1. Rediscover the running game. The Buffalo Bills’ rushing attack was humming in two games coming out of the bye week, but it hit a pothole Monday in New England. The Bills gained 94 yards on the ground, but required 30 carries to do it, an average of just 3.1 yards per attempt. The shotgun sweep from LeSean McCoy that looked so good against the Jets was largely bottled up by New England. With the ground game sputtering, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor attempted 36 passes, completing 20 of them. Bills are now 0-3 when Taylor attempts at least 30 passes, and 5-0 when he doesn’t. Running the ball will be no easy task against the Chiefs, who rank fourth in the NFL against the rush and are coming off a dominant performance against the Chargers in Week 11. Despite the strong play from the Chiefs’ front seven, it’s abundantly clear the Bills need to establish the run to have success on offense.
2. Continue to bring the heat. We finally saw the defense we expected to see on Monday night against New England. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was consistently under duress, and according to ESPN Stats & Information, was pressured on 20 of his 40 drop backs, the most in the past seven years. He was hit 13 times, threw the ball away eight times and the Patriots’ offensive line committed six penalties. In classic Rex Ryan fashion, the Bills threatened pressure from every angle. Ryan pledged that’s the type of defense the Bills will play going forward. Kansas City ranks 28th in Football Outsiders’ pass protection statistic.
3. Find a way to flip field position. In the Chiefs’ past three games, opponents have started at or inside their own 20-yard line 28 times on 36 possessions. The best drive start of the 36 for an opponent was at its own 38-yard line. For the season, Kansas City’s average drive start is second best in the NFL at the 31.32-yard line, according to Football Outsiders, while opponents are starting at the 23.18-yard line, which is third best. That net difference of 8.14 yards is second in the league. The Bills, meanwhile, have an average drive start of the 25.64-yard line, which is 24th in the league. Buffalo’s opponents are starting at the 28.02-yard line, which is 21st, giving them a net difference of minus-2.38 yards that’s 22nd in the NFL. The best way to flip the field is to …
4. Stop going three-and-out. The biggest way to swing field position is to pick up some first downs. The Bills are the worst team in the AFC at doing that, and the third worst in the NFL. Buffalo averages just 18.1 first downs per game, with just San Francisco (15.8) and St. Louis (14.7) picking up less. Not surprisingly, then, the Bills are leading the league in percentage of three-and-out drives. Buffalo has done that on 34 of 119 possessions, or 28.57 percent.
5. The defensive rookie of the year race is on. That player might be on the field, but which team will he be playing for? Bills cornerback Ronald Darby and Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters have both made strong cases for that award. Darby is the front-runner thanks to an NFL-leading 18 passes defensed, along with a pair of interceptions, but Peters can make a case with four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and 14 passes defensed. The big difference between the two is that Darby has yet to allow a touchdown, according to PFF, while Peters has given up seven.
Outlook: The Bills’ defense looks to be finding itself, so it’s on the offense. Taylor’s performance against New England has raised doubts.
Prediction: Chiefs 23, Bills 20.