close
Sports

Von Miller helps Bills beat Chiefs, Eagles trounce Cowboys and more


The Buffalo Bills pulled out a 24-20 comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs, and it says plenty and little all at the same time.

The AFC race for home-field advantage was shifted on March 16.

That’s when the Buffalo Bills signed Von Miller to a six-year, $120 million deal, with the main reason for the acquisition to take place on a day like Sunday.

After losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s Divisional round, Buffalo knew it needed more pass rush. It has found the solution in Miller, who notched two sacks and a game-altering pressure of Patrick Mahomes on Kansas City’s final offensive play, resulting in a Taron Johnson interception.

Miller has been worth the considerable contract, and his play helped the Bills to a 24-20 win at Arrowhead Stadium this weekend, moving them a game ahead of Kansas City with the tiebreaker.

And, looking ahead, Buffalo should do what it didn’t after beating the Chiefs last October by finishing with a better record. The Bills will certainly be favored — if healthy — every game the rest of the way. Kansas City might be able to say the same, but now has to play two games better than the one-loss Bills.

Going forward, Miller could well be the difference should these teams have a rematch in January with the Super Bowl on the line. He’s perennially a postseason force, having notched a Super Bowl MVP, and 10.5 sacks in 11 career playoff tilts.

Against Kansas City, edge pressure is always going to be more concerning than interior pressure for Mahomes, who has one of the league’s best guard-center-guard combinations in Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith.

All that said, let’s get to the second truth emerging from Sunday.

These teams are dead even.

Kansas City averaged 6.3 yards per play and Mahomes threw for 338 yards. Buffalo averaged 6.2 yards per play and Josh Allen threw for 329 yards. Both teams went 4-for-11 on third down, and each had a red zone turnover. The biggest differentiators were Buffalo’s ability to win with four up front in key moments, and Kansas City’s ability to consistently pressure Allen with well-designed blitzes.

The pivotal moments from Sunday took place on a pair of failed offensive drives from the Chiefs in the fourth quarter.

Tied 17-17 with 14:17 remaining, Kansas City’s defense forced a turnover on downs with a blitz and subsequent incompletion. Three plays later, Mahomes hit tight end Travis Kelce for a 31-yard gain to Buffalo’s 11-yard line, only to be called back on a controversial offensive pass interference flag. Kansas City settled for a field goal.

On Buffalo’s next drive, Allen was tripped for a sack by Chris Jones on a 3rd and 10 from the Buffalo 35-yard line. Allen was rightly furious there wasn’t a call, but the Chiefs took control at their own 23-yard line with 7:36 left to play.

Enter Miller, who on 3rd and 6 chased down Mahomes and sacked the superstar for a 5-yard loss, forcing a punt on a drive that, had Kansas City scored a touchdown, would have effectively ended the game.

Ultimately, the Bills’ win doesn’t officially settle where the rematch would be, but it certainly makes it more likely Buffalo finally gets the AFC’s top seed for the first time since 1993 — when the Bills also welcomed Kansas City in for the AFC Championship Game.

Other than that, it’s impossible to say a matchup between these two teams is anything more than a coin flip, coming down to a few plays being executed in a big moment.

Power rankings

Top 10 all-time NFL rivalries

1. Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
2. Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Commanders
3. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
4. Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
5. Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
6. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
7. San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams
8. Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints
9. Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
10. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Quotable

“We just can’t finish. Can’t finish. That’s the moral of the story right now is not finishing drives, not putting the ball in the end zone. Can’t win like that.”

– Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray on his team’s inability to score points

The Cardinals are getting receiver DeAndre Hopkins back from his six-game suspension, but will it be enough to jumpstart Arizona towards a playoff berth? Right now, it feels unlikely.

The Cardinals are 0-2 in the NFC West and playing bad football led by Murray’s struggles. Hopkins will serve as an ointment to some of those problems, but Arizona needs to be significantly better in an array of areas.

Podcast

Random stat

In 1999, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost three games all year (including playoffs). All three defeats came to the Tennessee Titans.

No other team has ever lost to one team three times and nobody else in a given season.

Info learned this week

1. Eagles stay unbeaten, while Cowboys prove they’ll hang around

The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys can both feel good walking out of The Linc.

While Philadelphia certainly should be exultant after running its record to 6-0 with a 26-17 victory on Sunday night, Dallas should take heart in the near-comeback despite playing with Cooper Rush instead of Dak Prescott.

