When: Sunday, Nov. 3
Time: Noon, CT
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY
TV Broadcast: CBS (12:00 PM CT): Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf– commentators. NFL Red Zone; DirecTV – 704.
Radio Broadcast: Over 60 radio stations on the Chiefs Radio Network; Mitch Holthus, Len Dawson, Kendall Gammon, commentators. Chiefs Spanish Radio: La Gran D (1340 AM); Play-by-Play: Enrique Morales, Color Commentator: Oscar Monterroso, Sideline Reporter: Ricardo Soto.
SIRIUS: 112 (KC), 91 (Buf.). XM: 228 (Buf.).
For the first time in a month, the Kansas City Chiefs had to board an airplane to travel to a game and they hope the good karma they built up in the first half of an undefeated season fits into the carry-on luggage racks when they take on the Buffalo Bills this Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
And, for the umpteenth time this season, the opposing team will be starting a quarterback that was not their starter when the season opened eight weeks ago.
Due to injuries, Buffalo might be starting free agent pick-up Matt Flynn, who wasn’t even on the roster three weeks ago. Or, it might be undrafted rookie free agent, Jeff Tuel. The Bills are actually hoping that they will have second-year QB Thad Lewis back from the sore ribs he received in a 35-17 pummeling by the New Orleans Saints last week. Lewis has not practiced all week and considering HE just took the starting job over three games ago, it does not bode well for him playing.
In other words, no matter who plays, the Bills won’t exactly have Hall of Famer Jim Kelly behind center when the ball is kicked off Sunday afternoon.
In addition, all three of Buffalo’s skill position stars – running backs C.J. Spiller (ankle sprain) and Fred Jackson (knee), and wide receiver Stevie “Cheap Shot” Johnson (hip flexor) – are all nursing their own injuries too. All three participated in practice on Friday and are expected to play, but Spiller’s ankle sprain could limit his ability to cut on a dime and outrun the defense.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Buffalo’s defensive front seven are pretty healthy and pretty ferocious this season, as they are second in the NFL in sacks (27) to the Chiefs (36). Like the Chiefs, they have one of the league leaders in sacks in defensive end, Mario Williams. Unlike the Chiefs, Buffalo has holes behind that line that can be exploited.
(Apologies to anyone upset with my “Cheap Shot” reference to Stevie Johnson, but as a Chiefs fan, I will not forget the completely unnecessary cheap shot he gave Eric Berry three seasons ago that ended Berry’s season.)
Buffalo is a sexy pick this week to hand Kansas City its first loss and considering the long history between the two teams – and the less-than-stellar recent history of ineptitude by the Chiefs – it won’t be a total shock if the Bills pull off the upset.
Here are three things Chiefs fans should be watching for during Sunday’s game if the Chiefs are going to improve to 9-0:
Alex Smith … PLEASE take some shots downfield again: Not that the Chiefs quarterback, nor its offense, will ever be mistaken for Saints QB Drew Brees, but the New Orleans signal caller torched the Bills secondary for five touchdowns last week in the win. The Bills corners are decent most of the time, but there is no shut-down player back there. However, they are third in the NFL in interceptions. The fear here is that with playing on the road for the first time in a month might put Smith back into his check-down shell he retreats into to avoid mistakes and turnovers. Passes like the 28-yard TD pass he threw Dexter McCluster last week is a prime example of why Smith should be unafraid to throw an occasional interception if he can make plays like that. Finally, Smith should realize that Dwayne Bowe had 102 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns against Buffalo last year. Just sayin’ that he might want to get Bowe started early.
The defense keeps the intensity turned up, up, up even away from Arrowhead: No 75,000+ screaming fans will be on hand this week to help the Chiefs defenses flummox an inexperienced quarterback. The wonderful thing about having the league’s best defense is that it usually travels well. That’s why the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have been two of the best road teams of the last 20 years. Making 75,000 fans of the opposition dead quiet – or even booing the home team – is like music to a defender’s ears. Thad Lewis is an absolute turnover machine at QB and not as mobile as some of the QBs the Chiefs have faced already this season. He has thrown just two interceptions in 103 passing attempts, but has 6 fumbles as well.
Keep the Buffalo run game under 100 yards: Both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have performed well against the Chiefs in games recently. Spiller ran for 123 yards and 2 TDs in last season’s win over KC – and threw in another 47 yards receiving too. Jackson rushed for over 100 yards against the Chiefs in 2011 and has scored a touchdown in five of his last six games. If the defense forces Lewis or Tuel to win the game and not take refuge behind a successful run game, then the turnovers and sacks might start coming in bunches.
Prediction: If Buffalo hadn’t been such a pain in the butt for KC over the last few years – and Ralph Wilson Stadium in particular – I would favor the Chiefs by 10+ points this week with Lewis or Tuel at QB. There is positively NO WAY Kansas City looks past Buffalo even with a bye week and the Denver Broncos waiting over the next two weeks. I think Andy Reid and his staff keep the players focused and the Chiefs follow the same formula that has worked in their other eight wins – solid offense, blitzkrieg defense, special teams that tip the field in the Chiefs favor, and the Chiefs go on their bye week with another win.
Score: Chiefs – 20, Bills – 16.
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