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Bills seek chance to gain respect in facing Chiefs

November 7, 2014

They are thinking playoffs in Kansas City, which makes some sense even after the Chiefs got off to a poor start in the NFL.

After all, the Chiefs qualified for the postseason last year.

They’re also thinking playoffs in Buffalo. Wait, Buffalo?

Yes, at 5-3, like the Chiefs, the Bills are in the race, seeking to end a 14-season playoff drought.

“I mean, 5-3 is only the beginning,” Bills defensive back Corey Graham says. “We’ve still got a long way to go. It’s not really how you start, it’s how you finish the season.”

The Bills usually finish as an also-ran, which means their success so far isn’t likely to go to their heads.

“I can understand the question,” coach Doug Marrone says. “I don’t think that’s the case at all when you haven’t been to the playoffs in such a long time. The one message I tried to tell them ... it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder.”

Starting with Sunday. Kansas City go to Buffalo rolling, winning five of six — the only loss was a tight one at San Francisco — and with a defense to be feared. Justin Houston leads the NFL in sacks with 12, and the Chiefs have yielded only 66 points in their five victories.

One oddity: Kansas City has not had a wide receiver catch a touchdown pass from Alex Smith.

“When you’re out there playing, that’s not something I’m thinking about,” Smith said. “When a play gets called, there’s reads and things that go into it. We’re not trying to press and force it to this guy or that guy.”

When Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell outlined all the problems the Miami Dolphins may pose on Sunday, he could have just as easily been describing his own team.

“They have an outstanding pass rush,” Caldwell said. “They’re beefy up front, linebackers that can run — and obviously a skilled and athletic secondary as well.”

The Lions and Dolphins have exceeded expectations this season, and they’ve done it in a similar fashion. Detroit has the top-ranked defense in the NFL, while Miami’s is No. 1 in the AFC.

Both teams are in position to make a run at the playoffs — but they each face a decent amount of skepticism heading into Sunday’s matchup at Ford Field.

The Lions should look a bit more threatening on offense, with Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush both expected back from injuries.

It’s been an impressive start for Caldwell in his first season as Detroit coach. The Lions have dealt with kicking problems and an inconsistent offense, but still find themselves leading the NFC North division at the midway point of the season.

Detroit started 6-3 last year but ended up 7-9, so the Lions still have a lot to prove. Sunday’s game is the start of a difficult three-game span that also includes road games against Arizona and New England.

Miami is tied with Buffalo for second in the AFC East, but the Dolphins are coming off a 37-0 rout against San Diego, their most lopsided victory since 1995. They’ve scored at least 24 points in five consecutive games, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill is completing 63 percent of his passes on the season.

New Orleans and the San Francisco 49ers are two of the more disappointing teams, although the Saints are coming on with three straight victories. Even better for them, they play their next three at home, where they have won their past 20 with Sean Payton coaching; he was suspended for the 2012 season.

San Francisco has dropped its past two games and needs to rediscover its offense. Maybe the 49ers will turn to Frank Gore, who has rushed for more than 80 yards in four of his past five games against New Orleans, including the playoffs.

Also on Sunday, it’s Dallas vs. Jacksonville at London, Chicago at Green Bay, Denver at Oakland, St. Louis at Arizona, New York Giants at Seattle, Pittsburgh at New York Jets, Tennessee at Baltimore and Atlanta at Tampa Bay. Monday’s game is Carolina at Philadelphia.

The action began on Thursday with Cleveland manhandling Cincinnati 24-3. The visiting Browns moved into a tie for the AFC North lead with Pittsburgh and improved their best start since 1994.

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