Peeking into the future, the Eagles are the likely divisional champ based on an easy schedule and having already notched a win over the Cowboys. Philadelphia looks to be the most complete team in the NFC, and along with Buffalo and Kansas City, has a case as the NFL’s best squad through six weeks.

GOING DEEP: The NFC East is the NFL’s best — and most surprising — division

Conversely, the Cowboys are 4-2 and in third place of the NFC East, but should finally be getting Prescott back. They still have the Giants and Eagles at home, and their first-place schedule doesn’t matter as much now with only the Green Bay Packers remaining as one of their “extra” games to play. Dallas also plays the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears at home over its next two weeks before going into the bye, likely at 6-2.

Who would have imagined the NFC East would look good for three playoff teams? Well, here we are.

2. Ravens blow another double-digit lead in the second half

This has become an epidemic for the Baltimore Ravens.

On Sunday, the Ravens led 20-10 over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Then, as they did in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins and Week 4 facing Buffalo, Baltimore fell apart in the second half, watching a likely win turn into a loss.

After watching the 10-point advantage be cut to a field goal with 6:01 remaining, Lamar Jackson threw a ghastly interception after mishandling the snap, trying to fit a ball in late and across the middle. Giants safety Julian Love intercepted and returned the ball to Baltimore’s 13-yard line, before running back Saquon Barkley going over for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:43 to play.

Two plays later, Jackson was strip-sacked by rookie edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, ending the contest.

At 3-3, the Ravens have to figure out their struggle to close games. Even against the Bengals last weekend, Baltimore allowed a go-ahead march before being bailed out by kicker Justin Tucker. After getting the Browns at home this Sunday, it’s a pair of road games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.

If Baltimore can’t stop giving away games, it’s going to be crushing for their playoff positioning.

3. Jets’ defense asserting itself as legitimate force after win over Packers

The New York Jets can’t be taken for granted anymore.

For a decade, the Jets have been an easy win. See Gang Green on the schedule, and it’s a bye week with a victory attached. No more.

Against the Packers, New York took Aaron Rodgers and Co. apart, allowing only 10 points in a lopsided win. The Jets sacked Rodgers four times and only allowed 6.0 yards per attempt, while producing a 17.0 QBR. Green Bay was also limited to 60 rushing yards on 3.0 YPC, largely because of a youthful, revamped defensive unit that’s gaining confidence by the hour.

GOING DEEP: Packers have real problems to fix in every phase

Yes, the Jets still have offensive issues. There are a couple of potential stars in rookie running back Breece Hall and receiver Garrett Wilson, but quarterback remains a concern. Zach Wilson was just 10-of-18 for 110 yards. That’s not getting the job done against most quality teams.

But that’s missing the point. For years, New York has been a joke. Times have changed.

4. Bucs have serious offensive problems that aren’t getting better

Allow yours truly to put his hand up.

Early this season, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were doing nothing offensively, I wrote about how once receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones got on the field — either together or simply more — Tampa Bay would figure things out.

Well, after almost losing to the Falcons last week and producing only 18 points in a stunning loss to the Steelers on Sunday, it’s time to sound the alarm.

Tom Brady threw for 243 yards on 40 attempts, despite having Evans and Godwin. The rushing attack stunk as well, averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Without head coach Bruce Arians, the offense has been left to coordinator Byron Leftwich, who relies on running the ball to a fault on first down.

Against Pittsburgh, Leftwich called runs on 50 percent of first downs (14-of-28; excluding one spike) and on those runs, Tampa Bay gained 51 yards.

The Buccaneers need to be more aggressive, let Brady try to win on early downs and give the offense some more room to operate. Otherwise, it’s hard to see things changing.

5. Broncos can’t afford another primetime stinker on MNF

Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett can’t have another disaster in front of the country. More specifically, Broncos Country.

The last time we saw Denver fans, they were walking out before overtime of an eventual Thursday Night Football loss to the Indianapolis Colts. If the Broncos lose to the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium, they’ll be 2-4 with a three-game losing streak, trailing both the Chargers and Chiefs by two games in the AFC West.

While Wilson can take solace in having a long contract as security, Hackett can’t. Another bumbling mess on Monday moves him a step closer to the door, even if that door doesn’t likely open until the seasons end.

