An impromptu Monday doubleheader is in store for the second time in three weeks. And once more it will be the Super Bowl champions who will be a part of it.
Patrick Mahomes and the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) will face the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills (4-1), led by quarterback Josh Allen, at 5 p.m. ET Monday at New Era Field in a game airing on NFL Network and FOX.
AFC heavyweights with high expectations, the Chiefs and Bills are following similar paths into their showdown. Both are coming off surprising stumbles that resulted in their first losses, with the Chiefs losing to the rival Raiders, 40-32, in Week 5 and the Bills falling to the Titans, 42-16, in another rescheduled tilt on Tuesday. (Good news ahead of Monday night: No players, personnel, etc. for either team tested positive for COVID-19.) And now, one of these division leaders will go from undefeated heading into Week 5 to a two-game losing streak leaving Week 6.
A pivotal matchup is ahead.
Here’s four things to watch for:
Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen face off for first time
Across the past two unbelievable seasons, Mahomes has cast himself as the face of the NFL and a pivotal player in the future of the league. Still fresh-faced despite a career’s worth of lofty accomplishments, the 25-year-old former league and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player will compete against another burgeoning star signal-caller for the first time when Mahomes and Allen, 24, match strong arms, fleet feet and dynamic play. Their statistics glisten through five weeks. Allen’s passing for 317.8 yards per game (second in the NFL) and has 14 touchdown passes with just three interceptions, while Mahomes has just one interception against 14 touchdown throws with 294.8 yards a game. Everyone loves an undefeated showdown, but coming off a loss, the pressure of the evening and the emphasis for each of these young gunslingers to perform will be higher. With bright futures still lying ahead, Mahomes and Allen will lead their teams against each other for the first time.
NFL’s top deep threats on display
Allen and Mahomes each have a propensity for going downfield and each of them have receivers renowned for hauling in deep balls. Perhaps the fastest flyer in the league, Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill has tallied 43 catches for 1,784 yards and 17 scores on deep passes since 2017, which is tops in the league in that span, per NFL Research. Bills wideout Stefon Diggs has hauled in 18 receptions for 741 yards on deep passes since 2019, which also leads the NFL in that time, according to NFL Research. Big plays Monday are a given with these opposing receivers. Making an instant impact in his first Bills season, Diggs’ 36 catches and 509 yards lead the AFC. Hill, meanwhile, has found the end zone each week so far for the Chiefs (four receiving touchdowns, one rushing TD). The Chiefs (third) and Bills (fifth) possess top-five total offenses and having two the league’s best playmakers is a major reason why.
What happened to the defense?
The ascension of Allen, the addition of Diggs and the rise of the Bills offense has covered up the early fall of Buffalo’s defense, previously the hallmark of Sean McDermott’s squads these past seasons. Injuries to cornerback Tre'Davious White and linebacker Matt Milano, each of them all-star talents, have no doubt hampered the Bills, but ailments or not, Buffalo’s 17th in total defense and allowing 28.4 points per game — a more-than 12-point bump up from the 16.2 that it allowed in 2019. For the Chiefs, having a defense cast in the shadow of Mahomes and the offense is nothing novel. But Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones and the K.C. D were excellent down the stretch last regular season and seemed to be headed to being a formidable unit in 2020. But the Chiefs are 20th in total defense this season and though they’re the seventh-ranked scoring defense, Kansas City is coming off allowing a season-high 40 points to the Raiders. While each team as a whole is aiming to rebound, both of these defenses must come back from games in which they allowed season-highs in scoring and reaffirm that they’re not just merely second acts to high-profile offenses, but the other half of championship contenders.
Travis Kelce primed for big game
One area in which the Bills have struggled is defending opposing tight ends and, in Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, they will face one of the best in the game and one of the finest all-time in terms of numbers. Kelce (32 receptions for 405 yards and three touchdowns) leads all tight ends this year in receiving yards and the Bills defense has allowed more yards to tight ends (418) than any other club. This has all the makings of a huge game for Kelce, who’s had six or more catches in four of five games and 70 or more yards receiving in all but one contest.
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