One would imagine both the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills would like a Week 1 mulligan.
The Chiefs were mowed down by the buzz saw that was Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons' passing attack in a 40-24 loss, while in the most surprising result of the weekend, the Bills fell prey to a shocking offensive onslaught from the New York Jets, losing 48-28.
I think it's safe to say retribution will be in the minds of both teams on Sunday.
On paper, these teams look fairly evenly matched, so I expect a very competitive duel in this one. Let's take a closer look at this vital matchup between two squads fighting to get their first win in 2012.
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, New York
When: Sunday, September 16 at 1 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS, DIRECTV 708
Betting Line: Bills (-3), according to Bovada
Chiefs Injury Report (via ESPN)
CB Brandon Flowers, Foot, Questionable
S Kendrick Lewis, Questionable
Bills Injury Report (via ESPN)
RB Fred Jackson, Knee, Out
WR David Nelson, Knee, Out for Season
WR Steve Johnson, Groin, Probable
What's At Stake?
Both teams will be hoping to earn a win after disappointing season-opening losses. For two teams with high expectations for this year, an 0-2 start to the season could derail postseason aspirations very early. There are no must-win games in September, but a loss here will hurt for one of these squads.
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit' Em and Sleeper
C.J. Spiller and Jamaal Charles are obvious starts. Dwayne Bowe is a good WR2 this week, while Stevie Johnson is a solid flex.
Meanwhile, I would keep both quarterbacks and all tight ends for either team on the bench. There are better options out there. Ditto for the defenses.
As for a sleeper, keep an eye on Bills' wide receiver Donald Jones. With David Nelson out for the year, Jones should see a bump in targets. He's a decent flex play in deeper leagues.
What They're Saying
The absence of Tamba Hali (serving a one-game suspension) was apparent when the Chiefs played the Atlanta Falcons. The return of the team's best pass-rusher should do wonders for the Kansas City defense, as Adam Teicher of The Kansas City Star notes:
Hali is their best pass rusher. Other than a Justin Houston sack, the Chiefs accomplished little on Sunday in the way of roughing up Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who generally had plenty of time to get his throws off.
"Houston was in the quarterback's face a couple of times along with the sack he got," Crennel said. "We were able to get some push on the pocket, but they were able to make the plays. We were close on some, but they didn't make them. It's encouraging to see you can be close on a play."
Designing a defensive game plan without Hali was a challenge for the Chiefs. The Chiefs used a variety of players to replace Hali. Most often in pass-rush situations it was Edgar Jones, who had 11/2 sacks in five seasons for Baltimore.
Chiefs Player to Watch: Tamba Hali
Let's stick with the Hali theme. The Chiefs have a solid defense, but it's obvious they aren't nearly as effective without a player like Hali attacking off the edge. While Ryan Fitzpatrick is no Matt Ryan, it will nonetheless be imperative that the Chiefs get a pass rush in his face all afternoon.
If they do, we've seen a tendency to turn the ball over from Fitzpatrick in the past. The Chiefs defense could have a very opportunistic afternoon, namely if Hali can pressure or take down Fitzpatrick consistently.
Bills Player to Watch: C.J. Spiller
In fantasy terms, I think very, very highly of Mr. Spiller. As in, I think he could be a top-five running back if he holds on to the starting job once Fred Jackson returns to injury. And I think he'll hold on to that job, as I wrote here.
Consider that in the past seven games dating back to last year that Jackson has missed (or in the case of Week 1 this year, left early), Spiller has 727 yards from scrimmage, six touchdowns and is averaging 15.8 fantasy points per game.
But this isn't just about his fantasy relevance. Spiller is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball, so the Chiefs will have to play very disciplined. He's a threat out of the backfield, so they'll have to know where he is on the field at all times. Basically, he should be the focal point of the Kansas City defensive game plan this week.
I think Spiller is about to emerge as one of the top backs in fantasy and, in general, as one of the most exciting weapons in football.
Key Matchup: Mario Williams vs. Eric Winston
The two ex-teammates on the Houston Texans will do battle in the trenches on Sunday. Jets right tackle Austin Howard mostly neutralized Williams in Week 1, to the point that ESPN analyst and former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Damien Woody said Williams was a complete non-factor (via Tim Graham of The Buffalo News):
"Mario had no effect on the game," Woody said, exasperated at the thought. "None. Zero."
He wasn't done.
"You're the big free agent. You're the $100 million man, going up against a guy that was on the practice squad and inserted into the starting role just a couple weeks ago. I saw a lot of times Mario was one-on-one and couldn't do anything."
Clearly, Williams will want to be a larger factor on Sunday. Against Winston, that will be no easy task. Watch the right side of the line carefully—whomever wins this battle will have a major impact on this game.
And if nothing else, Williams at least needs to remind Buffalo fans why he was worth all of that dough.
On the Hot Seat: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
I'm not saying Fitzpatrick is going to lose his job with another bad start. The contract extension he signed a year ago guarantees that.
But I am saying that Fitzpatrick needs to pick his game up, and soon. In his last 10 games (after leading Buffalo to a 5-2 start a season ago), Fitzpatrick has thrown 19 interceptions and 13 touchdowns. His passer rating and QBR ratings should be listed as "yuck" over that duration.
Not shockingly, the Bills are a dreadful 1-9 in those games.
Fitzpatrick is clearly the guy in Buffalo. But if his run of poor play continues through September, the Bills are going to have to face the music and sit him on the bench.
I'm not one to jump to crazy conclusions after Week 1—and coming into the season I liked the Chiefs to win the AFC West and the Bills to just miss the playoffs—so I'm going to stick to my guns and go with the Chiefs in this one, 21-17.
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