Bills vs. Chiefs Sunday Night Football Betting Preview: NFL Odds, Predictions, Picks for Week 5
Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes
- Oddsmakers expect fireworks when the Buffalo Bills and Kansas Chiefs face off on this Week 5 edition of Sunday Night Football.
- Our analyst examines the Chiefs vs. Bills odds below, as well as why you should back the underdog.
- Find his take on how these teams match up and his pick for betting this primetime game.
|Time||8:20 p.m. ET|
The Bills will head into Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night with revenge on their minds after two losses vs. the Chiefs in 2020.
In Week 6, Kansas City won 26-17 in Buffalo. The Bills were without star linebacker Matt Milano, while two starting defensive linemen were healthy scratches after getting in Sean McDermott’s doghouse.
Kansas City took advantage and ran the ball 46 times for 245 yards, with Patrick Mahomes only needing to throw for 225 yards. The Bills defense hugely improved after its bye week last year, so I wouldn’t take too much away from that contest.
The AFC Championship Game should worry Buffalo fans much more.
The Bills got out to a dream start, jumping to a 9-0 lead, but it quickly went downhill. Mahomes led three straight touchdown drives of at least 75 yards sandwiched between two Buffalo drives that totaled 17 yards and ended in punts. The Chiefs suddenly built a 21-9 lead.
McDermott decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line to end the half, giving the game a different feel at 21-12 instead of potentially 21-16 or 21-17.
The Chiefs put the game out of reach after halftime with two touchdowns before the Bills added two late scores to make the final score look a bit more respectable at 38-24.
What went wrong for Buffalo? I’ll give you the top three factors in my eyes:
- McDermott was uncharacteristically conservative throughout, most notably on a pair of fourth-and-short situations inside the Kansas City 10.
- Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had a brilliant game plan to slow down Josh Allen, and his defense executed flawlessly. He brought surprise blitzes early and got a big game from Chris Jones while playing a physical, pressing style on the outside to throw the Buffalo receivers off of their routes.
- Most importantly, Buffalo couldn’t stop two players: Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, who combined for a whopping 22 catches for 290 yards. Buffalo came out with its standard zone looks with two-high safeties. However, it eventually abandoned that for more man-to-man looks after Kansas City got creative pre-snap to torture the Buffalo defenders.
Will we see a third straight victory for the Chiefs or will the Bills get their revenge in a game that could have massive playoff seeding implications? Let’s take a closer look.
The Bills dropped their season opener against the Steelers in a game that flipped on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. In the weeks since, they’ve been nothing short of dominant with three blowout victories by a combined score of 118-21 with two coming via shutout.
Fun fact: The only two other teams to post two shutouts in their first four games went on to win the Super Bowl. The 1991 Washington Football Team (before they changed their mascot) and 2001 Ravens also shut out their Week 5 opponents.
I don’t know much, but I can confidently say that’s not in the cards for the Bills.
Allen actually hasn’t looked as sharp as he did last year despite the impressive showings. He ranks 27th in completion percentage and 19th in passer rating with a worrisome eight turnover-worthy throws, per PFF.
The offense has performed at an above-average level in terms of success rate and Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, but right around league average if we adjust for its opponents. It’s definitely not operating at the elite level we saw throughout 2020.
There are also some recent offensive line changes worth noting. Last week, Buffalo moved tackle Daryl Dawkins to guard and started rookie Spencer Brown at right tackle. The third-round pick shined in his first start, so expect that same combination moving forward. Starting left guard Jon Feliciano was also cleared to return from concussion protocol.
Meanwhile, the defense has shined so far with a ridiculous, league-leading -0.35 EPA per play. The next-best defense, Denver, comes in at -0.12.
Now, in fairness, they haven’t played the most difficult schedule of opposing quarterbacks, facing three backups and another who probably should be a backup: Ben Roethlisberger, Taylor Heinicke, Davis Mills and Jacoby Brisset.
However, we can adjust metrics for their opponents and the Bills still rank as the No. 1 defense in the league.
If you’re wondering what has changed, it’s only the defensive line.
The back seven (Buffalo runs a 4-2-5 around 70% of the time) remained intact with a pair of rock-solid safeties, an underrated slot corner, a true No. 1 lockdown corner and one of the best linebackers in the NFL. There wasn’t much to address, aside from putting pressure on Mahomes, who Buffalo will have to go through in the AFC for a long time.
The Bills bolstered their pass rush depth in the draft, taking two defensive ends with their first two picks. They also saw the return of Star Lotulelei, who opted out of 2020 and missed Week 1 of this year. Generally known as a run stuffer and block eater, Lotulelei has flashed as an interior pass-rusher this season, ranking in the top 10 among all interior defensive linemen in Pass Rush Win Rate. He has also raised the play of Ed Oliver and A.J. Epenesa.
This line now has the potential to generate pressure from all four positions, significantly raising the ceiling of this unit.
- Although, Milano — who is graded the No. 1 linebacker this season, per PFF — is questionable with a hamstring injury. He’s dealt with hamstring injuries in the past and Buffalo has erred on the side of caution more times than not.
