<
>

W2W4: Buffalo Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills (5-3) will look for their first 6-3 start since 1999 when they host the Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) on Sunday.

Here is what to watch for:

1. Sammy Watkins' status: Watkins was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report, indicating that the team has yet to make a final decision on his status. The concern is that Watkins hasn't practiced since leaving Wednesday's session with a groin injury. For a player like Kyle Williams or Fred Jackson, that lack of participation might not be a problem on game day. But for a rookie like Watkins -- despite his talent -- it could be a hard obstacle to overcome in coaches' minds. If Watkins can't play, expect Robert Woods and Chris Hogan to start at wide receiver. As for the third receiver, Marquise Goodwin is probable for the game and the top option to fill that role, meaning Mike Williams' playing time could again be limited. If Watkins can play, Williams isn't likely to be active.

2. Monitoring the backfield: The second injury situation to watch for the Bills is at running back, where Fred Jackson (groin) is questionable. He practiced all week on a limited basis, but Doug Marrone didn't give an optimistic take Thursday or Friday, saying Jackson wasn't ready to play. If Jackson is active, I'd still expect the Bills to lean more on Anthony Dixon. One area to watch is third downs, where Dixon said he's been receiving some reps this week. For most of this season, that's been one of Jackson's roles. If Jackson can't play, Bryce Brown slides onto the radar. At this point, I'd consider Brown's role secondary to Dixon's, whether Jackson plays or not.

3. Chiefs' pass rush: The Chiefs boast one of the NFL's best pass rushes, sacking opposing quarterbacks on 9.3 percent of dropbacks, the second-highest rate in the league. For a Bills offensive line that has struggled in both pass protection and run blocking this season, Kansas City's defensive line poses a significant challenge. Not having Watkins would be a blow to Kyle Orton, but the real hits would come if the offensive line can't hold up. The more the offense sputters -- as it did for a large chunk of the Bills' win over the New York Jets -- the more pressure will be put on the defense to carry the game.

4. Double take: The next week of the calendar could have a major impact on the outcome of the Bills' season. A win Sunday over the Chiefs would set up an even more important matchup next Thursday against the Miami Dolphins. Win or lose, expect players in the locker room after Sunday's game to talk about turning the page and preparing for a road trip on a short week. If the Bills can pull off back-to-back wins and improve to 7-3 by next Friday, it will be an exciting time in Buffalo and the playoffs will be within grasp. Lose both games and the Bills will fall back to .500 and slide deeper into the pack of what is a historically strong AFC.