This is the fifth of a 13-part series breaking down the off-season moves, coaching changes, draft and 2015 outlook for each opponent of the Kansas City Chiefs, counting down to their foe for Week 1.
Today we look at a team that probably should be in the AFC West as far as Kansas City fans are concerned since the Chiefs seemingly play them every year, the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had one of the best off-seasons of any team, but a weak link at quarterback could throw a monkey wrench into their plans to end a 15-year playoff appearance drought.
Team: Buffalo Bills
2014 Record: 9-7 (2nd in AFC East)
All-time Series Record: 19-23-1, 1-2 in playoffs
Last Regular Season Meeting: Chiefs won 17-13 at Ralph Wilson Stadium (11/9/2014)
Last Postseason Meeting: Buffalo beat the Chiefs 30-13 in AFC Championship (1/23/1994)
2015 Schedule: Week 12 at Arrowhead
Top 5 players: RB LeSean McCoy, LB Mario Williams, LB Jerry Hughes, DE Kyle Williams, LB Preston Brown,
Notable draft picks: CB Ronald Darby, G John Miller, RB Karlos Williams
Notable off-season additions: HC Rex Ryan, RB LeSean McCoy, QB Matt Cassel
Notable off-season departures: S Da’Norris Searcy, TE Scott Chandler, QB Kyle Orton (retired), RB C.J. Spiller
After years of being the bland, beige, and forgettable team in the AFC East, the Bills made the biggest splash of the off-season by hiring former NY Jets head coach, Rex Ryan. Just that alone puts Buffalo atop the news cycle in the Northeast U.S.A. as Ryan is one of the most colorful and entertaining coaches in the NFL. In addition, he is one of the most gifted defensive minds in the game.
On a pure football scale, hiring Ryan to coach a team that had the 4th-ranked defensive unit in 2014 virtually guarantees that Buffalo will again have one of the best defenses – if not THE best defense – in 2015. They could potentially be 2000 Ravens great or possibly 1985 Bears legendary.
Ryan is switching the team from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 scheme, but it should have little downside as players such as Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Philip Hughes can play in any scheme. Dareus will move to the nose in the 3-4, which is a perfect fit for him while Hughes and Mario Williams will move from the line to the outside linebacker spots. Williams could challenge the Chiefs Justin Houston for AFC supremacy in quarterback sacks.
The secondary isn’t great, but with the front seven the Bills throw at the opposing quarterbacks every week, they can be above-average and thrive. Leodis McKelvin returns from a broken ankle and will provide the leadership the secondary needs. Look for a lot of interceptions from the group off of rushed throws from opposing quarterbacks.
Unfortunately, with the offense they have, the Bills faithful should probably brace themselves for a year full of 10-9 scores for both wins and losses. Other than free agent pick-up, LeSean McCoy, the Bills don’t have any consistent playmakers on offense. Sorry Bills fans, Sammy Watkins is a terrific talent, but he’s not Jerry Rice yet.
In regards to the other free agent pick up on offense, if Percy Harvin was such a difference-maker, why is he now on his fourth team going into his seventh season? It’s because his “me-first” attitude far outweighs any positives he provides on the field. Besides, if you consider who will be throwing the ball to Watkins and Harvin, you should temper your expectations exponentially anyway.
The man leading the Bills offense will most likely be former Chief, Matt Cassel, who amazingly has started 71 NFL games in his career. That stat alone tells you all you need to know about how bad the quarterback situation is in the league. Cassel will be asked to not lose games and let the defense win them, which might be hard for him to do even that.
LeSean McCoy just turned 27-years old and will remain an elite running back for the foreseeable future. Carrying the load in Ryan’s “ground and pound” offense could easily mean he leads the league in rushing if his body can hold out. At worst, he’ll be a top-5 running back and a major headache for Kansas City in November.
Bottom line: Because of the Chiefs giving up a November 1, home game against the Detroit Lions to play across the pond in London, by the time they play Buffalo on November 29, it will be more than a calendar month between games at Arrowhead. Not only will the team be sky-high playing a game at home again, the crowd will be twice as pumped. (After all, the city will still be buzzing over the World Series celebration for the Royals!) It might take all that emotion to overcome what could be the best defense Kansas City will face all season.
Previous articles in the series:
Oakland Raiders (Weeks 13 & 17)
Cleveland Browns (Week 16)
Baltimore Ravens (Week 15)
San Diego Chargers (Weeks 14 & 11)