Preview: Chiefs head to Buffalo with perfect record on the line
As the Kansas City Chiefs keep their strong start in perspective, the Buffalo Bills hope to turn things around by knocking off the NFL’s only undefeated team.
The visiting Chiefs look to go 9-0 for the first time in 10 years Sunday when they try to end their recent struggles against the Bills, who may not have their starting quarterback on the field.
The first team in league history to start 8-0 after owning the worst record the previous season (2-14), Kansas City hasn’t won its first nine games since 2003. That year, it matched the franchise record of 13 wins before losing 38-31 to Indianapolis in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Though confident, this year’s team won’t read too much into its place in history.
“We’ve always been humble,” safety Eric Berry said. “We’re going to keep working because we know how hard these wins are to come by. We don’t take these for granted.”
Since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978, 15 teams have won their first eight games. Nine made the Super Bowl and eight won. These Chiefs, however, would rather focus on the present and let the future take care of itself.
“We love what’s going on around here as far as winning,” linebacker Tamba Hali said. “None of us have been in this position where this team is 8-0. To keep winning, to go 1-0 every week, I think we have a sense of urgency to keep getting wins.”
Kansas City has won largely because of a defense that allows a league-low 12.3 points per game and has recorded an NFL-high 36 sacks — nine more than Buffalo (3-5), which is second. The 98 points the Chiefs have yielded are the second fewest in team history through the first half of a non-strike-affected season since the league went to 16 games in 1978.
Kansas City matched its season high for points allowed in a 23-17 victory over Cleveland last Sunday. It was Kansas City’s third game and second in as many weeks to be decided by six or fewer points.
“We’re not trying to be the beauty queens. A win is a win,” receiver Dexter McCluster said. “We know we’re going to have to fight. This is the NFL.”
The Chiefs expect to be seriously challenged by a Bills team that has won five of the last six meetings and both in the last two seasons by a combined score of 76-24. Buffalo, though, has dropped three of four and is dealing with a host of injuries as it tries to continue that dominance in the series.
One of the biggest injury issues is Thad Lewis’ sore ribs, which could keep the quarterback on the sideline. Coach Doug Marrone says Lewis is “50-50” to play Sunday.
He was injured on the first play from scrimmage last week. Rookie Jeff Tuel and free-agent addition Matt Flynn split the first-team reps Wednesday and Thursday.
Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel (knee) remains out. Marrone expects running back C.J. Spiller (ankle), who missed Sunday’s 35-17 loss at New Orleans, to play Sunday. Spiller was limited in practice Thursday. Receiver Stevie Johnson is dealing with a hip flexor but is hopeful he can go Sunday.
Running back Fred Jackson is dealing with a nagging injury but expects to play.
“(Injuries) can happen to any team,” Johnson said. “It probably is happening to every other team, but we’re talking about it now and we’ve got to just get over it. There’s nothing we can really control. We’re out there and playing football, and this is what happens when you play in this league.”
Johnson had seven receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, and he has scored a TD in three straight against the Chiefs.
Despite the health issues and a defense that ranks 25th with 26.6 points per allowed game, the Bills are excited to get their crack at the team with the best record in the NFL.
“Guys are still confident,” said Jackson, who has rushed for 331 yards and averaged 4.8 per carry in four games against Kansas City. “We’ve got a good opponent coming in this weekend that gives us an opportunity to go out and win against a team that’s 8-0, give them the first loss of the season and try and build on that.”
The Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles ran for 376 yards and averaged 7.2 per carry in his previous three games against the Bills before being held to three yards on six attempts during a 35-17 loss at Buffalo last Sept. 16.
Charles, who averages a league-high 127.3 yards from scrimmage and is second with 635 rushing yards, expects to play despite leaving briefly last week to be treated for a bruised knee.
“It’s a long season and I’ll get banged up every week,” he said.