 69 wins, McDermott would pass Lou Saban (68) and be behind Marv Levy (112).
3. Two of the best QBs on a big stage
In Week 12, we got to see Josh Allen go up against Jalen Hurts. This week we get to see Allen and Patrick Mahomes on the same stage. They are two of the league's best quarterbacks who succeed at things that few are capable of in today's NFL.
Since 2018 the two rank No. 1 and 2 in total touchdowns and red zone touchdowns. Allen has 257 total touchdowns (1st) and 155 red zone touchdowns (2nd) during that span. Mahomes has racked up 238 total touchdowns (2nd) and 160 of those have come in the red zone (1st).
At this point in the season, the two have very similar numbers. Allen has completed 295 of 433 pass attempts for 3,214 passing yards (6th) and has a 68.1% completion percentage (6th). Mahomes has completed 301 of 444 pass attempts for 3,127 passing yards (8th) and has a 67.8% completion percentage (8th). Allen has 24 passing touchdowns (t-2nd), Mahomes has 22 (t-5th). Allen has 13 interceptions (2nd most), while Mahomes has 10 (4th most). And, they both have 35 completions of 20 or more yards (t-14th).
When they've played against each other in the past, the two have usually put up impressive numbers. We will see if that continues come Sunday.
In their last two meetings, the pair have combined for 13 total touchdowns and 1,374 passing yards. In their last regular season matchup, Allen threw for 329 passing yards, three touchdowns and picked up a 117.6 passer rating. Mahomes threw for 338, two touchdowns and had an 85.2 rating. In their last playoff matchup, Allen threw for 329 again, had four passing touchdowns and a 136 passer rating. Mahomes finished that game with 378 passing yards, four total touchdowns and a 123.1 rating.
4. Bills defense ready to prove they can close out a game
Buffalo's defense wants to prove they can be on the field to close out a game and pick up a victory. They've done it before but unfortunately couldn't seal the deal against the Eagles in overtime and suffered a tough three-point loss in Week 12.
Assistant head coach and defensive line coach Eric Washington said a week off will give them a chance to reflect and improve.
"This is a great opportunity for self-reflection," Washington said of the late bye. "That's a comprehensive look at everything that's happened, that's occurred to really assess the things that have been extremely positive, some of the things we need to be more consistent with, as far as our fundamentals, technique, situational awareness, and to make sure the guys understand that we have been an outstanding defense at times. What we want to do is make sure we replicate that more. And that we shore up our fundamentals."
While the Bills' have been down several starters at various points this season, they still rank among the league's best. They're allowing an average of 18.9 points per game (5th), 203.3 passing yards per game (8th), have 21 takeaways (tied for 2nd) and have 41 sacks (t-3rd).
The Bills' D will be going up against a KC offense that has eight wins and ranks high in several categories. The Chiefs are averaging 22.92 points per game (t-11th), 362.6 total yards per game (8th), 252.7 passing yards per game (8th), converting third downs 47% of the time (4th) and scoring touchdowns in the red zone 55.6% of the time (13th).
One thing this game could come down to is the turnover battle. Both the Chiefs and Bills are turning the ball over at a high rate—Kansas City and Buffalo each have 20 turnovers (t-4thmost). But the Bills are also taking the ball away at a higher rate than the Chiefs. Buffalo has 21 takeaways (t-2nd) and a +1 turnover differential (t-14th). Kansas City has 14 takeaways (t-23rd) and a -6 turnover differential (26th).
5. The winning formula to beating KC's offense
Kansas City's offense looks different this season. Scoring league-wide is down this year but the Chiefs are averaging 6.26 points less per game than they did in 2022. They tie for 11th right now as they're averaging 22.92 points per game.
"The difference is this, years ago you had to score 30 to beat Kansas City, that's no longer the case," ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky told One Bills Live. "And really, Patrick (Mahomes) has to play an unbelievable game it feels like for them to score 21 to 24, and that is just a massive ask…when it comes down to the Chiefs offense there are two things really, you can play man coverage against this team. You could not in the past. And you can get after this offensive line, ever since that Super Bowl you could not. So, if you're edge players on defense play well, if the rush guys play well, you're going to have pressure on Patrick."
Buffalo has been one of the best at pressuring the quarterback so far this season as they have 41 sacks (t-3rd) and 80 quarterback hits (5th). They also have three players with at least six sacks so far this season.
"If you're gunna ask, 'Hey what are the three things you've gotta do as a football team to beat Kansas City?' I would say if not one then two, those edge guys gotta dominate the game, and they can," Orlovsky said. "(Kansas City) is not a good tackle unit, it's just not. It's who they are. There's penalties and the pass protection is an issue…a big part of the reason if they win this week will be that rush unit."
Kansas City doesn't have any wide receivers that rank within the top 10 this year in terms of receiving yards or touchdowns but they do have a tight end and running back that rank high in those categories. Even though the offense isn't as explosive, the Bills will still need a plan to shut down tight end Travis Kelce and running back Isiah Pacheco.
Kelce leads all tight ends with 813 receiving yards and is tied for second among tight ends with five touchdown receptions. Pacheco has 779 rushing yards, which is the fifth most in the league and has six rushing touchdowns (t-9th among RB).
6. Could injuries in KC affect Week 14?
Kansas City suffered a few injuries during their game against the Packers in Week 13, so this will be something to monitor this week as the Chiefs get ready for Sunday.
Starting left tackle Donovan Smith suffered a shoulder injury and was questionable to return but ended up finishing the game. Starting linebacker Drue Tranquill left the game in the first quarter and was ruled out with a concussion. Also, starting safety Bryan Cook was carted off the field and did not return with an ankle injury.
"He's had work done on that ankle before and so that's kind of what they're going through right now before anything's put out there," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said on Monday. "I don't want to give you anything either way on that because I don't know."
Running back Jerick McKinnon missed Week 13 with a groin injury. Linebacker Nick Bolton also missed the last week's game even though his window to return from Injured Reserve was opened last week. Bolton suffered a wrist injury against the Chargers in Week 7 and has not played since.
"He practiced last week, and I know he's chomping at the bit to get back in there and play," Reid told reporters on Monday. "So, we'll see how it goes for this week. He will be a week better, though."