Milano allows defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to do so many different things from a scheme perspective and is one of the most important individual players to a defense in the league.
For what it’s worth, I expect everybody else on the injury report to play for Buffalo.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs surprisingly sit in last place in the AFC West after a 2-2 start, but they have faced a gauntlet to open the season. And all four of their games could’ve gone either way.
They beat the Browns by 33-29 thanks to a late failed Cleveland punt, then lost by one to the Ravens because of a late fumble. The Chiefs then lost by six to the Chargers on a late touchdown after committing four turnovers, then beat the Eagles by 12 in a statistically event game that didn’t feature any punts.
Kansas City continues to play almost nothing but one-possession games since its offense can’t be stopped and defense can’t get any stops. It’s one reason it’s just 1-10-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last 12 regular-season games.
This Chiefs offense is simply a juggernaut. I can’t do Mahomes justice with words, so I’ll just say he’s the best quarterback on the planet.
Add in the fact that he plays for an offense with elite play-calling, pre-snap motion, formations and talent and you get a unit that can score 30 points in its sleep.
The Chiefs blew up their offensive line in the offseason, adding five new starters via trade, free agency or the draft.
The results have been promising. The interior has performed at a ridiculously high level, while both tackles have struggled a bit. Growing pains were expected with a brand new unit, though.
Turnovers have been a bit of an issue for the Chiefs to start the season, but this offense has amazingly still managed to score 3.6 points per drive after averaging 2.75 in 2020. That’s not sustainable, primarily due to their insane third-down conversion rate.
If the season ended today, K.C.’s 64.1% third-down conversion rate would set an NFL record by a wide margin. Only three teams over the past 15 seasons have eclipsed the 50% mark and none since 2011. They even converted 90% of third downs against the Eagles — the highest single-game mark since 2008.
In the Mahomes era (since 2018), the Chiefs offense has averaged 0.47 EPA per third down (excluding garbage time). That’s double the next best mark of 0.23 (Raiders) over that span.
However, they’ve never even sniffed a 60% conversion rate for a season, so you can expect regression.
Defensively, the Chiefs ranks 32nd overall in DVOA, including 32nd against the run and 31st against the run. Last year, they finished 22nd overall DVOA, which is pretty much all they need to win the Super Bowl. This year, the margins for error appear to be smaller for the offense.
Kansas City’s defense even looks worse than the one we saw in 2018 that ultimately held K.C. out of the Super Bowl — the only one Mahomes hasn’t played in since taking over as starter. The Chiefs have allowed a stunning 3.34 points per drive this year. No team allowed more than three in 2020.
Kansas City couldn’t force a single punt last week against the Eagles, who were without four starting offensive linemen.
We knew the run defense had major issues, but the pass defense has taken a major step back. Kansas City is allowing a high frequency of explosive plays, which usually doesn’t happen under Spagnuolo. He also appears to be experimenting with a few different defensive line formations and new looks in the secondary, which could be the cause of some problems.
Jones is questionable with a wrist injury and didn’t practice all week. He would be a massive loss for a front that is otherwise void of talent, although Frank Clark appears set to return. Jones had a gaudy 18% pressure rate in the AFC Championship Game, his second-highest of the 2020 season, trailing only the first matchup vs. Buffalo.
The defense could at least look a lot healthier this week with the likely return of cornerback Charvarius Ward and Clark. They also really miss Willie Gay, whose presence would improve a very poor linebacker room. He was supposed to return this week, but that’s now up in the air due to personal issues.
As of this moment, this defense is playing worse than any other unit in the league. I trust Spagnuolo will figure out the pass defense by the end of the season, but it will take time. Some positive regression can also be expected. The run defense will remain helpless throughout the year, but the Chiefs will live with that deficiency if the pass defense can just play at a league-average level.
Buffalo has one of the smartest coaching staffs in the league, so I assume it’ll have some new defensive schemes and offensive wrinkles cooked up. I also trust McDermott will be much more aggressive on fourth-down decisions.
The Bills offense isn’t playing at its peak right now, but the Chiefs defense can’t stop anyone. Bills Mafia would also point out its pass-catching options are now healthy and better with Emmanuel Sanders.
On the other end, Buffalo’s defense is playing at an elite level, but it likely doesn’t have the ability to dominate a game like we saw the Bucs in the Super Bowl.
The weakest unit in this game at the moment is the Chiefs defense — by far. The gap between the Bills offense and Chiefs defense is greater than the gap between the Chiefs offense and Bills defense.
The atmosphere should be rocking in Arrowhead, but road teams actually have a winning record around the league so far this season. I can back Buffalo with three points.
Like the Ravens did, I think Buffalo finally overcomes the Chiefs.
Should Chiefs fans panic if they lose this game? Absolutely not. Mahomes will still most likely be in the AFC Championship Game and until one of the contenders beats him in the postseason, the Chiefs will remain the kings of the AFC.
My main investment in the game will be live. I will be looking for as many chances as possible to bet either team when they get down by a touchdown or more based on game flow. Follow along on Twitter and/or in the Action App.
Pick: Bills +3