Written by John Sparaco
Last week’s performance versus the Tennessee Titans was a nightmare that the Buffalo Bills certainly hope to forget. After an ugly 42-16 loss, HC Sean McDermott says that the Bills have “turned the page” as they hope to bounce back this week. Accomplishing that will be no easy task, as the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs stroll into town for a Monday Night showdown. Led by their own strong-armed magician of a quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, it would not be surprising if this game ended in a shootout between two of the top offenses in the league. Much like the Bills, the Chiefs are looking to rebound from a 40-32 upset loss to the Raiders, whom the Bills defeated two weeks ago. This is a week-to-week league, and both teams will be motivated to prove themselves against a top AFC contender after setbacks last week.
1. Bills Secondary vs. Tyreek Hill
Without Tre’Davious White in the lineup last week, the Bills secondary was a mess, to say the least. They were unable to slow down the Titans passing game, as Ryan Tannehill completed 75% of his passes along with 3 touchdowns through the air. The Bills defense has been uncharacteristically atrocious so far in 2020, giving up an average of 28.9 points per game, an alarming increase of 12.7 points per game from last season. For a defense that is struggling to rediscover their form, this Patrick Mahomes led offense is not exactly an ideal matchup. A large factor into the success of the Chiefs offense has been their speedy wide receiver, Tyreek Hill. Do not let his small frame deceive you, Hill is one of the most feared players in the league due to his game changing speed and route running ability. Because of his dangerous skill set, there may be a good chance that the Bills ask Tre’Davious White to shadow Hill for the entirety of the game. After all, Hill lining up across any other corner in the Bills secondary is a disaster waiting to happen. While CB Josh Norman still has great instincts, he struggles to keep up with speedy receivers like Hill. Slot CB Taron Johnson has been picked on all season long, so it will be interesting to see if the Bills consider making a change this week. Stepping in for Tre White, CB Cam Lewis was one of the few bright spots with his performance last week. Perhaps the Bills will give Lewis a look in the slot in hopes of fixing their defensive woes going forward.
2. Matt Milano/Tremaine Edmunds vs. Travis Kelce
The Chiefs are absolutely loaded with weapons on offense. No matter where you look, the Chiefs have players that will take away the attention of the defense. The rich got even richer this week when Kansas City landed former All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who will pair up with first round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire going forward. Luckily for the Bills, they will not see Bell this weekend due to the strict protocols surrounding his arrival, however, they will face the most dominant receiving threat at tight end in the NFL in Travis Kelce. Opposing offenses have exploited the middle of the field with ease against the Bills this season, especially in the absence of Matt Milano. Fortunately for Buffalo, Matt Milano appears to be on track to return to the field Monday, but that does not make Kelce any less of a concern. Kelce has been Mahomes’ number 1 target since he has gotten to the league, leading the team in receiving yards last year as well as through 5 games this year. Given their history, there is no doubt that Mahomes will not hesitate to attack the middle of the Bills defense, adding even more pressure to figure out their defensive troubles. Both Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds will need to be at the top of their games in order to keep Kelce at bay, which may be especially tough as they continue to battle nagging injuries.
3. Bills Special Teams vs. Mecole Hardman
Last week was particularly rough for the Bills special teams unit. While Corey Bojorquez shined with two punts over 60 yards, the rest of the team struggled including Pro Bowler Andre Roberts. After a bad drop that led to an interception on offense earlier, Roberts suffered another mistake when he lost a fumble on a kick return. Those two giveaways gift wrapped 14 points to the Titans, which is simply unacceptable. Roberts will need to be on his A game on Monday, as any mistake could be devastating against a team like Kansas City. Additionally, the Bills need to clean up the drive killing penalties on all three phases of the game. Despite those concerns, one of the biggest focuses on special teams will have to be stopping Mecole Hardman. Built similarly to Tyreek Hill, Hardman is just as much of a threat on special teams as he can be on offense. Running a 4.3 forty yard dash last year, Hardman has the next level speed that can impact any game. Field position was a major issue for the Bills on Tuesday, part of that stemming from allowing Kalif Raymond to return Corey Bojorquez’s first punt for 40 yards. The Bills cannot afford to help give Mahomes any advantages in field position, which is why it will be imperative to limit any damage Hardman may cause in the return game.
This game will be a gigantic test to see how far the Bills have come as a franchise. In order to take the next step as a legitimate contender, these are the types of games the Bills will have to win. Many people are doubting Buffalo after last week’s blunder, but one game does not define a season. Even the 2018 Patriots lost 34-10 to Tennessee at one point, and that team ended up winning the Super Bowl. Not saying that the Bills are necessarily destined to win the Super Bowl this season, but the best teams always find a way to bounce back. The story of the 2020 Buffalo Bills is still being written, and it is time to turn the page.