KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Buffalo Bills have glossy defensive numbers — every bit as eye-catching as Kansas City’s offensive numbers.
The Bills rank in the top five in virtually every statistical category imaginable and lead the NFL in scoring defense (11.0 points per game), total defense (216.8 yards per game), passing defense (148.8 yards per game), interceptions (seven) and fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (one) among traditional measures.
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Advanced metrics also love Buffalo’s defense. The Bills lead the league in points allowed per drive (0.79), scoring-drive percentage (14.9%) and red-zone touchdown percentage (33.3%) among other measures.
But context matters.
Buffalo has shut out two teams, but Miami and Houston are hardly offensive juggernauts. Pittsburgh and Washington, two more mediocre offensive teams, each managed to score 21 points or more.
That’s not to say the Bills aren’t a good, possibly great, defensive team this season, but a diminished Ben Roethlisberger, Dolphins backup Jacoby Brissett, Washington backup Taylor Heinecke and Texans backup Davis Mills aren’t exactly a Murderer’s Row of opposing quarterbacks.
Patrick Mahomes and the high-octane Chiefs offense — which leads the NFL in points scored per drive (3.56), yards per play (6.9), passing touchdown (14) and third-down conversion percentage (64.1) among other categories — clearly represent the best test the Bills will have seen in 2021.
Turnovers may decide the game. Kansas City’s defense, which has been carved up consistently through four games with a struggling pass rush and absentee run defense, has struggled to create game-changing plays.
Plus, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's unit will be without defensive end Chris Jones, who is inactive for the game.
The Chiefs didn’t manage to force any turnovers against the Los Angeles Chargers or Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, no team has created more turnovers this season than the Bills, who have seven interceptions and four fumble recoveries through the first four weeks.
Buffalo’s plus-7 turnover margin — Josh Allen has thrown two interceptions and the Bills have lost two fumbles — is tied with Dallas for tops in the NFL.
Kansas City’s defense has forced only four turnovers, while Mahomes has thrown four interceptions and the Chiefs have lost three fumbles.
The only time Kansas City has avoided any turnovers this season was during a season-opening win against Cleveland, when the Chiefs were plus-2 in turnover margin and rallied for a 33-29 win.
Kansas City and Baltimore both committed two turnovers in the Ravens’ one-point win in Week 2, while the Chiefs committed four turnovers and didn’t force any during a 30-24 loss against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3.
Kansas City was minus-1 in the turnover department during a 42-30 win last week at the Eagles.
Coming off a game in which the defense failed to force a punt, the Chiefs can’t afford to give the Bills extra possessions and expect to win Sunday in an AFC Championship Game rematch.
Tackling, which regressed again at Philadelphia, also will be crucial for Kansas City, which beat Buffalo twice last year — 26-17 on the road during the regular season and 38-24 with a Super Bowl berth on the line.
The Chiefs have won five of the last six meetings with the Bills dating back to 2013. Here your tale of the tape:
Buffalo Bills (3-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)
Series record (last meeting): Bills lead 26-23-1 (AFC Championship Game on Jan. 24, 2021 — Chiefs 38-24 in Kansas City)
Chiefs pregame show: 5 p.m. on KSHB 41
Football Night in America: 6 p.m.
When (TV/radio): 7:20 p.m. (KSHB 41/WDAF-106.5 FM)
TV commentators: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Spanish-language radio: KPRS-103.3 HD2