For Denver, this is a tough game but also a borderline must-win. The Broncos’ schedule only gets tougher, still having a litany of top-end contenders on the docket including Kansas City (twice), the Rams on Christmas, the Chargers again, the Ravens and others. Not easy.

Two cents

The Miami Dolphins are getting Tua Tagovailoa back next week after missing two games with a concussion, and they need him.

While the proverbial jury remains out on whether Tagovailoa is a franchise quarterback, but he’s certainly better than the duo of Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson. Need evidence? With Tagovailoa playing a full game, Miami hasn’t lost this season. After losing to the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday, they’re 0-3 without him.

Miami is fighting hard to recapture its initial momentum, and it could do so quickly. The Dolphins will be heavy favorites if healthy each of the next five weeks, drawing the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans over their upcoming five games. It’s far from a stretch to see Miami sitting at 8-3 before a challenging three-game road trip against the 49ers, Chargers and Bills come December.

Getting healthier is the key for Miami, which despite a rough stretch in recent weeks, could be about to take off.

Inside the league

Geno Smith is the NFL’s best story through six weeks.

The Seattle Seahawks probably aren’t a playoff team because of limitations across the roster, but Smith has turned what was expected to be a boring, losing campaign to an exciting show most Sundays. This was true this weekend, in Seattle’s 19-9 win against the Arizona Cardinals, with the defense unexpectedly playing great.

I wrote a feature about Smith last week and his ascension this year, and this quote from a source really highlights why Seattle believes the 32-year-old isn’t a mirage.

“His accuracy has been one of his strengths since being around him,” the source texted to FanSided. “And with the level of confidence he’s playing with it is on full display. His ability to study, work hard and continue to develop while he was a backup led him to being totally prepared when his next opportunity to be a starter presented itself.”

If Smith can continue playing at this level, the Seahawks will have multiple 2023 first- and second-round picks to help build their roster without having to worry about the sport’s paramount position. Not a bad spot to be in.

BetSided’s best bet

Jaguars -2.5 (-110) vs. Giants

Every week, the sportsbooks hang a mid-Sunday line that makes you do a double-take and assume they made a mistake.

The oddsmakers hung the 2-4 Jacksonville Jaguars as a 2.5-point favorite at home against the 5-1 New York Giants. On what planet do the Jaguars deserve to be favorites right now?

And the oddsmakers are right in thinking that everyone else is thinking the same thing, and that’s why it’s the biggest trap line of the week.

The Giants continue to be very fortunate to have the record they have, and while resiliency is something to be admired, at some point the matchup will come back to bite them, and we’ll see the regression we’ve been waiting for.

Jacksonville is an elite team at stopping the run, ranking top 7 in rush DVOA and rushing success rate. Once Saquon Barkley is neutralized, they’re a below-average team.

This number is already moved to -3 at several books, so if -2.5 is still available, run, do not walk. —

– Ben Heisler

History lesson

The 1994 season gave us a fascinating playoff game between the New England Patriots and Browns.

After taking over for the ’92 campaign, Browns head coach Bill Belichick sustained two losing seasons before leading Cleveland to an 11-5 record and a wild card berth. The Browns welcomed in the Patriots, coached by Belichick’s mentor with the Giants in Bill Parcells.

That afternoon, Belichick bested Parcells and the team he’d eventually lead into a dynasty, winning 20-13 before losing the following week at Three Rivers Stadium to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Parting shot

If the Carolina Panthers trade Christian McCaffrey, some team is taking a big gamble.

On Saturday, it was reported Carolina would trade McCaffrey, but only for a substantial offer.

Of course, there’s context to consider.McCaffrey has played only 10 combined games over the past two years, and is signed through the 2025 season. The acquiring team would be paying base salaries of $11.8 million each of the next two years before scaling up to $12 million, with only a $1 million injury guarantee in ’23.

The case Carolina will make for receiving a nice package? McCaffrey has played all six games this season, and he’s on pace for 1,898 total yards. And, for the team which acquires McCaffrey, they only take on minimal guaranteed money and less than $1 million of a cap hit this year, based on his prorated base salary.

Ultimately, the Panthers are on the hook for a high-paid running back with a major injury history. They’ll want a quality pick or two for the dead cap hits to be worth it, while any team acquiring him will argue he’s a huge risk, hoping to keep cost down.

Any team giving Carolina a haul for McCaffrey, despite his talent, is taking a risky swing.





Source link