When the Bills run
With a week of rest, RB Travis Henry should be ready to resume his highly productive season. He must continue protecting the ball though. The Bills can't abandon the run if they fall behind early as they did two weeks ago against New England. Now that the Bills' offensive line is back at full strength, feeding Henry 25-30 times could wear down the Chiefs' defense and control the clock.
Injuries have hurt the Chiefs' interior defensive line. Big DTs John Browning and Eric Downing are decent run stoppers, but both are backups forced into the lineup. Teams have found success running outside with quick pitches and sweeps. The Chiefs' front seven lacks speed, particularly at outside linebacker. If the Bills can capture the corner, Henry could do some serious damage.
When the Chiefs run
RB Priest Holmes is to the Chiefs what Marshall Faulk is to the Rams. In other words, he does it all. He's a strong runner who gets tough yards between the tackles, yet has the speed to get outside and break the long run. The Chiefs' underrated offensive line is athletic, and Holmes knows how to take advantage of the unit's mobility. Expect a heavy dose of him today.
Stopping the run is usually the Bills' first priority. That means plenty of eight- and nine-man fronts. The Bills held elite RBs Ricky Williams, Curtis Martin and Anthony Thomas in check, but four other backs gained more than 100 yards against them. Those backs were supported by a strong passing game, so if the Chiefs can stay balanced Holmes could dominate this game.
When the Bills pass
QB Drew Bledsoe has to find the Chiefs' league-worst pass defense inviting. It wouldn't be a bad idea to use some spread formations early to get WRs Eric Moulds and Peerless Price in favorable matchups. TE Jay Riemersma and FB Larry Centers should be able to exploit the Chiefs' slow linebackers and suspect safeties.
The Chiefs should adopt the Patriots' strategy of changing up schemes and disguising alignments to confuse the Bills' blockers, who have allowed 34 sacks. The Chiefs haven't generated much of a pass rush this year, so look for some blitzes. They don't want to leave their marginal secondary exposed, but they can't afford to sit back against Bledsoe.
When the Chiefs pass
QB Trent Green has thrown for 2,057 yards and ranks in the top 10 in passer rating (90.0) and TD passes (16). He relies heavily on Holmes and All-Pro TE Tony Gonzalez. They have 87 of Green's 169 completions. The Chiefs' outside receivers have to be more of a factor, especially free-agent disappointment Johnnie Morton. Eddie Kennison, who had eight catches for 134 yards at San Francisco last week, is the lone deep threat.
With CBs Antoine Winfield and Nate Clements reunited, the Bills can blitz and play more single coverage. They might not rediscover pass rushing (only two sacks in three weeks) against a Chiefs line that protects Green well. Expect Green to seek matchup advantages against nickel CB Chris Watson, LBs London Fletcher and Eddie Robinson and rookie SS Coy Wire.
Bills K Mike Hollis is anxious to redeem himself after 0-for-3 field goal showing against the Patriots. Meanwhile, Kansas City's ageless wonder Morton Andersen, 42, has made 19 of 20 field goal attempts. Bills return specialist Charlie Rogers is running out of time to fulfill his promise of four TDs on returns. The Chiefs have a dangerous return man in Dana Hall, whose 25.3-yard average on kickoffs ranks fourth in the AFC.
Bills P Brian Moorman's 45-yard average is fourth in the league. Chiefs P Dan Stryzinski doesn't have a big leg, but allows just 5.2 yards per return. Only 15 of his 35 punts have been returned. He also has forced 355 career fair catches, the most in NFL since 1970.
The Bills' 3-1 road record is tied with Denver for the best in the AFC. They will be hard-pressed to continue that success today. The Chiefs are only 2-2 at home, but Arrowhead is one of the toughest road venues. The winner of the last three Bills-Chiefs games has scored at least 21 points. The Chiefs are 26-4 at Arrowhead since 1995 when scoring at least 21 points.
Bledsoe has seven TD passes and a 90.6 QB rating in the fourth quarter. Green has eight TDs, just one INT and a 114.6 rating in the final stanza. Turnovers are a huge factor today. The Bills are plus-6 (10 takeaways/four giveaways) in their five wins, but minus-7 (1 takeaway/8 giveaways) in four losses. The Chiefs' plus-7 turnover margin (18 takeaways/11 giveaways) is tied for fourth in the NFL.
First team to 30 points wins. The guess here is it will be the Chiefs, 31-28.