The Kansas City Chiefs host the Buffalo Bills this Sunday for the AFC Conference Game. The former is expected to be in this stage since they have kept their core players on both sides of the ball intact. This is the right first step in winning back to back and avoiding the Super Bowl hangover.
The latter is one of the biggest surprises of the season. One of the biggest reasons was Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s quantum leap in production. Coming out of the University of Wyoming, Allen had all the physical tools—arm talent and mobility to succeed. There were questions on his accuracy and decision-making though. This is the season he put all of it together.
Both teams have explosive passing offenses, so we can expect fireworks at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs and Bills were first and third in total passing yards with 5,005 and 4,786, respectively.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his speedy receivers, aptly named the Legion of Zoom, are more than enough to keep defensive coordinators up all night. They are able to stretch the field and create all sorts of mismatches. If teams somehow find a way to stop them they still have a big roadblock ahead.
That big obstacle comes in the form of 6’5″, 260-pound tight end Travis Kelce. He has been essential in the Chiefs’ success these past few years.
Here are three expectations for him in the matchup with the Bills.
1. Racking up yards
Kelce amassed the second-most receiving yards in the regular season with 1,416 yards. Ironically, the receiving yards leader plays for Buffalo. The five-time All-Pro tight end hauled in 11 touchdowns. Two of those were against the Bills in Week 6.
Kelce is a beneficiary to all the space created by speedsters like Tyreek Hill. The tight end has an amazing nose for finding openings and punishing defenders. This is a testament to the genius of head coach Andy Reid’s system. However, Kelce is a matchup nightmare on his own. Physically, it’s already a challenge bringing the big man down with his size and speed. It’s this perfect combination that makes him deadly in gaining yards after the catch.
He’s not a one-dimensional route-runner, who just plods his way to the middle. Kelce has excellent route-running for his position. Scratch that, his route-running is better than most wide receivers. He may not be able to make defenders miss in a phone booth, but he’s also elusive and is able to find the end zone without defenders getting as much as a finger on him.
Travis Kelce can torch the Bills to the tune of 120 yards.
2. Finding the End zone
In their Week 6 meeting, Kelce found the end zone twice and only had 65 receiving yards. The low number of receiving yards and targets is attributable to the insane game Clyde Edwards-Helaire had. The rookie from LSU rushed for 161 yards with 6.2 yards a carry.
Should Buffalo be more proactive in stopping the run, expect Mahomes to drop bombs to Kelce, Hill and friends. Kansas City poses a matchup problem for Buffalo schematically. The Bills use blitzes at an above rate. It was these blitzes that helped them beat the Baltimore Ravens in their prior game. If Buffalo sticks to a similar game plan, Mahomes will torch them, as he is the best in dealing with blitzes.
Expect Kelce to have a sort of repeat performance and score two touchdowns again on the Bills.
As Chiefs Kingdom reads this, they’re all probably rolling their eyes. No one expects Kelce to block like his contemporaries, Rob Gronkowski and George Kittle. After all, Kelce wasn’t signed to a four-year, $57.25 million contract to be a road grader in the run game or an extra lineman to have a clean pocket. Blocking for a modern-day tight end is similar to asking scorers in basketball to play defense. More often than not, it’s just a matter of effort. This is something on which Kelce is not short.
Despite the ridiculous arm talent of Mahomes, Reid employs screen passes to mix his offense up. There are times when Kelce in all his versatility is the recipient of such passes. Let’s say Reid decides to mix things up a little more. The tight end could be used as a blocker and get to the next level of the defense and “throw out of the club” an unfortunate defensive back or even linebacker just like Gronkowski did.
The 6-time Pro Bowler will hit two-to-three blocks. They probably won’t be pancake blocks, but solid ones that would produce a big gain.
Regardless of the Bills’ game plan, Kelce will be difficult to contain. Don’t be surprised when Zeus brings the thunder this Sunday.