Stop right there.
Let’s hold off on the talk of the Bills’ second trip to Kansas City this year being a possible AFC championship game preview. Sure, they met in January for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, with the Chiefs prevailing. And yes, they both can be powerhouses in the superior conference.
For now, let’s simply enjoy the entertainment value of Buffalo (3-1), with its balance, against the so-far flawed but potentially dominating Chiefs (2-2) on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas City has won five of its last six against Buffalo. But the Bills have been more impressive in the first month of this season.
”I mean, of course we hated the way that it ended last year,” Buffalo’s 2020 All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. ”Anybody with a competitive nature would hate the way that it ended. But it’s a big game because it’s the next game, and it’s the same way that we approached all the games previous to this, so I wouldn’t make it more than what it is. And we aren’t doing that.
”What we’re making it is the next game, and we’ve got to come out and execute and play better than we did the last time we played them.”
That could be made easier by a slumping KC defense that ranks 31st overall and in scoring. Meanwhile, the Bills have yet to allow 300 yards of offense or 80 yards rushing in a game and have two shutouts, albeit against offensively anemic Miami and Houston.
The action began Thursday night with Rams-Seahawks.
Matthew Stafford threw for 365 yards and a TD, and Los Angeles beat Seattle 26-17 in a game Russell Wilson left in the second half with a finger injury on his throwing hand.
Stafford, who overcame a finger injury on his throwing hand, was 25 of 37 with an interception. Robert Woods had 12 catches for 150 yards for the Rams (4-1).
Wilson was 11 of 16 for 152 yards with an interception and a TD before turning the game over to backup Geno Smith, who finished 10 of 17 for 131 yards, with a TD and interception for Seattle (2-3).
San Francisco (2-2) at Arizona (4-0)
Their impressive win at the Rams last Sunday stamped the Cardinals as legit. This is a rapidly maturing team on offense, defense, special teams and in coaching. The last time they were 5-0 was 1974 in St. Louis.
The Cardinals have won nine of the past 12 in the series, though the 49ers have taken three of the last four. And the past nine meetings have been decided by 10 points or fewer.
San Francisco is tied with Jacksonville with a league-low one takeaway and has the third-worst turnover margin at minus-5. First-round draft pick Trey Lance could start if Jimmy Garoppolo’s calf injury sidelines him.
Cleveland (3-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-1)
Maybe the Browns don’t seem too concerned with Baker Mayfield’s left shoulder issues because their running game with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is so dangerous. Or maybe because they have allowed 266 yards rushing through four games, the fewest in franchise history, and have the league’s top sackmaster in Myles Garrett with six.
They’ll need that kind of pressure against Justin Herbert, who has legitimized his 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year award with a strong start this year. Herbert has 10 300-yard passing games through his first 19 starts. He is tied with Patrick Mahomes and Dan Marino for most 300-yard games through two seasons.
The Browns are 3-8 against the Chargers since returning to the league in 1999.
Green Bay (3-1) at Cincinnati (3-1)
OK, who out there saw this as a matchup of first-place squads, particularly after Green Bay opened with a no-show against New Orleans?
Despite some key injuries since, the Packers and 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers have turned it around. Rodgers has 420 career touchdown passes, one shy of Philip Rivers for fifth place. But the Pack hasn’t won in Cincinnati since 1998.
The Bengals have done just enough to make people wonder if they can contend in the tough AFC North. This is a good measuring stick.
Miami (1-3) at Tampa Bay (3-1)
With Tom Brady’s return to New England over, it’s onward for the Buccaneers.
The last time Miami won at Tampa Bay, the Dolphins had Don Shula as coach, Dan Marino at quarterback and Raymond James Stadium was nearly a decade from being built. Miami won at Tampa Stadium 17-14 in 1988; the Dolphins are 0-3 at Tampa since.
But the Dolphins have fared decently – who else has? – against Brady: They are 6-6 against him in seasons following when he won a Super Bowl.
However, Brady has thrown for more touchdowns against Miami (67) than any two other quarterbacks in NFL history have combined (Drew Bledsoe had 31, Jim Kelly 29). He has more wins (23), completions (687), attempts (1,129), yards (8,185) and even times sacked (64) against the Dolphins than anyone else.
New England (1-3) at Houston (1-3)
With Tom Brady’s return to New England over, it’s onward for the Patriots.
This is a good place to be, too. Bill Belichick’s teams are 22-6 against first-year quarterbacks, including a win over the Jets’ Zach Wilson last month. Davis Mills is behind center for the Texans in matchup of rookie signal callers with Mac Jones.
Jones went 31 of 40 for 275 yards and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay. He leads all rookies in completions (112), completion percentage (70) and yards passing (1,012).
