Kansas City Chiefs @ Buffalo Bills
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Chiefs on the rebound
The Chiefs caught a big break this week with their game being moved from Thursday to Monday night due to Covid-19 - and that was before they signed former Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell.
It means they've had three extra days to prepare for a visit to one of their tougher AFC rivals. It also gives them a chance to remedy what went wrong against the Raiders last Sunday.
Vegas ended the current Lombardi trophy holder's 13-game winning streak as they held Patrick Mahomes scoreless for almost all of the second half in a 40-32 win.
The champs went into the game 4-0 having knocked off both the Pats and Ravens in the previous two weeks and were 10.5 favourites against the John Gruden-led team, but the Raiders rallied from 21-10 down by limiting the Chiefs' possessions to smother the threat of their star quarterback.
The Bell signing shouldn't be read as a sign of panic though. He just adds another dimension to an already terrifying unit.
There will be questions about the defence after last week, but KC lost to a divisional rival, and one built to compete with Chiefs by running the ball and hitting receivers deep.
On their day, with the Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Pat Mahomes leading them, they're likely to smash most teams. They're averaging 30 points per game still, which will put it up to most, even an exciting Bills team.
Buffalo soldiers on
Coach Sean McDermott has turned the Bills into one of the Chiefs' biggest challengers in the AFC this season.
The most significant call along the way was drafting their QB, and in Josh Allen they look to have made the right decision, despite much scepticism about his ability when he was picked 7th overall in 2018.
In his two previous seasons, he has shown a tough, gritty attitude, a willingness to put his body on the line in the running game, some wayward passing tendencies, and a curious affection for ridiculously bad lateral attempts.
No one is expecting perfection from him though, and through the opening four weeks of the season Allen was doing enough to justify those (okay, me) having a small wager on him at 50/1 for the regular season MVP. His passer rating was over 120, his completions sitting at 70%, and he was posting big passing yardage rather than relying on his feet to move the ball.
But Week 5's disruptions saw the Bills game in Nashville against the Titans moved to Tuesday night and Tennessee humbled the 4-0 Bills in a 42-16 blowout.
Allen threw two touchdowns and two interceptions, 34 of the team's 95 total rushing yards came on one TJ Yeldon run, and the defence, missing several starters, was picked apart by Ryan Tannehill when it wasn't being pushed around by Derrick Henry.
Now they're facing the Super Bowl champions. Can Allen keep pace with Patrick Mahomes in a shootout? We should find out.
As ever, I have to reference Covid-19 as introducing even more variables his year. Frankly, games feel much more unpredictable this season, with practices curtailed, injuries mounting and schedules changing so regularly you can lose track of which week it is.
No game shows up this instability than the Bills last outing. The Titans hadn't practised all week and still diced unbeaten Buffalo.
I'd lean towards KC -4.5 because I expect a big reaction here to last week and the Bills defence looks a lot poorer this year, but I can't recommend laying that many points in a game between two competitive teams.
Instead, I'd look at the total on this game. Both offences are in the upper echelons of important offensive stats - yards per play, points per game, first downs per game, and so on.
And while, in previous seasons, we might've expected the Bills to try to play similarly to the Raiders last week - run first, limit Mahomes' possessions, and be tough on defence - they aren't that team this season, as Allen's development shows.
Also, their defence isn't as hard to breakdown as it has been in the recent past. A large part of their regression this season must come down to injuries - they played the Titans without their starting cornerbacks, and Matt Milano at linebacker. They are crucial misses for this team.
They're expected to get some of those back this week, but I'd doubt they'll be 100%. Offensively, the Bills do have playmakers, including former Viking Stefon Diggs and the speedy John Brown who returning from injury too, so I can only really see points in this game. 57.5 is a lot, but these teams score a lot too.
If you're inclined to agree, I'd suggest the #OddsOnThat line of both teams to score 2+ TDs in each half is worth a look at a boosted 10/1 on the Sportsbook as well.
Someone has to score those TDs too, of course. Sammy Watkins is out for the Chiefs, pushing both Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman up the depth chart. Hardman's the more explosive player and has two touchdowns already this season, so I'd lean towards him to make it into the endzone, and he's worth a look in the First TD scorer market at 11/1 given the increased workload.
You could take him as an Anytime option too at 15/8, but I prefer longer shots, and Darrel Williams appeals at 7/2. He's set to be the big loser with Le'Veon Bell's arrival, as he'll be third on the depth chart behind the new arrival and rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but Bell won't be involved this week, so one last hurrah might be in the offing for Williams.
He also played on 40% of their snaps last week and was targeted five times in the passing game, a season-high. That makes 7/2 reasonably generous for a score.