Orchard Park, N.Y. Perfect record. Worst-to-first turnaround. Trap game.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has no difficulty guarding against getting swept up by the headlines and hype surrounding Kansas City’s perfect start. He chooses to tune it all out.
“I’m pretty simple, guys,” Reid said, declining to indulge questions on why the Chiefs (8-0) are winning in his first year on the job and following a league-worst 2-14 finish last season. “All those are good stories. I just haven’t thought about any of that. I mean, your mind never goes there. You just kind of keep pushing ahead.”
Reid is focused solely on Sunday, when the Chiefs travel to play the Bills (3-5), a team that similarly went through an offseason transition and is also off to a better-than-expected start under first-year coach Doug Marrone.
This is no time for the Chiefs to peek ahead to their upcoming bye week, followed by an AFC West showdown against the Peyton Manning-led Broncos. And it’s immaterial to Kansas City’s stingy and sack-happy defenders that Buffalo could be down to its fourth-string quarterback — undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel or newly signed free agent Matt Flynn — with interim starter Thad Lewis nursing bruised ribs.
“We’re not satisfied,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “Buffalo is a good team. We’re not going to overlook them at all. That’s not even a conversation.”
The Chiefs have the Bills’ attention for various reasons, including providing players a sense of hope in believing a turnaround might not be far off for Buffalo.
“That franchise is motivation for the Bills,” receiver Stevie Johnson said. “We can do the same thing.”
Both have similar pasts. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs in a league-high 13 seasons, and is on its sixth coach since 2000. The Chiefs are on their sixth coach, and made the postseason only three times over the same span.
The Bills haven’t been pushovers this season. They’re 2-2 at home, with both losses decided by a combined margin of five points.
“We don’t think we’re far from where they are,” center Eric Wood said. “We’re sitting at 3-5, but the film shows a much better team than that.”
Here’s five things to look out for as the two non-division rivals meet for the sixth straight season:
SACK ATTACK: It’s no coincidence the Chiefs have a league-leading 36 sacks, and the Bills are second with 27. Both defenses feature new coordinators who developed their attacking styles under New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.
Kansas City’s Bob Sutton spent the past four seasons in New York as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach, while Buffalo’s Mike Pettine was the Jets’ defensive coordinator.
They’ve both introduced Ryan’s up-tempo and aggressive schemes to their defenses.
AVOIDING A TRAP: With a chance to match their best start in franchise history, the Chiefs have several other reasons to avoid looking past the Bills in opening the second half of their schedule.
Coming off three straight home games, the Chiefs close with five of eight on the road. They also have five games against division rivals, including two each against Denver and San Diego.
The schedule’s lining up to be tougher, too. Kansas City’s first eight opponents currently have a combined record of 21-40. Their final eight: 35-24.
QB SHUFFLE: Bills rookie starter EJ Manuel (sprained right knee) isn’t yet ready. Kevin Kolb (concussion) is on season-ending injured reserve. And Lewis’ status is uncertain.
That leaves Marrone preparing to choose between Tuel, who struggled in replacing Manuel in a 37-24 loss at Cleveland on Oct. 3, and Flynn, signed a week later after being cut by Oakland.
Flynn might be in his sixth NFL season, but Tuel has the early edge because he’s more familiar with the offense.
“I feel better about Jeff right now because I know Jeff,” Marrone said. “That’s not to say Matt’s not good enough. I just haven’t seen enough of Matt.”
LIMPING OFFENSE: Quarterback isn’t Buffalo’s only concern in facing a Kansas City defense that’s not allowed more than 17 points this season.
The Bills’ top two running backs, C.J. Spiller (sprained left ankle) and Fred Jackson (sprained left knee), are nursing injuries. Jackson expects to play, and Spiller is likely to return after missing one game. Johnson, their leading receiver, is bothered by an assortment of injuries, including a sore hip.
BAD BLOOD: Wood and Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali have, for now, put aside their differences from the Bills’ 35-17 win over Kansas City last season.
Following the game, Wood accused Hali of attempting to hurt guard Andy Levitre and tackle Cordy Glenn.
“That’s nothing I can go into this week worrying about, or else I’ll be a head case and just too fired up,” Wood said.
“It’s a new year,” Hali said. “We should focus on the game at hand, and not worry about what happened last year.”