Denver (3-1) at Pittsburgh (1-3)
So much depends on the status of Denver’s Teddy Bridgewater, who has been in the concussion protocol. He is one of two starting quarterbacks, along with Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who had no interceptions through four weeks with a minimum 50 pass attempts.
The Steelers are looking to avoid their first 1-4 start since 2013 when they lost six of eight to begin the season. That rebuilt blocking unit has allowed at least two sacks in each of the first four games. Denver has a strong pass rush led by Von Miller, who already has 4 1/2 sacks.
Chicago (2-2) at Las Vegas (3-1)
So Justin Fields is now the full-time starter in Chicago, ending the confusion coach Matt Nagy created for a while. Good luck to the rookie behind this O-line: The Bears have allowed sacks on a league-worst 13.7% of pass plays.
Then again, Chicago’s defense has 14 sacks the past three weeks and a league-best 15 on the season. It could really set the tempo in this game because the Raiders haven’t scored on the opening drive in 10 straight outings and have scored only five points in the first quarter all season.
”There is no panic,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. ”There are definitely things we have to do better from a communication standpoint that would solve a lot of problems. There’s been spurts where we’ve done really well and there is spurts where we haven’t all been on the same page.”
Philadelphia (1-3) at Carolina (3-1)
Sam Darnold must be eagerly anticipating this matchup. He will face a Philadelphia defense that has allowed a whopping 83 points and 851 total yards in the past two weeks. Darnold, showing form he never displayed as a Jet, also has five TDs rushing, the most ever by an NFL quarterback through four games.
Although the defense was torched by Dallas last week, Carolina will be a test for Philly’s offensive line that has not protected Jalen Hurts well. The Panthers have 14 sacks.
New Orleans (2-2) at Washington (2-2)
Two mystery teams a month into the schedule.
Washington was supposed to excel defensively, yet it ranks 29th overall and 30 in scoring. Reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young has no sacks and Washington has allowed points on each opponent’s opening drive: three TDs and a field goal.
New Orleans either looks great or abysmal, which it was at home to the then-winless Giants last Sunday, allowing 485 yards of total offense.
New York Giants (1-3) at Dallas (3-1)
If Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay – the major offensive players for New York – perform as they did in New Orleans, the Giants could give high-riding Dallas problems. But cornerback Trevon Diggs leads the NFL with five interceptions – the fourth player since 1990 with at least one pick in each of the first four games.
Dak Prescott faces the Giants at home almost a year to the day since the severe ankle injury that ended his 2020 season against New York on the same field. Prescott’s 17 TD passes in nine games against the Giants are his most against any opponent.
”I definitely fast-forward through that play,” Prescott says. ”I’ve watched that play a couple of times and when it comes up it’s just I can say I watch the beginning of it, but not the end of the run. I don’t think much about it. It’s kind of past it and it’s really not something I care to see and know that I’ve done a lot to get past it.”
New York Jets (1-3) vs. Atlanta (1-3) at London
The NFL returns to its international series with a game at Tottenham. Unfortunately, Spurs striker Harry Kane won’t be helping either of these two last-place clubs.
Atlanta will be without its prime weapon, WR Calvin Ridley, for personal reasons. The Falcons’ defense has been wretched, but then again, New York’s offense was invisible until last week’s victory over Tennessee.
Indianapolis (1-3) at Baltimore (3-1), Monday night
Facing the Ravens in prime time is no treat. Baltimore is 16-2 at home at night under coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens also have, a bit controversially, a record in sight. After Harbaugh reinserted quarterback Lamar Jackson for a last-second rush in a clinched win at Denver, they could set an NFL record with a 44th straight 100-yard rushing game. Pittsburgh had 43 in a row from 1974-77.
Still banged-up Indy got its first win of 2021 at Miami, looking solid on both sides of the ball.
Tennessee (2-2) at Jacksonville (0-4)
Tennessee did everything but win at the Jets last week. Another collapse against the turmoil-twisted Jaguars would raise some serious doubts about the Titans. Tennessee has won three in a row and seven of the last eight vs. the Jags, but listed 21 – yes, 21 – players on its injured list, including much of the offensive line.
Jacksonville is not only reeling from defeats. Coach Urban Meyer was captured on camera with a young woman dancing between his legs at an Ohio bar. A second video showed Meyer apparently touching her behind. Team owner Shad Khan publicly reprimanded Meyer, who vowed to earn back the trust of his players, his staff and his owner.
Detroit (0-4) at Minnesota (1-3)
Yes, they are separated by one game in the standings. In reality, these NFC North rivals are separated by the size of the Great Lakes in talent.
The Lions have dropped eight in a row dating to last season. The Vikings have won seven straight games over the Lions, who have have lost 21 of their last 27 at Minnesota.
AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon and Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL