A column by Sun Senior Columnist CHUCK POLLOCK
This afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, the Bills and Chiefs will meet for the sixth time since the 2020 season, the last five in Kansas City.
That seems one-sided, but two of those games were playoffs and the others were circumstantial based on the vagaries of the NFL schedule.
But, boy, is there a lot to unpack when these two AFC rivals meet (4:25, CBS-TV, 95.7 FM, 100.1 FM, 550 AM).
So, for a change, let’s look at Buffalo’s positives first.
THE BILLS are coming off a bye week, following a hurtful overtime loss a week ago Sunday at Philadelphia.
That defeat dropped them to 6-6 and seemingly doomed their playoff hopes. But, unexpectedly, Week 13 enhanced their postseason chances. The Chiefs (8-4) lost at Green Bay, the Steelers (7-6) fell at home, back-to-back, to lowly Arizona then New England Monday night, and saw quarterback Kenny Pickett suffer an ankle injury that will sideline him for four weeks.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville (8-4) was beaten at home by Cincinnati (6-6), behind a backup QB, and likely won’t have its own elite quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, for multiple weeks due to a high ankle sprain. The Bengals had already lost their upper tier QB, Joe Burrow, for the rest of the season with a wrist injury.
Then, too, the Rams beat the Browns (7-5), who lost their starting QB, Deshaun Watson, for the season with an injured shoulder three weeks ago.
In short, Week 13 and the start of 14 couldn’t have gone much better for Buffalo, had Miami (9-3) not demolished Washington and Houston and Indianapolis, both 7-5, not prevailed in close games.
The Bills’ situation certainly didn’t get any worse and, in fact, it improved on several fronts, though Las Vegas still pegs Buffalo’s odds of making the postseason at 21%.
And, there’s one other thing, Buffalo coach Sean McDermott is 6-0 after the bye week and has won the last two regular-season games in KC, though they were interrupted by a pair of playoffs losses, the second being one of the most devastating in franchise history.
Finally, there are the Chiefs, a preseason pick to win the AFC, but losers of three of their past five games. This hasn’t been the same team since Kansas City let wide receiver Tyreek Hill sign with the Dolphins and the offense shows it.
SO THAT’S the positive news.
Unfortunately, the Bills have their own share of disappointments and distractions.
Of course, Buffalo’s injury woes have been an ongoing problem since the blowout victory over Miami at Highmark Stadium in October. Cornerback has been a revolving door and while middle linebacker Terrel Bernard has been a revelation, safeties Micah Hyde, 33, and Micah Hyde, 32, are playing more on instinct and experience than the athleticism they showed when arriving seven years ago.
And McDermott, having taken over the defensive signal-calling, has shown no tangible effect except that his already-dubious game-day decision-making has seemingly gotten worse.
All you need know is that each of Buffalo’s six defeats have been by a single possession — they’re 2-6 in such games this season — four of those over the past eight weeks, in which Buffalo led in the fourth quarter. McDermott, after winning his first overtime game in 2017, has lost six straight in OT including two this season.
Those numbers are disturbing but insiders say there’s “zero” chance he will be fired despite the increasing calls for his dismissal on social media and it’s doubtful a playoff miss would change that considering McDermott is under contract through the 2027 season.
THEN THERE’S the pachyderm in the parlor … what to do with Von Miller.
Charged with domestic abuse last week in Dallas by his pregnant girlfriend and mother of his children, the NFL hasn’t suspended him.
Complicating the issue is the fact the alleged victim, who made the 9-1-1 call, no less, a day later texted a local TV station: “We’re fine … things were blown way out of context …this is actually outrageous!”
She added the incident was “a huge misunderstanding … a verbal disagreement. No one assaulted anyone. This is insane … and sad.”
But her recant did not deter the police who had seen evidence of assault on the alleged victim and since such a crime on a pregnant woman is a felony in Texas, they’re following through with an investigation.
But here’s the problem.
With the police probe ongoing, the NFL can’t suspend Miller without due process.
Thus, he’s allowed to practice — which he’s done this week — and can play against the Chiefs.
It’s the Bills call and not activating him on the game-day roster should be a no-brainer as there’s a perfect excuse. In the eight games since he returned from ACL surgery, Millere has logged one tackle, an assist and a single quarterback hit in 163 snaps … a total non-contributor.
That’s reason enough for McDermott make him one of Sunday’s inactives.
But the more critical factor would be the risk of activating a twice-accused domestic perpetrator and alienating thousands of Buffalo’s female reporters, staffers and fans.
If Miller was the edge rusher he’d been in his prime, it might have given McDermott pause despite the predictable and understandable blowback. But, in this case, it doesn’t merit a first thought, let alone a second.
Bad enough that Miller has provided a needless major distraction on the eve of a virtual must win game for his team to stay alive for a playoff spot as the Bills are in a three-way tie for ninth place for one of the AFC’s seven postseason berths.
Worse, McDermott made his own distractive contribution when, in a three-part series released Thursday by former Times Herald intern Tyler Dunne on his Go Long TD site, it was revealed that the coach, during a squad meeting, had invoked the 9-11 terror attacks as an example of teamwork.
Though that monologue was four years ago, the media latched onto the ill-considered remarks and it’s become a national story.
It’s the last thing the Bills needed when, as Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane pointed out, “This week we start a five-game season.”
Chiefs 27, Bills 20
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.)
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