The Buffalo Bills' defenders will have their minds full in preparing for the Kansas City offense this week.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is the master of misdirection. His offense is heavy on shifts, motion, bunch formations and fake-action opposite the actual direction of the play.
The idea is to make the defense play slower.
"It's a lot of deception," said Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "Trying to get your eyes going somewhere that the ball actually isn't. Get you off your keys. It's important we drill our guys to pay attention to your keys this week."
The Kansas City offense averaged 32.8 points and 414 yards in starting 5-0. The past five the Chiefs are 1-4 and are averaging 19.6 points and 328 yards.
Nevertheless, the struggling Bills defense will have its hands full Sunday against a Chiefs attack heavy on scheme and skill-position talent.
"They've been one of them most prolific offenses under Andy," Frazier said. "It's a formula that has been successful for them, and we're going to see it Sunday. It does tend to slow defenses down, which makes them seem faster than you on defense. We have to work on it. Sometimes it's hard to simulate in practice, but we've got to get it done because we can't afford to slow down at their home stadium. They are very, very good at home."
The Chiefs rank sixth in yards and seventh in points. Reid's offenses, dating to his days in Philadelphia, have ranked among the top 12 in the NFL 10 of the past 12 years.
When Reid joined up with quarterback Alex Smith in Kansas City in 2013, he started to incorporate more of the spread and read-option concepts that Smith ran in college at Utah under Urban Meyer.
"If you can spread it out and make the defense cover, it puts a lot of pressure on defensive players and it takes away from the blitz game," Reid told ESPN after last season.
The past couple years, Reid has added jet-sweep motion as a key concept in his offense. Most teams (including the Bills) do it some. But the Chiefs do it with speed-burner Tyreek Hill, which makes it more dangerous. It's another concept that has filtered to the NFL from the college ranks. LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada opened a lot of coaches' eyes to it when he was at Pitt last year.
It's critical for the defense to set the edge against the jet sweep. The jet-sweep fake can get linebackers moving their feet and shifting out of position before the snap.
New Orleans ran the fake jet sweep five times for 53 yards on the Bills, including a 25-yard gainer on a fourth-and-1 play.
In theory, teams that play a lot of zone (like Buffalo) should be a bit less susceptible to the pre-snap shifting in pass defense because defenders are not chasing motion.
Pittsburgh played a ton of zone in shutting down the Chiefs, 19-13, on Oct. 15. However, the Steelers' stout front five also dominated the line of scrimmage, holding the Chiefs to just 28 rushing yards. The Chiefs didn't do a lot of shifting in that game, with no uncertainty about man or zone coverage.
"Zone does help you," Frazier said, "but there are times when you have to play man because of the situation. Then you've just gotta be disciplined. You'd hope that in zone, you're not chasing things that are out of your zone."
The 30,000-foot view: No team does a better job paying homage to the American Football League than the Chiefs, whose late owner Lamar Hunt founded the league. The Chiefs' Hall of Honor in the main concourse at Arrowhead Stadium essentially is the AFL hall of fame. It includes interactive kiosks with videos, photos and stories dedicated to all 10 AFL teams. It's amazing, and it's a worthwhile road trip for fans who remember "The Other League." The Chiefs also have worn an AFL patch on their uniforms since 2007. My favorite video clip is from a game in 1961 between the Dallas Texans and Boston Patriots. On the final play, a Pats fan in a khaki coat sneaked into the end zone to break up a would-be touchdown pass, and the referees didn't notice it.
Game-breaker: Hill, who has 47 catches and five TDs, is one of the fastest players in the NFL. He didn't go to the NFL Scouting Combine, but he was timed at the 40 at between 4.25 and 4.29 seconds at his pro day in 2016. Bengals rookie receiver John Ross set a combine record this year at 4.22 seconds.
QB of the future: The expectation is Chiefs rookie QB Patrick Mahomes, drafted 10th overall after the trade with Buffalo, will be the starter by next season. If the Chiefs don't beat the Bills, calls for Mahomes to start immediately will get louder. All indications are Mahomes needs at least a year of development before being thrown in. He ran the simplistic, spread, Air-Raid offense at Texas Tech. Reid's offense is complex. But Mahomes' arm strength has been compared to that of John Elway. He was the only QB at the combine to clock throws of plus-60 mph. The Chiefs have not won a regular season game with a QB that they drafted since 1987 (with a win from Todd Blackledge).
Weak link: The Chiefs' third cornerback (either Phillip Gaines or Terrance Mitchell) has struggled. Can the Bills take advantage?
Not a Rex clone: Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is a disciple of Rex Ryan's but he has backed off on blitzing the past two seasons. After sending five or more rushers about 28 percent of pass plays his first two years in Kansas City. Last year the Chiefs blitzed 18.8 percent, fifth lowest, according to Football Outsiders. They're about that low this year, too. They rush three a lot more this year. It's a sign the Chiefs don't trust their secondary, which lost star safety Eric Berry for the season in the opener.
Stat for the road: Watch for the Chiefs to use "heavy personnel" (two or more tight ends) on first down. They do it 45 percent on first and 10. With three TEs and one WR (25 plays), they're averaging 5.92 a carry (seventh in NFL). With two TEs and two WRs (63 plays), they're averaging 6.65 a carry (ninth). Believe it or not, the Bills defended multiple-TE runs on first and 10 great the first eight games – a 2.0-yard average on 35 runs. The Saints went heavy on first down gashed the Bills for 86 yards on 11 carries (8.0). The Chargers got a 21-yard TD run out of the heavy set last week.