The Buffalo Bills travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2011 NFL season opener. The contest marks the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, and special tributes will be conducted at stadiums around the league. Kickoff is at 1:00 EDT, and the game will air on CBS. The Chiefs are favored in this game by 5.5 points, and the over/under is 40.5 points.
The Chiefs won the AFC West in 2010 with a 10-6 record and are attempting to prove that it was not a fluke. The Chiefs offense is headed up by quarterback Matt Cassel, running backs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs had the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL in 2010, as they averaged 164.2 rushing yards per game.
The Chiefs defense is led by Tamba Hali, who finished second in the NFL in 2010 with 14.5 sacks. The Chiefs defense was ranked 14th in the NFL in 2010.
The Chiefs have some issues coming in to this game. Cassel is playing with a cracked rib, as he was injured in the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. In that game, the Chiefs lost starting tight end Tony Moeaki for the year due to a torn ACL. In addition, first-round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin is out due to surgery on his thumb. Baldwin hurt his thumb due to a locker room fight with Thomas Jones.
The Bills finished the 2010 season tied for the worst record in the AFC at 4-12 with Cincinnati and Denver. The Bills completed their first year under the leadership of GM Buddy Nix, head coach Chan Gailey and defensive coordinator George Edwards. The Bills switched to a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2010 and struggled to find a way to to stop the run. The Bills rush defense was the worst in the NFL, as they allowed a whopping 169.6 yards per game.
The Bills visited the Chiefs in 2010 in Week 8, where the Bills lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 13-10. In that game, Jamaal Charles rushed 22 times for 177 yards, averaging eight yards per carry. Despite his performance, the Chiefs struggled in third down conversions, going 4-15, while the Bills converted 11-23 in the game.
The Bills have been rebuilding their franchise in the past year. Gone are players like Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch, Paul Posluszny, Donte Whitner, Aaron Maybin and Lee Evans. The Bills had a solid draft class in 2011, highlighted by defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and corner Aaron Williams. The Bills signed Pro Bowlers Kyle Williams and Shawne Merriman to new contracts and brought in veteran free agent linebackers Nick Barnett and Kirk Morrison to shore up the run defense.
Based on the preseason games, the Bills' front seven on defense looks to be bigger, stronger and more aggressive. The key to this game is shutting down Jamaal Charles on the ground and forcing Cassel to throw the ball, where the Bills' improved pass rush hopes to get some hits on him and knock him out of the game. On offense, the Bills have added free agent quarterbacks Tyler Thigpen and Wildcat specialist Brad Smith to add some new dimensions to the team. Should be a tight, hard-fought contest.