There are certainly reasons for Bills fans to feel optimistic about Sunday's opener in Kansas City. For one thing, the Chiefs didn't have the most difficult road to the AFC West title a year ago. They went 10-6, but just one of those wins came against a team that finished with a winning record: San Diego (the Bills, by the way, have four such victories in the last five seasons combined).
K.C. benefited from an easy schedule a year ago. They beat the Browns, 49ers, Seahawks, Broncos, Rams, Titans and the Bills (in overtime). They had the luxury of playing the putrid NFC West in their conference crossover, and swept all four games. That revives fond memories of the 2004 Bills, who went 4-0 against a similarly shabby NFC West the last time they had a winning season.
The Chiefs went to the playoffs and were promptly blown out by the Ravens, 30-7. So how good are they, really? They have a much tougher schedule this year and will be hard-pressed to finish .500, never mind win 10 games. Their NFC crossover is against the tough North. They have to play the Packers and Bears. They're at the improving Lions in Week Two. They also play New England and Pittsburgh, thanks to winning their division.
So this is no juggernaut the Bills are playing Sunday. It'll be interesting to see what happens if the Chiefs struggle on the ground. Tight end Tony Moeaki, who was second on the team with 47 catches last season, is out for the season. K.C. is overly reliant on Dwayne Bowe, who had 72 catches and 15 TDs a year ago. No other wideout caught more than 22 passes.
Quarterback Matt Cassel, meanwhile, is nursing a rib injury. The Chiefs won't say if it's a fracture or bruise, but Cassel will play in pain. But he said on Wednesday's conference call that he's fine and expects to play on Sunday. You have to think coach Todd Haley would prefer to keep the ball on the ground and rely on Cassel as little as possible. The Bills, after all, were last in the NFL against the run last season. The Chiefs were first in the league in rushing. We'll find out soon enough how good the Chiefs really are.