Fitzpatrick is the NFL's #2 rated passer.
For a team that’s sitting atop their division with a 4-2 record, playing a home game against an opponent that’s still winless this far into the season shouldn’t be a cause for much concern.
But for the Chiefs, the scariest part of Sunday won’t involve the ghosts and goblins of Halloween. Instead, it’ll be all about the 0-6 Buffalo Bills.
For Buffalo, Arrowhead Stadium has been anything but a tough place to play as of late. The Bills have come to Kansas City each of the last two years, and both times they’ve walked out with a victory.
Back in 2008, while led by the uninspiring combination of coach Dick Jauron and quarterback Trent Edwards, Buffalo downright embarrassed the Chiefs. Kansas City turned the ball over five times that day, including a costly fumble on their own 30 yard-line by Jamaal Charles, as they ended up surrendering the most points (54) ever given up in the history of the franchise.
Last year, the scoring was way down, but the end result was still the same. Due in large part to a career-high four interceptions from Matt Cassel, the Bills – with head coach Perry Fewell and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick – won the game 16-10.
This year, the Bills will be led by yet another new coach: former Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. While speaking to the media this week, Gailey downplayed his firing at the hands of Todd Haley last year, insisting that he understood the situation.
But he’s made some comments in the past that suggest he wasn’t entirely happy with how things went down. Now he has a chance to return to Arrowhead and earn his first victory by beating the man who abruptly showed him the door.
In addition to their third different coach, the Bills will also have a different quarterback this year – sort of. In name alone, the Ryan Fitzpatrick who will start on Sunday is the same player who started for Buffalo against the Chiefs last year. But in terms of performance, they’re two entirely different players.
Since taking over the Bills’ starting job in Week 3, Fitzpatrick has earned the second highest passer rating in the league, trailing only Peyton Manning. The Bills have scored an average of 26 points in his four starts, and he’s already thrown for 11 touchdowns – two more than he threw in ten games last year.
Last week, the Bills went into Baltimore and put up 34 points, forcing the mighty Ravens into overtime. Those 34 points represented more than twice the amount of points the Ravens defense had been allowing to that point. The 514 yards of offense the Bills racked up were also more than double the Ravens’ usual average.
Despite no wins this season, Gailey has the Bills offense in high gear.
Though the Ravens intercepted him twice, Fitzpatrick picked apart their secondary to the tune of 382 yards and 4 touchdowns. And he appeared to be particularly sharp when the Ravens sent extra pressure, as he calmly found open receivers or just tucked the ball away and ran to pick up first downs.
Some have suggested, though, that the Bills’ performance at Baltimore was just an anomaly. The Ravens fell behind early by a score of 17-3, and it’s been speculated that perhaps they were looking at Buffalo’s winless record and thinking they could coast their way to victory.
Whether or not that’s true, it should prove to be good for the Chiefs, because there’s no way they can fall into the trap of overconfidence after seeing what Buffalo’s offense is capable of.
But the Bills are winless for a reason, after all, which means there are also other factors working in the Chiefs’ favor. Buffalo has the league’s worst scoring defense, allowing 33 points a game. Likewise, they have the NFL’s worst run defense, allowing 174.5 yards per contest.
The combo of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee ran for 136 yards against Buffalo last week, and the Ravens’ run game, while solid, isn’t nearly as powerful as the Chiefs has been. With Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles against the league’s worst run stoppers, a third-straight game of 200+ rushing yards seems well within the realm of possibility.
Ultimately, though, the game will likely come down to two factors: whether the Chiefs’ defense can perform better against Buffalo than the Ravens did, and whether the offense can avoid the mistakes that have doomed K.C. against the Bills for two consecutive years.
If Buffalo gets to play the same mistake-prone, defensively-challenged Chiefs they’re used to seeing, they could easily leave town with their first win of the season. But another strong day on the ground and a turnover-free performance from Cassel should be enough to give Chiefs fans a Happy Halloween.